The manuscript with the most folios numbered 38

The manuscript with the most folios numbered 38

Durham Cathedral Manuscript A.II.17

One thing that you quickly get used to digitising manuscripts is that they don’t always have a neat numerical sequence, which makes the whole process of taking photographs page by page (and then linking these all together into the correct sequence) rather more work than it might appear. As you look through many of the manuscripts digitised here what you see may not make sense – is there a page missing here, why are there two folios numbered 2?

That is one of the reasons why we don’t neatly crop the pages, leaving enough of the opposite page visible to give you some proof that we have put it back together as an accurate representation of what survives, and we put a typed folio reference into each image, which represents what the manuscript says. This may just be the result of an accident of history, if pages have been lost, or more commonly a lapse on the part of the person pencilling the numbers onto the parchment.

The most spectacular example of this is in Durham Cathedral Manuscript A.II.17 which has an unprecedented five folio 38s, a feat which has stretched the ingenuity of the foliator. Apparently the result of missing an entire gathering of parchment, later correction has required adding f.38*, f.38², f.38³ and f.38⁴ to the original f.38.

It wouldn’t do to miss f.38v³, though, as this manuscript is the Durham Gospels and that is a full page crucifixion image. This is the Anglo-Saxon era crucifixion, a triumphant Christ on the cross, arms spread as if in benediction, rather than the more familiar pain-wracked figure of the later middle ages. The eyes stare straight back at you.

Image - detail of head of Christ on the cross - Durham Gospels f.38v3