Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sacred: discover what we share

St John's Gospel, 'Codex Sinaiticus' c.AD 350
British Library Add. MS 43725, f.247

Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander: The Royal Family. Turnovo, 1355-56
British Library Add. MS 39627, f.3

Golden Haggadah: Biblical scenes based on Genesis, 19-37. Northern Spain, probably Barcelona, c.1320
British Library Add. MS 27210, ff.4v-5

From 27 April – 23 September 2007 The British Library in London is putting on an exhibition entitled Sacred: discover what we share.

It is an exhibition of the world's greatest collection of Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy books

For Christianity, there are the earliest known manuscript of the complete Greek New Testament (Codex Sinaiticus, fourth century), one of the three earliest manuscripts of the complete Greek Bible (Codex Alexandrinus, fifth century), and the seventh-century masterpiece of Anglo-Saxon art, the Lindisfarne Gospels. The printed books include the Gutenberg Bible (Mainz, 1454-55), one of only two copies of the earliest English translation of the Bible by William Tyndale (Worms, 1526) as well as the King James Bible of 1611, otherwise known as the Authorised Version.

The various national churches comprising Eastern Orthodox Christianity are also well covered, including Russian, Bulgarian (with the beautifully illustrated Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander from the 14th century), Armenian, Georgian, Coptic, Syrian, Nubian, and from the Ethiopian Church, beside Gospels and Psalm Books, favourite texts such as the Miracles of Mary. The Ethiopian scriptures also hold significance for the Rastafarian community.

For Judaism, one of the earliest surviving manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible from the 10th century, and some beautifully illustrated examples, especially from Spain and Portugal in the 14th and 15th centuries, scrolls of the Book of Esther read during the Jewish Spring Festival of Purim, Haggadot manuscripts, such as the sumptuously decorated Golden Haggadah and the Barcelona Haggadah, read in Jewish homes on Passover Eve, and many early printed editions such as the copy of the Babylonian Talmud printed at Venice 1520-23 that once belonged to King Henry VIII.