Old Bible fragments found in Auckland

Tattered pieces from two Bibles more than 1200 years old have been found in another Bible in Auckland.

JESSICA TASMAN-JONES for Fairfax News  |  04 Apr 2012

Tattered pieces from two Bibles more than 1200 years old have been found in another Bible in an Auckland library.

The pieces, sewn into the four-volume Latin Bible, were discovered by staff at Sir George Grey's Special Collections in the central city library.

They were found while staff were cataloguing books dating from before 1501.

The tattered manuscript is believed to date from just after 800AD and could be the earliest fragments of Western manuscripts in Australasia.

Colin Davis, chair of the Auckland Library Heritage Trust, says the find is "internationally significant".

The Bible it was found in is a treasure in its own right, dating from the 15th century and originally belonging to a monastery in southern Germany.

It had been presented in 1913 by Henry Shaw.

The find was sent to Emeritus Professor Alexandra Barratt who discovered more fragments in three of the four volumes.

"Strips of vellum manuscript were sewn into the centre of the paper 'quires' or booklets which make up the volumes of the Bible, to strengthen them," Professor Barratt says.

"The strips were cut from a Latin Carolingian Bible, that is, a bible written at the time of the emperor Charlemagne." 

"According to an English expert, they date from the early 9th century, maybe not long after AD 800, making them more than 1200 years old," she says.

Auckland Libraries heritage and research manager Sue Cooper says the remnants are believed to be the earliest fragments of Western manuscripts in Australasia or event the southern hemisphere.

Not all of the fragments are readable but include extracts from the book of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Ezekiel and Hosea.

Other remains from the two manuscripts are believed to be in the Bavarian State Library in Munich, Germany.

Also found in a 1510 book on canon law was a page of papal indulgences, issued by Pope Leo X for the benefit of a monastery in Portugal.

This is believed to be the only papal indulgence recorded in a New Zealand library.

The Sir George Grey Special Collections are on the second floor of the central library and hold rare books, photographs, ephemera, manuscripts, historic and rare maps, heritage music materials and oral histories.


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