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Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, Parker Library, CCCC MS 2III

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Parker Medieval Manuscripts
Corpus Christi College
Parker Library
Manuscript Identifier:
Manuscript Title:
The Bury Bible
Origin Date:
20.6 x 14
The book comes from Bury St Edmunds Abbey. On the upper corner of f. 2r (first leaf of text) is a mark rather smaller than in most Bury books, but of the same kind: B. 1. The press-mark shows that this was the first book in class B. The B here stands for Biblia. Further, at f. 322r the edge of the leaf has been mended with a patch of vellum in cent. xv on which is sketched a crowned head (cut off at the neck) and a scroll inscribed hic, hic, hic. This represents St Edmund's head, which called out Here, here, to those who were searching for it after the martyrdom. It fixes the provenance in a very satisfactory way. In the old catalogue (cent. xii, xiii) of the Abbey books preserved in a MS. at Pembroke College and printed in my Essays on the Abbey of Bury, 1895, p. 23, the second item is Bibliotheca in duo uolumina (!): and in the Gesta Sacristarum, Arnold, Memorials of Bury St Edmunds Abbey (Rolls Series II, p. 290) in the account of Hervey (sacrist under Anselm in 1121-1148) this passage occurs: Iste Herveus frater Taleboti prioris omnes expensas inuenit fratri suo priori in scribenda magna bibliotheca et manu magistri Hugonis incomparabiliter fecit depingi. Qui cum non inueniret in partibus nostris pelles uitulinas sibi accommodas, in Scotiae partibus parchamenas comparauit. This passage seems to refer specially to the illuminating of the Bible in question. I interpret it thus: that Hervey found the money for his brother the prior to have a great Bible written, and had it painted after a matchless sort by the hand of Master Hugo. The latter not finding vellum to suit him in our district procured parchment from Ireland. Clearly there cannot have been any difficulty in getting good vellum to write upon in England. But the special vellum required by the painter was a superior and rarer article. Now it will be found that in this Bible all or almost all of the paintings are done upon separate pieces of vellum which have been pasted down on the leaves of the book. I have no hesitation therefore in identifying the volume before us with a portion of the Bible of Magister Hugo. It is most interesting to have a work of this artist preserved. Like many workers of his time, he exercised more than one craft. He is recorded to have made the bronze doors of St Edmund's Church, to have carved a fine rood for it, and to have cast a great bell.
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