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Appeal launched to buy oldest book in Europe

15th July 2011

An appeal has been launched by the British Library to purchase the oldest fully-intact book in Europe - a 7th century copy of The Four Gospels buried in the coffin of Saint Cuthbert.

The palm-sized, leather-bound book has been on loan to the library since 1979 and is valued at GBP 9 million, which would make it the largest single acquisition in the facility's history.

So far, the British Library has raised GBP 4.5 million to put towards the purchase through the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the library, said it is exploring ways of generating the rest of the money required.

She said that the Art Fund and the Garfield Weston Foundation have each pledged GBP 250,000, on the proviso the book be displayed for half the time in Durham Cathedral, where it was unearthed in 1004 after Saint Cuthbert's coffin was opened.

Ms Brindley described the book as 'an almost miraculous survival from the Anglo-Saxon period, a beautifully preserved window into a rich, sophisticated culture that flourished some four centuries before the Norman Conquest'.

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