The Winchester Bible is one of the finest works of medieval art England has ever produced. Of huge significance in the history of Christianity and in the history of the development of the book, it is also one of the largest ever created. Believed to have been commissioned in 1160 by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester and grandson of William the Conqueror, it would have cost its patron the price of a small castle.
The Bible is made from the skins of 250 calves. Each page would have taken a whole day to write and there were 1000 pages in total. Once the scribe had written the Latin text, professional artists drew and illuminated the initials at the beginning of each book of the Bible. 46 of the major initials in the Bible are complete and fully illuminated. Some have been removed over the years by collectors, while many others were left unfinished giving us valuable insights into how the manuscript was made.
The painstaking process of conserving the first volume of the Bible started early in 2014. The parchment at the spine-fold had been damaged by the use of hot rabbit skin glue in the past. An attempt to repair the spine at its last rebinding in 1948 resulted in yet more damage. Through the use of solvent, gentle humidification and patching, this damage is being repaired, as are tears elsewhere in the manuscript.
The dry cleaning of the leaves has yielded astonishing results, changing the tone of the pages from dark grey to creamy white. The flaking gilt and friable pigment of the illuminated initials has been consolidated. A full digital copy is being made of the dis-bound pages, capturing the 12th century editorial notes previously hidden in the margins. These images will help to make the Bible accessible to the widest possible audience.
HOW YOU CAN HELP WITH CONSERVING THE WINCHESTER BIBLE
We need help to complete the conservation of the Bible if we are to continue to enjoy its beauty and be able to share our sense of awe with future generations. We must take responsibility now for its conservation.
A gift of £1000 will sponsor the cost of conserving, digitizing and displaying one of the Bible’s thousand pages. You could make your gift in your own name, on behalf of your family or in memory of a loved one.
The names of all donors ‘sponsoring a page’ will be recorded in a volume held within the Cathedral and acknowledged with a full colour print of one of the Bible’s sumptuously illuminated pages.
HOW TO GIVE
Please contact Zoe Seenan on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01962 857 241.
Thank you for your support.