Hereford Gospels

The Hereford Gospels (Hereford, Hereford Cathedral Library, MS P. I. 2) is an 8th-century illuminated manuscript gospel book in insular script (minuscule), with large illuminated initials in the Insular style. This is a very late Anglo-Saxon gospel book, which shares a distinctive style with the Caligula Troper (Cotton Library, MS Caligula A.xiv). An added text suggests this was in the diocese of Hereford in the 11th century.[1]

The Hereford Gospels, circa 780, illustrating the Gospel of John

The manuscript was likely produced either in Wales (like the Ricemarch Psalter [In the Doomsday books Hereford is referred to as Hereford, Wales] and possibly the Lichfield Gospels) or in the West Country of England near the Welsh border.[2] Correspondences with the Lichfield Gospels include roughly 650 variances from the Vulgate, suggestive that the two manuscripts result from a similar textual tradition.

Like other Insular manuscripts, the decoration has features relating to pre-Christian Celtic art, featuring spirals, tri-partite divisions of circles, common in the La Tene style, as well as Germanic and Mediterranean elements.

It is now housed in Hereford Cathedral in the largest surviving chained library, a library in which the books are chained so as to prevent theft.

This book should not be confused with a different manuscript sometimes known as the "Hereford Gospels", now held at Pembroke College, Cambridge as MS 302.


  1. ^ Backhouse, Janet, Turner, D.H., and Webster, Leslie, eds.; The Golden Age of Anglo-Saxon Art, 966–1066, p. 86, 1984, British Museum Publications Ltd, ISBN 0714105325
  2. ^ Richard Gameson, "The Hereford Gospels," from Hereford Cathedral: A History (London, 2000), pgs. 536-543. Gameson himself argues for the Welsh origin of the manuscript, but acknowledges that west England is a possible but less likely location of origin.

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