Stockholm, Kungliga Biblioteket A. 135 Gospel Book ("Codex Aureus Holmiensis")

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A. N. Doane


468. Stockholm, Kungliga Biblioteket A. 135

Gospel Book ("Codex Aureus Holmiensis")

[Ker 385; Gneuss 937; Lowe, CLA 11.1642]

HISTORY: An extra-large-format, deluxe gospel book of alternating natural and purple-dyed pages in multicolored uncial letters consisting of an eclectic mix of antique-style illustrations, insular decoration, uncial script, Vulgate prefaces, Hieronymian canon tables, and a melange of Old Latin texts differing in tradition for the four gospels ( cf. Marsden in Gameson 1999: 294, 309 n. 46). The miscellaneous elements, implying a plurality of models, as well as the elaborate production of the book, argue for a place of origin that had first-rate library and scriptorial facilities, not to mention ample economic resources. The Old Latin text(s) of the gospels have affinities to several early Italian gospels on purple, to two 8c gospels from Echternach, to the 8c English "Barberini Gospels;• and to a late 12c French New Testament (Gameson in Gameson 1999: 339-40; but cf. Marsden in Gameson 2012: 414). The script, as well as symptoms of the decoration, align it with certain late 7c to mid 8c charters produced or owned in East Kent and other circumstances suggest the middle decades of the 8c ( Gameson 2001/02: 17). Kuhn (1948: 591-8) supposed it a royal Mercian production, and Nordenfalk (1977: 96) suggested it was made for King Aethelbald of Mercia, a known benefactor of Christ Church, but Gameson disallows a royal patron, as the house of Kent was in disarray in the mid-Sc and there is no evidence of there ever having been any Mercian provenance for this book. Gameson (2002/03: 1.74) thinks that an ecclesiastical occasion or patron is more likely and speculates that it may have been produced in conjunction with the reforms of Archbishop Cuthbert (740-761), for the glorification and use of the house that produced it, also perhaps spurred in some obscure way by the recent revival of the archbishopric of York. But if so, it is odd that there is no dedication or colophon declaring such a pious purpose. The three possible houses possessing the necessary resources at this time to produce so sumptuous a book were the two major monasteries in Canterbury, Christ Church and St. Augustine's (Sts. Peter and Paul), and the perhaps double monastery at Minster-in-Thanet. Only circumstantial evidence exists for any of these: for the last, for example, that St. Boniface wrote to his frequent correspondent Abbess Eadburgh about 735, asking to have written for him a copy of the epistles of Peter in gold letters and that, being on the coast, this house was most exposed to viking attacks (see below); for St. Augustine's that it undoubtedly possessed the 6c Italian "Gospels of St. Augustine:' ( Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS. 286 [ 47)) which likely provided a model for the Evangelist portraits and uncial script (but not for the text), and possessed also the "Vespasian Psalter" (B.L. Cotton Vespasian A. l (238)), closely related in script and decoration to "Codex Aureus;' at least from the 15c and perhaps earlier (a 10c charter in St. Augustine's favor was inscribed in it, Kelly 1995: no. 24); for Christ Church, that in the mid-Be it possessed a copy of the "Carmen figurata" of Porphyrius of Constantinople (fl. 325), the purported model for the system of colored letter-patterns used throughout the book (cf. Nordenfalk 1951: 153-55), also, that Eadwine Basan, an l lc Christ Church, scribe wrote an inscription in "Vespasian", hence that that psalter might have been in Christ Church's possession by then and before, and, finally, the fact that "Codex Aureus" was given to Christ Church after it was recovered from the vikings might argue that it was known in the mid-9c to have belonged there. In any case, the two Canterbury houses, though rivals, were in such close physical and cultural proximity, that any book or model available to the one was doubtless available to the other.

On f. 11r, the Chi-Rho page, has been entered a lengthy and elegantly written OE inscription declaring that Ealdorman Ælfred and his wife Werburg have with "clean money, pure gold" recovered ('begetan' ) these "books" (presumably referring to the four gospels) 'ret hreclnum herge' and 'willacl heo gesellan' to Christ Church in perpetuity for the good of their souls. The hand has been identified with three charters of Christ Church interest of the 820s and 830s (Brooks 1984: 360, n. 70, cf. 167-74) . Ælfred was ealdorman of Surrey not before 853 and had documented connections with Kent; his extant will is dateable 871 x 889 (ed. Sweet/Hoad 1978: 216- 18; Surrey dialect, Campbell 1957: §14). The OE Æureus" inscription, both because of its script and considering the career span of a scribe, must be dated no later than in the 850s. Viking raids on Kent are recorded for 851, 853, and 855, and it may have been immediately after one of these raids that .IElfred was commissioned to negotiate for the ransom of the recently looted book. Gameson (2001-02: 76-7) points this out, as well as that the excellent condition of the book argues that it was not in the possession of the pirates for long. A somewhat later (probably early 10c) semi-cursive in scription is at the top of f. lr: '+ orate p<ro> ceolheard p inclas 7 ealhhun 7 wulfhelm aurifex'. The word 'aurifex', "goldsmith," suggests to Gameson that 'inclas' may be resolved as "inclusor," "jeweler," rather than "inclausus," "hermit," suggesting that this writing was added at the time that a splendid new cover was provided (perhaps to make up for one stripped off by the vikings). A-S staffless neumes were added in the second half of the 10c above 'Hierusalem hierusalle(m)' (f. 49vb/18-19 = Matt. 23:37). There are no other medieval intrusions. Large water-stains in the John part (ff. 150-191), which occured before the foliation (see below), and a few waterspots on ff. 1- 4 are the only noticeable damage, besides some rubbing and cockling caused by an over-tight early modern binding.

