Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts

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Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts

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The author of the book is Christopher de Hamel, fellow and librarian of the Parker Library of Corpus Christi, Cambridge. But anyone with a professional interest in the field will not want to miss de Hamel’s own original thinking about these ancient tomes…a wonderful book. We may all pretend that a well-known celebrity is no different from anyone else, and yet there is an undeniable thrill in actually meeting and talking to a person of world stature.

A little of this mystery clings to their pages: when de Hamel takes the Gospel of St Augustine (pictured in the Economist) to a service in Canterbury Cathedral he notices that its leaves are so light they flutter and hum in time to a hymn, as if the sixth-century manuscript . Very little has changed in religious practice in Ethiopia since about the date of the Gospels of Saint Augustine,” De Hamel notes.In one ninth-century manuscript a picture of the planets in orbit has been drawn with such precision that astronomers say this configuration happens only once in 17 trillion years. Christopher de Hamel is the author of A History of Illuminated Manuscripts and Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts , which won the Wolfson History Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize in 2016. An extraordinary and beautifully illustrated exploration of the medieval world through twelve manuscripts, from one of the world’s leading experts. Coming face to face with an important illuminated manuscript in the original is like meeting a very famous person. Indeed, Ethiopia converted to Christianity in the fourth century AD, when the Ark of the Covenant – the Old Testament casket lined with gold to accommodate the two tablets bearing the 10 Commandments – was allegedly transferred there from southern Egypt.

An Old English version of the Old Testament, for example, mistranslated Moses’s face as gehyrned, or “horned”. Sumptuously illustrated, Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts is a journey to some of the world’s greatest collections, from Copenhagen to Florence, Munich to St Petersberg. He is a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and was Librarian of the Parker Library from 2000 to 2016, which holds many of the earliest manuscripts in English language and history, including the Psalter of Becket. The Codex Purpureus Rossanensis – 185 pages of purple-dyed vellum – gleams with gold whorls and Byzantine interlace. Fascinatingly, the Mediterranean-coloured pictorial squares of the Parker Library manuscript are said to resemble the primitive-looking narrative cycles of religious scenes found in Ethiopia’s orthodox Hamel is not so star-struck that he cannot be critical: a famous illustration in the ''Book of Kells'' is ''dreadfully ugly''; a naked Adam and Eve look ''Knobbly-kneed'' and ''brightly pink like newly arrived English holidaymakers on Spanish beaches''. By using the Web site, you confirm that you have read, understood, and agreed to be bound by the Terms and Conditions.

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