Medieval Bling: The Manuscripts of the Rich and Famous

I’m totally inspired to bling out my thesis.

medievalfragments

By Jenny Weston

For the most part, medieval books do not look like this:

Front cover of the Lindau Gospel (© Morgan Library, New York) Front cover of the Lindau Gospel with raised gem stones (© Morgan Library, New York)

But just as some people today add chrome to their cars or gems to their watches or phone cases, some medieval people chose to add ‘bling’ to their books.

Take for example the following Gospel book known as the Codex Aureus or ‘Golden Book’. Made in the 9th century for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles II, the cover of the book is covered with gold, gems, sapphires, emeralds, and pearls.

Codex Aureus of St Emmeram ("Golden Book") Codex Aureus of St Emmeram (‘Golden Book’)

These extremely luxurious book covers are often referred to as ‘treasure bindings’ (for  obvious reasons)!

Because these books were extremely valuable, they were naturally a target for thieves. As a result, only a handful of ‘intact’ examples survive today. It’s possible to see a…

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