Rare Bede work added to library treasure trove

RARE BOOK .... Canon Librarian Rosalind Brown holding the Summa de Casibus Conscientiae.
RARE BOOK .... Canon Librarian Rosalind Brown holding the Summa de Casibus Conscientiae.

RARE manuscript fragments created by Jarrow’s legendary Anglo-Saxon historian the Venerable Bede have been bought at auction to join a North East library’s treasure trove.

Durham Cathedral Library has added the rare book to its internationally important collection after purchasing it at London auctioneers Sotheby’s.

The book, which is one of Europe’s earliest, is a pristine copy of Astesanus de Ast, Summa de Casibus Conscientiae, printed in Strassburg in 1474.

More significantly, the binding of the 40cm x 28.5cm book contains two large ninth-century manuscript fragments, taken from a German manuscript of the Venerable Bede’s rare work In librum Genesim, his commentary on Genesis.

Bede, who died in 735AD, and spent his life at St Paul’s Church in Jarrow, wrote the first history of the English church and people.

Owing to the Viking destruction of Northumbrian libraries, the oldest copies of most of the monk’s works date from the ninth century and are generally of German origin.

That means the manuscript fragments found constitute some of the oldest and rarest surviving copies of Bede’s work.

Gabriel Sewell, head of collections at Durham Cathedral, said: “The book represents a very important addition to Durham Cathedral Library.

“The 9th-century manuscript fragments of In Genesim are in terrific condition and illustrate Bede’s early international reputation and his circulation on the continent. We look forward to making the book available to researchers and visitors in the future.”

The book was bought on May 20 and has now arrived at the Cathedral Library, where it will join a other treasures in the library’s collection.

Summa de Casibus Conscientiae, along with other treasures, will eventually be exhibited in the new exhibition facilities created by Durham Cathedral’s Open Treasure development project, due to be completed in 2015.

The acquisition was made possible through a generous donation from an anonymous donor and a grant of £10,000 from the Friends of the National Libraries.

To find out more about the Cathedral Library and the Cathedral’s Open Treasure project, visit www.durhamcathedral.co.uk.

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