[BOOK OF LINDISFARNE] Evangeliorum Quattuor. Codex Lindisfarnensis. Olten & Lausanne: 1956-1959. Two volumes. Imperial folio. Bound in full and half vellum parchment with red and black lettering. Edition limited to 680 numbered copies. A fine set in slipcase. Very scarce.
The inhabitants of the border country of England and Scotland were converted to Christianity by Irish missionaries, who taught them to read and write, what a book was, and how it might be embellished. St. Aidan, an Irishman, was sent from Iona in 635 A.D. and founded the monastery of Lindisfarne, just off the Northumbrian coast and connected to the mainland by sands at low water. Sixty years after its founding the wonderful Gospel-book was created. The ‘Book of Lindisfarne’ is a manuscript written on white calf-skin and illuminated by Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne from 698 to 721 A.D. in accordance with the Celtic traditions bequeathed by the Irish founders of the community, who withdrew from Lindisfarne, after the Synod of Whitby, to Mayo of the Saxons. The codex contains the text of the four Gospels, each preceded by prefaces and a list of feasts on which a lesson from that Gospel should be read. It is in the Vulgate text, with an Old English paraphrase, written in Irish character. The book as a whole is elaborately illuminated, following the decorative formula of the Book of Durrow, but in a more developed and profuse style. Miraculously the Gospel book has come down to us. Owing to continuous Danish raids, the Lindisfarne community, tired of wandering about, decided to go to Ireland and settle there. They embarked with their precious relics at the mouth of the River Derwent, but were turned back by a great storm, in the course of which the Gospels were washed overboard. Whether by divine intervention or not they were found next day undamaged on the estuarine sands, three miles from the shore. The present facsimile contains twenty-eight plates in full colour and four hundred and ninety in monochrome.