New Book Series Opens Window onto Medieval Manuscripts

2 February 2007

The Bodleian Library announces a new series, Treasures from the Bodleian Library, with the publication of two titles: St Margaretís Gospel-Book and The Douce Apocalypse.

Two exceptional English medieval manuscripts from the Bodleian Libraryís outstanding collection are featured in two new books. Each volume tells the story of the manuscript and includes a vast selection of stunning coloured illustrations from the original hand-written, hand-painted manuscripts. 

St Margaret's Gospel-bookSt Margaretís Gospel-Book: The Favourite Book of a Queen of Scotland is a rare beautiful little manuscript owned by the Bodleian Library, which was purchased for £6 at auction in 1887. It was discovered afterwards to belong to none other than Margaret, Queen of Scotland and was her favourite book, according to her medieval biographer, Turgot. 

The book explains this beautiful manuscript, exploring its making and its meaning for Margaret, looking at how it became associated with her sanctity; and setting this against the background of historical events which made Margaret a significant figure both then and now. 

Although Margaret was revered as a saint, her medieval Latin biographer recounts only a single miracle, an occasion on which this very book fell in a stream but was later found undamaged. A Latin poem added at the beginning of the Bodleian gospel-book describes the same events. It was only after the Library purchased the book that the connection was made by the 22-year-old-scholar, Lucy Hill, making it clear that we have the very book St Margaret owned and diligently studied. 

Douce ApocalypseThe Douce Apocalypse, the second in the series Treasures from the Bodleian Library, is one of the finest of a series of illustrated copies of the Apocalypse, the Revelation of St. John, made in England between 1250 and 1275. It was made for the prince Edward, later Edward I, and his wife Eleanor of Castile, probably c. 1270. The Apocalypse text, provided with a commentary, is illustrated by exquisite pictures on every page.

This lavishly illustrated book introduces and explores the royal patronage of the Douce Apocalypse, its imagery, its artistic creation and its contemporary significance in the context of prophecies concerning the coming of the Antichrist. 

A special aspect of the book, evident in a few of its pictures, is that the artist had only partially completed his drawing, gilding and painting. This gives a fascinating insight into the techniques of medieval illumination. The style of drawing and painting is an English interpretation of contemporary Parisian art, also seen in a closely related work of English panel painting, the Westminster Abbey Retable. The Douce Apocalypse also seems to come from that same milieu of royal patronage at Westminster. 

Though no modern book can match the beauty of this great illuminated manuscript, this volume conveys both the beauty of the original and the enduring fascination of its contents.

See all the Bodleian Libraryís titles at 

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