Codex Aureus


Codex Aureus is one of the most opulent of all surviving English medieval manuscripts. It was produced around the year 750 in the south of England, probably at Canterbury. The manuscript was written on alternate purple and uncolored leaves in uncial script in black, red, white, gold, and silver inks. Two of the four full-page portraits of the Evangelists have survived, made in Anglo-Saxon style with strong Byzantine and Italian elements. The uncial script, arranged on certain pages in patterns known as carmina figurata (figure poems), the miniatures of the Evangelists, and the use of purple parchment all emulate the splendor of imperial manuscripts from late antiquity. Three of the leaves are mutilated; half or the major part of each has been cut away, but without any missing text. The manuscript originally had at least a further five, and probably more, leaves. One endleaf is at the front, added perhaps after medieval times; the back endleaf is missing. According to an Anglo-Saxon inscription from the ninth century, the Codex Aureus was carried off by Vikings during a raid, but about a century later it was restored to Christ Church Cathedral in Canterbury. It is presumed that the codex subsequently remained at Canterbury Cathedral throughout the Middle Ages. Its postmedieval history is unknown until almost the end of the 17th century, when Johan Gabriel Sparwenfeld (1655‒1727), Swedish envoy and distinguished linguist and philologist, bought the manuscript in Madrid in 1690 from the famous library of Gaspar de Haro, seventh Marqués del Carpio (1629‒87). Sparwenfeld donated the Codex Aureus to the Royal Library (National Library of Sweden) in 1705.

Last updated: October 17, 2017