Presumably the codex was still at Christ Church at the time of the Reformation. In the 16c it was foliated in red crayon in the manner typical of the books of Archbishop Matthew Parker (1559-75). Before the foliation several leaves had already been lost, including the portraits of Mark and Luke; no folios have gone missing since (unless some unnumbered fragments). Nothing further is known for sure until 1690, when the manuscript was on 8 January 1690 sold to Johan Gabriel Sparwenfeldt (1655-1727), as a note on f. 3r records: 'Preciosissimum hunc Euangelium Codicem | emi ex famosa illa Bibliotheca Jll"'i Marchionis | de LICHE mantua(e) Carpent: A 1690 - d. 8 jan: | Ego Joannes Gabriel Sparwenfeldt nob: Suecus'. It was a distress sale by Catalina, daughter of Gaspar de Haro, Seventh Marquis de Heliche (d. 1687) (see Breeze 1996). Beyond that the history is increasingly speculative: probably Gaspar had inherited the books of his father Luis de Haro (1598-1661), Sixth Marquis de Heliche; and some of these might have passed to him from the famous library of his uncle, Gaspar de Guzman, Conde-Duque de Olivares (1587-1645). At any rate, Sparwenfeldt was in Spain on a bookbuying expedition as an agent of King Charles XI of Sweden, but bought this one for his own collection, which he donated to the Royal Library in 1707 (Fries 2006: 1 ).

[Note: Olivares' ownership, often cited, is speculative. According to Ker (Cat. 456), an earlier Spanish owner may have been the historian and bibliophile Jeronimo Zurita (1512-80) who donated most of his library to the Carthusian house of Aula Dei near Zaragoza in 1571; in 1626 Olivares took possession of Zurita's library against the objections of the house, and perhaps then acquired the "Codex Aureus;' though this manuscript is not mentioned in Olivares' library catalogue of 1627 (a weakness of this theory is that the "Parkerian" foliation must have been added sometime in the 1570s, making for a very tight time-frame for the manuscript to have reached Spain); even more speculative is the idea that the book may have come to Spain with English Catholic refugees in the 16c (see Breeze 1996: 397). Gameson (2001-02: 78) supposes the codex left Christ Church before ca. 1630, because about then the chapter became more interested in preserving and enhancing its library and he points (98) to alleged copies of the Chi-Rho page made about 1600 in BL Arundel 504 (ff. 27r/28r/29r).]

The manuscript was probably rebound in Spain in the 17c - at least the old binding removed in 1962 is thought to have been Spanish ( cf. Fries 2006: 1, Blaschke 2007: 7-8; its tooled leather cover is seen on the fiche; and the remains of the covers are included at the end of the online digital images; see below). An 18c header on f. 13r, 'Matth 3: Old 18c shelfmarks on f. lr (bottom): 'no I 5:--z-: and 'n° 4. \L: Its present shelfmark, "A.135;' dates from about 1900 x 1905 when the ecclesiological manuscripts were reclassified.

The codex has undergone considerable change in the past 50 years and has probably not settled down even yet. It was released from its over-tight 17 c binding in 1962 by Kunigliga Bibliotheket conservator Sven W ikander; an attempt to rebind the manuscript was made about then, but abandoned (see below); at the time of Gameson's inspections in the 1990s, it remained in a disbound condition, kept in a box wrapped in a green mole-skin cloth. It was microfilmed before the dis binding ( the fiche are from this pre-1962 film) and was photographed in color for the EEMF facsimile in 1990. Ff. 9 and 11 were exhibited in Aachen in 1965, in Stockholm (Kunigliga Bibliotheket) in 1971, on a tour of England in 1981-82, at the British Library in 1992, in Frankfurt a. M. in 1994, and (with ff. ll5, ll6) in Washington D. C. in 2006. In 2007 the manuscript was conserved and experimentally rebound by Kristina Blaschke (Blaschke 2007; see below for details). It was released from this arrangement in 2013; the folios presently are kept in customized, individual folders in boxes; the new digitized images are from about March 2014 (p.c. Christina Svensson, 22 Dec. 2016). This full digital facsimile is now available at "The World Digital Library" (Library of Congress): https:/ / 7185/.

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