The Lindisfarne Gospels is a vellum codex of the four Gospels (British Museum, Cotton MS Nero D IV), with Canon–tables and prefaces, written in a noble Anglo–Saxon majuscule script and splendidly decorated in Hiberno–Saxon style by Eadfrith (bishop of Lindisfarne, 698–721) on the island of Lindisfarne off the northeast coast of England, probably between 695 and 698. Complete and exceptionally well-preserved, it comprises 259 folios (13.8 inches by 9.8 inches). About 970 a word-by-word interlinear translation of the Latin text into the Anglo-Saxon was added by Aldred, a monk of the Lindisfarne community. This is one of the longest Old English texts and a very important linguistic document. Aldred added also a colophon (on fol. 259r) giving details of the making of the Gospels. The binding, now lost, was by Aethelwald (bishop, 721–740) and was enriched with gold, silver, and gems by Billfrith (Bilfrid), an anchorite of the community. The codex was thus made on Lindisfarne in the monastery founded (635) by the Irishman aidan but by Saxon hands. The Gospel text is a pure Vulgate of the Italo–Northumbrian family very close to that of the Codex Amiatinus. Its exemplar appears to have come from Naples. Italian influence appears also in the setting–out of the text, in the Canontable arcades, in the Evangelist portraits, and even in the character of the script. Eadfrith is the first known name in British art history. The text was issued in editions by J. Stevenson and G. Waring (1854–65) and by W. W. Skeat (1871–87).
See Also: manuscript illumination.
Bibliography: Codex Lindisfarnensis, ed. t. d. kendrick et al., 2 v. (Olten 1956–60), color fac. and commentary. s. f. h. robinson, Celtic Illuminative Art in the Gospel Books of Durrow, Lindisfarne and Kells (Dublin 1908). e. g. millar, The Lindisfarne Gospels (London 1923). f. henry, Irish Art in the Early Christian Period, to 800 A.D. (Ithaca, N.Y. 1965). j. backhouse, The Lindisfarne Gospels: A Masterpiece of Book Painting (San Francisco 1995).
[r. l. s. bruce–mitford]