The British Library has announced an ambitious fundraising campaign to acquire the St Cuthbert Gospel for the nation. Created in the 7th century and intimately associated with one of Britain’s foremost saints, the Gospel is the earliest surviving intact European book and one of the world’s most significant books.
A manuscript copy of the Gospel of St John, the St Cuthbert Gospel was produced in the North of England in the late 7th century and was buried alongside St Cuthbert on Lindisfarne, apparently in 698, and later found in the saint’s coffin at Durham Cathedral in 1104. It has a beautifully-worked original red leather binding in excellent condition, and is the only surviving high-status manuscript from this crucial period in British history to retain its original appearance, both inside and out.
The largest single grant for a heritage acquisition in the British Library’s history, the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) award of £4.5m is a huge boost to the campaign to acquire the Gospel. The Art Fund has also generously pledged £250,000 and a similar sum was donated by The Garfield Weston Foundation in recognition of the importance of the book to Britain. The Library is now in discussion with a range of other major donors with a view to securing the full amount by the deadline of 31 March 2012.
Announcing the campaign to acquire the St Cuthbert Gospel, the Chief Executive of the British Library, Dame Lynne Brindley, said: “The St Cuthbert Gospel is an almost miraculous survival from the Anglo-Saxon period, a beautifully preserved window into a rich, sophisticated culture that flourished some four centuries before the Norman Conquest. I am delighted to announce publicly this fundraising campaign – the largest the Library has ever embarked upon for a heritage item – and wish to express the Library’s profound gratitude to the funders who have already offered their generous support. In particular, the National Heritage Memorial Fund grant, amounting to half of the purchase price, helps us get our fundraising campaign off to the best possible start.”