Cambridge, University Library, MS Kk. 5.16

Moore Bede Facsimile Edition

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The Moore Bede is one of the most important surviving English medieval manuscripts. Although it contains no illustrations or elaborate decoration, it preserves what may be the earliest surviving copy of the Venerable Bede's great work of English history, the Ecclesiastical History of the English People, a priceless resource for understanding early Christianity in England. Bede completed his work in 731. Additions to the chronology through the year 734 provide a terminus post quem (point after which) for the manuscript placing its production roughly in the mid-eighth century.

The manuscript derives its name from John Moore, the bishop of Ely who owned the book in the early eighteenth century. The core text in Latin is written in Insular Minuscule. Glosses in Caroline Minuscule added after the manuscript reached continental Europe correct, clarify, and expand on the core text.

Earliest Extant Version of Bede’s History

A monk at the twin monasteries of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow, Bede had access to perhaps the greatest library north of the Alps at the time. Using this along with correspondence with other religious foundations, he compiled his best-known work telling the history of the British Isles from the time of Julius Caesar to the early eighth century. It includes the text of Caedmon's hymn—according to legend the first poem in Old English—in Northumbrian dialect (fol. 128v).

A Treasured Eighth-Century Text

Decoration in the Moore Bede is restricted to rubrication and dotted embellishment around capital letters. The tight margins and imperfect parchment indicate that the text was treasured more than the physical book. Books of any sort were valuable for eighth-century monastic scholars. Without works such as Bede's, much knowledge of early Christian Europe would have been lost.

Transmission of Knowledge from England to the Carolingian Empire

The Moore Bede appears to have been written by one scribe in haste, suggesting that the book was made on commission with the intent of being sent to another monastic foundation. There is evidence for its having been in Aachen by the year 800, perhaps requested by Charlemagne's advisor Alcuin, a native of northern England. Remaining in France for most of its life, the manuscript bears the ex libris of the library of the cathedral of Saint-Julien at Le Mans (fol. 128v). It was acquired by John Moore, bishop of Ely, between 1697 and 1702. In 1715, King George I of England gave the volume to the University of Cambridge.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Moore Bede": The Moore Bede: an eighth century manuscript of the Venerable Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum facsimile edition, published by Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1959

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Manuscript book description compiled by Amy R. Miller.
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The Moore Bede: an eighth century manuscript of the Venerable Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum

Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1959

  • Commentary (English) by Blair Hunter, Peter; Mynors, Roger A.B
  • This is a partial facsimile of the original document, Moore Bede: the facsimile might represent only a part, or doesn't attempt to replicate the format, or doesn't imitate the look-and-feel of the original document.

The facsimile edition comes in black and white.

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