11-20-2009 05:22 PM - edited 11-20-2009 05:27 PM
A few years back, I went to a special exhibit at the British Library called "Sacred", which was a collection of the some of the rarest and most beautiful Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious texts in the world. I still have the official catalog from that exhibit, with big glossy pictures of the texts as well as extensive histories for each one, and I thought I'd share a few.
I'll have to check about the legality of sharing these pictures. I might have to take them down later. But for now, let's kick things off with the Lisbon Bible (click for big):
The Lisbon Bible (1482): One of the most accurate biblical manuscripts, the basis for many modern Hebrew editions. This page is the first page of Genesis. The golden word in the box is the first word, “Be-resh-it (“in the beginning”) (added the second "-" to prevent automatic bleeping by the system!). This is both the first word of the book, and the book’s Hebrew name. The text at the bottom and top are masoretic notes, lists of and remarks on linguistic particularities in the text.
The New Testament (Constantinople; mid-tenth century; Luke 1): Demonstrates a common decoration from early Christian bibles: the Evangelist portrait at the beginning of each Gospel. Here we see Luke, placed against a background of burnished gold.
A Royal Qur’an (Mosul, Iraq; 1310; Chapter 41, verse 46)
The text is written in gold, with the vowel signs added in with black ink. The particular script used for this Qur’an is called “muhaqqaq”, a popular script for writing out religious texts. This is one of the few intact volumes left from the 35 volume set commissioned by Sultan Uljaytu.
More to come, pending me checking out the legality of reproducing these pictures. In the meantime, see LOTS more of these (literally hundreds) in big glossy reproductions with excellent historical notes in the official catalog here:
11-21-2009 05:16 AM
You should be OK in posting these Joseph because the British Library has quite a few of them online. You can even turn the pages of a few of them. I too have seen this collection and they are very beautiful. Occasionally they put one of them in a glass case in the foyer of the library and the pages are electronically turned. I last saw Sultan Baybar's Koran there and that was incredibly well preserved. The British Library is one of my London haunts because it is very near to the railway station terminus I come into from my home town, and it has a good cafe.
11-25-2009 05:22 PM
Click for big on all the pictures.
Cruciform Lectionary (Constaintinople, 12th century) A copy of the Greek gospels written in the layout of a cross. One of four surviving gospels of this type.
Ramsgate Esther Scroll (London, 2000) - A modern illustrated version of the Purim story.
Chinese Qur'an (China, 17th century) - Written in a particularly Chinese form of Arabic calligraphy and with decorations modeled after a Chinese latern.
11-26-2009 01:09 PM
As always, click the pictures for larger versions.
Gospels in Coptic and Arabic (Egypt, 1308)
The gospels had been translated into Coptic by the 3rd century, and into Arabic by the 8th or 9th century.
Early Kufic Qur'an (Near East, 9th century)
This is written in kufic, a form of Arabic calligraphy. Red dots are vowels, green dots are parts of the letter, and gold ornaments are ends of verses.
ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING DOCUMENTS IN THE COLLECTION:
Unsigned Papal Bull Uniting the Latin and Greek Churches (Florence, 1439)
This document was the result of an ecumenical council aimed at uniting the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. It is mostly concerned with outlining a workable shared theology on questions such as the importance of the Holy Spirit and the exact organization of the afterlife. The left hand side, written in Latin, has been signed by several Papal authorities and sealed by the Pope. The right hand side, written in Greek, was never signed, and the union never happened.
12-01-2009 05:07 AM
Thanks for taking the trouble to pick out all of those beautiful examples for us Joseph. Having just come back from my annual visit to Northumberland, I am adding a link to the extraordinary Lindisfarne Gospels.
01-30-2010 03:02 PM - edited 01-30-2010 03:03 PM
Some more cool scriptures. As always, click the pictures for larger versions.
Monte Cassino Psalter (Italy, 12th century)
An Italian illuminated manuscript. The art here is just wild.
Four Gospels written in gold (France, 9th century)
This is a copy of the four gospels written entirely in gold. The strangely formatted list you see here is the genealogy of Jesus.
Qur'an written in Gold (Morocco, 12th century)
Accented with colored inks and written on parchment.
05-17-2010 05:10 PM
"On July 6, 2009, the world's oldest Bible went digital. The 4th century Codex Sinaiticus manuscript ("the Sinai Book") is one of the most important texts in Christianity, dating to the time of Constantine the Great. Thanks to the Codex Sinaiticus Project, you can now see and read its raw animal-hide pages online. The photographs of the book's pages show not just the written text — an English translation accompanies the original Greek — but also skeletal imprints, insect bites, scar tissue and spilled candle wax. At nearly 800 pages, Sinaiticus is the largest edition of an ancient manuscript ever to hit the Web."
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article