The binding of the 2002 facsimile edition of the Lindisfarne Gospels sold at £3500 by Canterbury Auction Galleries.

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Offered at Canterbury Auction Galleries (22.5% buyer’s premium) on February 4, this was one of 290 copies produced in 2002 by Facsimile Verlag Luzern.

It boasts a binding which replicates that found on a Victorian printed edition of 1852.

The velvet and white metal covered boards are adorned with 37 precious and semi-precious stones: four small rubies, four amethysts, four pieces of turquoise, an emerald, four pieces of citrine, 16 garnets and four pieces of chrysoprase, a variety of chalcedony.

Also boasting silver thread embroidery to the spine, this recent facsimile edition was boxed with two volumes of commentary on the text.

The original Lindisfarne Gospels is a famous and very early manuscript recounting the life and teachings of Jesus Christ which runs to over 500 vellum pages – for which around 150 calf skins were needed, it has been suggested.

It takes its name from the belief that it was written and illuminated in the early 8th century by Eadfrith, a monk (later a Bishop) at the Benedictine monastery of Lindisfarne, a tidal island just off the Northumberland coast.

That monastery was attacked and looted by Vikings in 793, but though the original binding was lost, the manuscript itself escaped destruction and by the 12th century was located at Durham Cathedral.

Bequeathed to museum

In later times it found its way into the hands of at least three other English collectors before being acquired by the antiquary Robert Cotton, whose grandson, John Cotton (1621-1702), later bequeathed the family’s exceptional library to the British Museum.

There it has long been cherished as the most spectacular manuscript to survive from Anglo-Saxon England.