Bern, Burgerbibliothek 671 Celtic pocket gospel book

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Joseph P. McGowan


12. Bern, Burgerbibliothek 671

Celtic pocket gospel book

[Ker 6, Gneuss 794)

HISTORY: A small, early 9c copy of the Gospels, a "pocket Gospel;' presumably a personal copy, having no apparatus such as canon tables, capitula, or prefaces; there are a few stray marginal references to lessons in Luke (ff. 37r-43r). Although it is of lrish type in size, lack of apparatus, and decoration, it is believed to have originated in a Brythonic region (Wales or Cornwall) and to have been in the possession of the church at Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire. According to Berger (1893: 57) it has a mixed Irish/ A-S (i.e., Italian) text and Irish textual attributes (see note below, and McGurk 1987 [rpt. 1998):174-75). Lindsay (1911: 795) posited a Celtic scriptorium based on the hands and abbreviations (go for "ergo;' gi for "igitur"); but Lindsay further argues that it must be from Cornwall rather than Wales because, first, its "insular" script (there are two main scribes writing in similar style) is not like Welsh script, still less like A-S (and therefore this would be the unique instance of an extant early Cornish manuscript (Lindsay 1922: 58)) and, secondly, because of the Alfredian acrostics added on the blank leaf f. 74v (Lindsay 1911: 495-96, 1912: 11), which implies a Wessex provenance. McGurk (1987 [rpt. 1998]: 250, 263) has said of the "pocket gospel book'' that "[t]he form is at least indisuputably Irish;' placing Bern 671 among a group of eight Irish pocket Gospels ranging from the 7c to approximately to 927 or a little earlier.

[Note: The relevant Irish gospel books, ranging in date from ca. 696 to ca. 927 and in size from 175 x 142 mm. to 125 x 112 mm., are: Dublin, Royal Irish Academy D.11.3 (the Stowe St. John, s. viii-ix); Dublin, Trinity College 59 (Dimma Gospels, s. viii or ix); Dublin, Trinity College 60 (Mulling Gospels, s. vii); Dublin, Trinity College ff. 95-98 (Mulling fragment, s. vii}; Fulda, Landesbibliothek Bonifatius 3 (Cadmug Gospels, s. viii); London, BL Add. 40618 (s. viii2, in England by s. xmed); London, Lambeth Palace 1370 [319] (MacDurnan Gospels, ca. 927). McGurk (1956 [rpt. 1998]: 174-5) links Bern 671 to this group on the basis that "[i]ts size and its exclusion of textual accessories and ... its text bring it within the Irish orbit:' While it provenance has been placed in either Wales or south-west Britain (McGurk has elsewhere called it a "West British Book" (1986 [rpt. 1998]: 45 n. 4), he shows it does exhibit filiations to an Irish textual tradition, e.g.,the treatment of the first seventeen verses of Matthew as a prologue: Bern 671, | r/27-28 adds to verse 17 'fmit prologus amen | amen' (cf. McGurk 1987 [rpt. 1998]: 257 and n. l).]

In short, in form and manufacture, textual arrangement and content, the manuscript seems likely the product of an Irish-influenced center in Britain's west or south-west.

Keynes and Lapidge (1983: 338) noted that by the 10c the manuscript was at Bedwyn, Wiltshire, "one of Alfred's estates;' and Lapidge has suggested that the manuscript may have moved into an English ambit through the agency of Asser (Lapidge 2006: 50, n. 89). Lindsay believed the acrostics were composed by the scribe himself, given their inferior and confused state (1912: 10), and must have been written in the southwest before 899, the date of Alfred's death. Confirming the southwestern provenance are, on final originally blank leaves, added OE documents of the 10c pertaining to places in Wiltshire and Berkshire. Förster (1941: 788-91) was of the opinion that the spelling of the OE showed traces of "keltisch-britischer" scribal practice.

The manuscript was in France by the 12c/13c (inscription of names in a French script, f. 77v), perhaps at Fleury, and was in the hands of a French owner as the signature ( l 4c/ 15c) on the added strip at the end of the manuscript attests. It subsequently belonged to Pierre Daniel of Orleans ( d. 1603) (Ker, Cat., p. 5), who acquired many of his manuscripts from Fleury, and with the moiety of the Daniel collection it eventually came into the library of the French diplomat and scholar Jacques Bongars (1554-1612); Bongars willed his library to Jacques Gravisset, a Bern official, who willed it to the city of Bern in 1624 upon his marriage to Salome von Erlach; it entered the Burgerbibliothek in 1632 (for the history of the Bongarsiana Library see also the "History" ofBern, Burgerbibliothek 258 [11]).

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