THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Medieval manuscripts blog

27 February 2013

All That Glisters Is Not Gold: The Harley Golden Gospels

In all the hullabaloo about our most recent upload to Digitised Manuscripts, you may have missed the news that the sumptuous Harley Golden Gospels (Harley MS 2788) is now available online. This early-9th-century gospelbook is written entirely in gold ink (not real gold, alas), and each text-page is enclosed in a frame of gold, silver and other colours, often with interlace or animal patterns.

Harley_ms_2788_f161v
Miniature of St John in the Harley Golden Gospels, Germany (Aachen?), 1st quarter of the 9th century: London, British Library, MS Harley 2788, f. 161v.

The Harley Golden Gospels has often been associated with the court of Charles the Great (Charlemagne), who died in 814. Certainly, it would have required a wealthy patron to have provided for its production. There is an elaborate title-page (f. 12v), and full-page miniatures of each of the evangelists (Matthew, f. 13v; Mark, f. 71v; Luke, f. 108v; John, f. 161v), each facing an incipit page. It's no exaggeration to state that, for many of our curators, this is their favourite item in all of the British Library's collections. We hope that you enjoy looking at it too! What's your favourite page?

Harley_ms_2788_f011v
A page from the canon tables in the Harley Golden Gospels, Germany (Aachen?), 1st quarter of the 9th century: London, British Library, MS Harley 2788, f. 11v.

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Harley_ms_2788_f197v
A typical text-page in the Harley Golden Gospels, Germany (Aachen?), 1st quarter of the 9th century: London, British Library, MS Harley 2788, f. 197v.

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