Venerable bede dating
It was purchased on behalf of the Hunterian Museum by William Turner from a Mr Taylor in November 1810 for 3.3s.Mr Taylor had acquired the manuscript as composition for a debt from Matthew Baillie.
Throughout the manuscript a few elaborate initials with foliate interlace and penwork designs supplement the regular appearance of secondary initials in green, red and purple.The first pages consist of a Roman Calendar decorated with 'clove-curl' ornaments in red, green and blue.This is followed by Bede's 19 Year Cycles, covering the years 1-1253 A. Bede's greatest scientific achievement was the creation of the western calendar, based upon the tables which had originally been conceived by the sixth century Egyptian Dionysius Exiguus.Beyond the purely decorative, and as is to be expected in a work which consists mainly of complex scientific treatises, the text is illustrated with several explanatory diagrams. dating from the period 1416-1446 when the books were placed in a new library.The manuscript originally belonged to Durham Cathedral, and although its early ownership inscription has been excised, it still bears the pressmark 2a. Many Durham Cathedral manuscripts, such as this, have been identified from the inventories which monks drew up.Item librum epistularum ad diuersos: quarum de sex aetatibus saeculi una est; de mansionibus filiorum Israel una; una de eo, quod ait Isaias: ‘Et claudentur ibi in carcerem, et post dies multos uisitabantur;’ de ratione bissexti una; de aequinoctio iuxta Anatolium una.
Also a book of epistles to different persons, of which one is of the six ages of the world; one of the mansions of the children of Israel; one on the works of Isaiah, "And they shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited"; one of the reasons of the bissextile or leap-year; and of the equinox, according to Anatolius.
Magnificent books were produced in Northumbria from the earliest days of the English Church in the foundations of Lindisfarne and the twin monasteries Wearmouth and Jarrow.
The present Cathedral in Durham was planned and begun by Bishop Carileph (1081-1096) on the site of the earlier Saxon 'White Church', to be both a magnificent shrine for the body of St Cuthbert and also a home for a community of Benedictine monks.
These tables were designed to be used in calculating the date of Easter according to a 19 year lunar cycle, after which cycle the same Easter dates would occur.
It was this way of calculating Easter which was chosen at the synod of Whitby in 664, rejecting the rival method of the Iona Church and thereby bringing the Northumbrian Church into line with the rest of Europe.
In works such as these, Bede made a highly valuable contribution to scientific understanding.