The St Cuthbert Gospel of St John. (formerly known as the Stonyhurst Gospel) is the oldest intact European book
Despite the ‘Dark Ages’ myth, Anglo-Saxon England actually had an impressive wealth and sophistication, and books were prized possessions. The printing press was still centuries away and so the creation of each book required a painstaking amount of time and effort. Thus, those available became symbols of power and wealth and were highly-valued among the upper echelons of Anglo-Saxon society.
In what different ways did books hold such value and power during this period?
One of the most notable figures who placed high value on literature was King Alfred the Great. His famous beautifully-crafted jewel, the Alfred Jewel, is thought to have originally been the handle of his reading stick, used for pointing at words when reading.
We also know Alfred championed the making of books. In the mid 880s, Alfred summoned Asser, a Welsh monk from the monastery at St David’s, to write the Life of King Alfred – while the king was still alive.
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