Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Rare Latin Manuscript by the Venerable Bede goes online

Rare Latin Manuscript by the Venerable Bede goes online
The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
December 2, 2008

A rare example of a Latin manuscript (De Natura Rerum) from the twelfth century, with Northumbria connections, has been digitised and place online by The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.

The De Natura Rerum is a scientific treatise by a Northumbrian theologian, philosopher and historian Bede. Bede (c. 672-735) was an Anglo-Saxon historian, theologian and scientific writer.

He spent most of his life at the monasteries at Wearmouth and Jarrow. Bede was ordained deacon in 692 and priest in 703. His scholarly works show that he had access to all the learning of his time. It is estimated the library at Wearmouth-Jarrow held between 300-500 books, making it one of the largest and most extensive libraries in England of the time.

He wrote many theological, historical and scientific texts, including Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (‘The Ecclesiastical History of the English People’) which provides the history of England from the time of Julius Caesar to 731, and which gained him the title ‘the father of English history’. Soon after his death he became known as the “Venerable Bede” , his tomb is located in Durham Cathedral. According to his own words he stated that he’d “spent all my life in this monastery, applying myself entirely to the study of Scriptures." Bede’s importance to Catholicism were recognised in 1899 when he was declared as St Bede The Venerable.

Bede was very interested in the natural world, and his formal scientific treatise on natural phenomena, De natura rerum, is an encyclopaedia of the sciences as know in contemporary medieval times. The manuscript, written on parchment, is a fine example of medieval text with many decorative Latin lettering in the margins.

'Bede was one of the great men of early English history. His work casts a light on a largely unknown period of English and European history. I'd like to think that there would be a little smile on Bede's face if he learned that his manuscripts were being copied by the national library of he Welsh and put on a medium which the whole world can read,' said Andrew Green, Librarian of The National Library of Wales.

De natura rerum surfaced in a private Library (Hengwrt) Dolgellau, North Wales in the seventeenth century before reaching The National Library of Wales in the 1920’s.

According to the Library spokesperson, Medi Jackson “The National Library of Wales is one of the greatest libraries in the world, and is a world leader in digitising its collections so literarily anybody from any part of the world who has access to the internet, can access our treasures online”