Saint Petersburg Bede

Saint Petersburg Bede

Saint Petersburg Bede

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The Saint Petersburg Bede (Saint Petersburg, National Library of Russia, lat. Q. v. I. 18), formerly known as the Leningrad Bede, is an Anglo-Saxon illuminated manuscript, a near-contemporary version of Bede's 8th century history, the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People). Although not heavily illuminated, it is famous for containing the earliest historiated initial (one containing a picture) in European illumination. It is so named because it was taken to the Russian National Library of Saint Petersburg (later known as Leningrad) in Russia at the time of the French Revolution by Peter P. Dubrovsky.


Traditionally, the Saint Petersburg Bede is attributed on palaeographic grounds to Bede’s monastery at Wearmouth-Jarrow. It is also traditionally dated to 731/732 × 746 on the basis of the so-called Memoranda, a series of retrospective dates found in the margins of Bede’s recapitulo in Book V Chapter 24. The validity of these Memoranda (and similar notes in the Moore Bede) as evidence for the precise year in which the manuscript was copied has been vigorously challenged. While it may not be possible to assign the manuscript to a specific year, it seems unlikely that it was copied much after the middle of the eighth century.

Physical description

The manuscript is written on parchment. It contains 162 folio (numbered 161, but with f. 51...
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