Binding: St. Cuthbert Gospel

The other structure that I completed as part of my historical structures class this semester was a model of the St. Cuthbert Gospel. This book is also known as the Stonyhurst Gospel or the St Cuthbert Gospel of St John. It is a 7th century pocket gospel book written in Latin with a highly decorated leather binding. It is the earliest known Western bookbinding to survive, and is also the earliest decorated Western book. The book is composed of 94 vellum folios, and measures only 5.4 by 3.6 inches. The text is the Gospel of John in Latin, with virtually undecorated pages.

The names for the book comes from Saint Cuthbert of Lindinsfarne, North East England. Cuthbert was made a saint for healing people during his service as a monk and bishop. The book was placed in his tomb in the years following his death in 687, and was probably a gift from an abbey to be placed in Cuthbert’s coffin.  When his coffin was opened several years later (probably about the time the book and other relics were placed with the body), his body had not started decomposing yet, which only furthered his fame as a saint. Cuthbert’s body was moved several times, and eventually the relics that accompanied the body were removed and placed on dispay, including the Gospel. The book was eventually given to Stonyhurst College, where it was held until the British Library purchased it in 2011-2012.

The British Library has described this book as “the earliest surviving intact European book and one of the world’s most significant books”.

The book has front and back cover leather decoration and three different sewn endbands. The pages are Crane paper and I used museum board for the covers.
Cuthbert3

Cuthbert2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *