THE British Library has announced an ambitious £9million campaign to acquire the St Cuthbert Gospel – the earliest intact European book – for the nation.
Created in the 7th century and intimately associated with one of Britain’s foremost saints, the Gospel is one of the world’s most significant books. It was produced in the North of England and was buried alongside St Cuthbert on Lindisfarne, apparently in 698, and later found in the saint’s coffin at Durham Cathedral in 1104.
The Gospel, formerly known as the Stonyhurst Gospel, has an original red leather binding and has been on long-term loan to the British Library since 1979 and regularly on-view in its Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery.
The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) has awarded £4.5million towards the campaign, The Art Fund has pledged £250,000 and other foundations have also contributed to the cause.
A further £2.75million is needed to acquire the Gospel and the Library is in discussion with a range of other major donors with a view to securing the full amount by the deadline of March 31, 2012.
Dame Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the Library, said: “The St Cuthbert Gospel is an almost miraculous survival from the Anglo-Saxon period.
“I am delighted to announce publicly this fund-raising campaign – the largest the Library has ever embarked upon for a heritage item.”
The Library was approached last year by Christie’s, acting on behalf of the Society of Jesus (British Province), and was given first option to acquire the Gospel for the UK public.
If the British Library is successful in its campaign, the Gospel will be displayed half of the time in the national library and the other half at the Durham UNESCO World Heritage Site.