PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Subha Mukherji Dying and Living with De la Mare Carl Phillips Fall Colors and other poems Alex Wylie The Bureaucratic Sublime: on the secret joys of contemporary poetry Marilyn Hacker Montpeyroux Sonnets David Herman Memories of Raymond Williams
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This article is taken from PN Review 229, Volume 42 Number 5, May - June 2016.

Pictures from a Library

26: Judging a Book by Its Cover
The Jewelled Binding of a Latin Medieval Manuscript
Stella Halkyard
Jewelled binding of Rylands Latin Manuscript 5

According to Susan Stewart the ‘book sits before me, closed and unread; it is an object with a set of surfaces. But opened […] its physical aspects give way to abstraction’ as the text contained within the book is revealed and takes possession of the reader. In the case of Rylands Latin Manuscript 5, a New Testament, things are perhaps not quite so clear-cut. Encrusted with gold ivory and jewels, the cover of this book cries out for attention in its own right.

Made in Germany in the twelfth century, it measures 29 x 19.5 cm and is composed of a series of panels. At its heart sits a plaque of ivory, which has been carved with figures in high relief, picturing Christ’s crucifixion. Flanked by the Virgin Mary and St John, Christ adopts the defiant, hieratic posture of a heroic warrior. His outstretched arms boldly embrace his fate as the redeemer of mankind, ‘strong and unflinching […] courageous under the scrutiny of many’ (‘Dream of the Rood’).

Surrounding this scene are eight other panels of varying size, decorated in gold-leaf and intricate filigree.
Four golden medallions align to the points of Christ’s cross, worked in repoussé, showing the figures of the Virtues. Arranged in groups around the border is a spectacular assortment of thirty-two carbuncular precious stones, including crystal, carnelian, amethyst and onyx. Some date from classical antiquity and are carved with exquisite intaglio and cameo emblems. Their themes are pagan and ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image