Royal MS 1 A XIV – WESSEX GOSPELS (folio 3r)

HOME | Royal MS 1 A XIV | image: British Library | Wiki | hover over the page for a close-up! |

| Codex A: hover over the image to enlarge the papyrus text | download HERE |

Royal MS 1 A XIV – WESSEX GOSPELS (folio 3r)

The manuscript, which was written in the early part of the twelfth century, has an interest of its own, even apart from its contents; and its history is partly told by the inscriptions which it bears on its first page, here reproduced. This page contains the beginning of St. Mark's Gospel, which holds the first place in the Anglo-Saxon Gospels, and is headed "Text[us] iiii."evangelior[um]" - i.e., "The text of the four Gospels." To the right of this are the words "ang1. d xvi. Ga IIII." Below is the name "Thomas Cantuarien[sis]" and the figures "1 A xiv."; and at the bottom of the page (not included in the plate) is the signature "Lumley." What do all these inscriptions tell us of the history of the MS.? They tell us first that it is a copy of the four Gospels in English; next that it bore the press-mark "D[istinctio] xvi, G[r]a[dus] IV," a press-mark of a form which we know to have been used in the library of Canterbury Cathedral; and when we turn up the catalogue of that library, made in the time of Prior Henry of Eastry, we find among the English books a "Textus iv evangeliorum, anglice," which it is safe to assume is the same book. After the dissolution of the monasteries it passed into the possession of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, whose secretary wrote his name (in a hand closely resembling the prelate's own writing) at the head of the page; and after Cranmer's death it was acquired, with many others of his books, by Henry Fitz-Alan, Earl of Arundel, from whom it descended to his son-in-law, John, Lord Lumley. Lumley died in 1609, and his library was bought for Henry, Prince of Wales, eldest son of James I. Thereby this volume entered the Royal Library, in which it bore the press-mark 1 A xiv.; and when that library was presented to the nation by George II in 1757, it passed into the keeping of the British Museum, then newly established; and there, retaining the same press-mark, it still remains. So much history may a few notes of ownership convey to us.

Some readers may be curious to see the form of the language in which this first English Bible is written. It is unlike enough to our modern English, yet it is its true and direct ancestor. After quoting the first words of the Gospel in Latin, the translation begins thus:

Her ys Godspelles angin, halendes cristes godes sune. Swa awriten ys on thaswitegan bec isaiam. Nu ic asende mine aengel beforan thinre ansyne. Se gegarewath thinne weg beforan the. Clepigende stefen on tham westene gegarwiath drihtnes weg. Doth rihte his sythas. lohannes waes on westene fulgende & bodiende. Daedbote fulwyht on synna forgyfenysse.

Read more about English Manuscript Bibles HERE.