Hwæt! The British Library’s new exhibition, Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War, has now opened. I have had the great privilege of working alongside the curators, being one of the first to see the completed exhibition, and of celebrating the official opening.
A number of the manuscripts which I have written about in my blogposts are on display. Wynflæd’s will (the oldest surviving will by a woman in English); the Lacnunga and Leechbook medical manuscripts, side by side; one of the two parts into which Ælfwine’s Prayerbook, one of my pet manuscripts, is divided; the Vespasian Psalter, with its glorious image of King David and his musicians; and Cotton MS Tiberius C VI, open to my favourite image of St Michael slaying a dragon-within-a-dragon!
Strong as the Library’s collection of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts is, a great number of items has been brought in from other institutions in order to make the exhibition extra special. The enormous Codex Amiatinus – a complete Bible written in Northumbria and given to the Pope as a gift – is back in England for the first time since the eighth century, alongside other manuscripts written in the same monastery. The four surviving great collections of Anglo-Saxon poetry sit together, side by side: one from the British Library, one from Oxford, one from Exeter, and another which has been in the Italian city of Vercelli for over a millennium. From somewhat closer to home, Domesday Book is also on loan from the UK’s National Archives in Kew, west London.
It’s not just about manuscripts, though: the golden buckle from the Sutton Hoo burial is also on display (I couldn’t believe how shiny it was!), as are items from the Staffordshire Hoard, the stone angel from Lichfield Cathedral, and the incredible Alfred Jewel, believed to have once been part of a pointer for reading a manuscript with.
A longer blogpost will (hopefully) follow at some point, but in the meantime, if you are going to be in or near London between now and the 19th of February, I encourage you to go!