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A BIBLE OF THE TWELFTH CENTURY.
Now preserved in the British Museum. This illumination is from a noble copy of the Bible, which contains the largest and most florid styles known of the peculiar style of ornamentation used. Each book of the Old Testament begins with a large capital letter, occupying a space four inches square, into which is worked the effigy of some saint.
The books of the New Testament are treated differently, each of the gospels beginning with a large ornamented compartment like our plate, which in the original is eighteen inches square. This particular example is from the Gospel of St. John, which is the one most profusely decorated by the early illuminators. Over the letter "N" which is an example of the best work of the period, St. John, accompanied by his associated emblem, the eagle, is represented in the act of writing his gospel under the influence of inspiration, as expressed by the figure of Christ, who is holding a book over the head of the Evangelist.
This work in several volumes belonged to the monks of St. Mary and St. Nicholas of Arnstein, in the year 1464. The value attached to these magnificent volumes may be inferred from the singular anathema at the end of one of them, the Errglish of which is as follows: "The book of St. Mary and St. Nicholas in Arnstein, the which, if any one shall purloin it, may he die the death, may he be cooked upon a gridiron, may the falling sickness and fevers attack him, and may he be broken upon the wheel and hung." Anathemas were not uncommon in these early books, but the owners were generally content to use much simpler and milder ones than the above; the one most employed reading:—"If any one injure or take away this book, may he be cussed."