Last week I had the good fortune to visit the Sacred exhibition at the British Library in London. Sacred is a massive collection of some of the oldest and most important manuscripts of the sacred texts of the three Abrahamic faiths. There were also some contemporary manuscripts, including two pages from the St. John's Bible, and a very beautiful Esther scroll illuminated by artist Mark Negin.
Having the opportunity to stand right in front of the fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus, "the earliest surviving copy of the complete New Testament," (as well as much of the Old Testament), was a highlight for me, although my knowledge of Koine Greek has deteriorated to a such a point that I couldn't actually make any sense of the text -- reading from a modern critical edition (with spaces between the words!) is one thing, reading from a fourth-century manuscript is something else entirely. There was also a sixth-century copy of the Vulgate, an original King James Bible from 1611, some very early (eighth-century) editions of the Qur'an, and a copy of the Bomberg edition of the Talmud from the 1520s, "the layout and pagination" of which "have served as models to all subsequent printed editions of the Talmud." But this is only scratching the surface. I found it all rather overwhelming, actually.
If you're going to be in London between now and 23 September, it is a must-see -- and it's free. Either way, I highly recommend visiting the exhibition's fantastic official website, Sacred: Discover What We Share. It has very large images of a lot of the works on display at the British Library, as well as a ton of information about them.


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