15 Jul 2011

British Library seeking to acquire 7th Century gospel

9:41 am on 15 July 2011

The British Library has announced a £9 million bid to acquire the 7th Century St Cuthbert Gospel - the earliest surviving European book.

A grant of £4.5 million has been made by the National Heritage Memorial Fund towards that total.

The book, a copy of the Gospel of St John, was produced in northern England and buried with St Cuthbert before being rediscovered in 1104.

The manuscript, complete with original red leather binding, has been on loan to the library since 1979.

The Art Fund and the Garfield Weston philanthropic foundation have also pledged about £250,000 each towards the £9 million total, with other organisations also making donations.

The BBC reports a further £2.75 million is needed to acquire the gospel.

The book, formerly known as the Stonyhurst Gospel, was buried with the early English Christian leader on Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumberland, in about 698.

It was found in St Cuthbert's coffin at Durham Cathedral in 1104 after it had been moved to escape Viking raids.

The BBC reports Christie's auction house approached the library, on behalf of the gospel's owners, to give it first option on buying the book.