Golden Books & Gilded Manuscripts Slated for Exhibit

Credit: British Library Board

Girdle book with a gold binding. England, ca. 1540.

An exhibition at the British Library opening later this month showcases the role gold has played in the production of some of the world’s finest manuscripts, from book covers and illuminations to writing on gold surfaces.

Using fifty examples, Gold illuminates the techniques involved in incorporating gold into books and other documents, including the application of gold leaf, using powdered gold as paint, and gold tooling on book bindings. At its center are examples spanning the globe – twenty countries, seventeen languages, and five religions – mostly pre-1600.

Credit: British Library Board

The Harley Golden Gospels. Carolingian Empire, ca. 800.


Among items on show will be: Fifth/sixth-century inscribed gold plates from Myanmar; a 1920s Art Deco gold-tooled binding from France; and the extravagantly decorated Lotus Sutra scroll from Japan, written in gold (and silver) ink on indigo-dyed paper, produced in 1636.

Naturally there will also be impressive medieval manuscripts on display including the Harley Golden Gospels made in Germany around 800 AD and written completely in gold ink. The library’s Golden Haggadah was produced in Catalonia, Spain, around 1320 and features gold-illuminated scenes from Genesis and Exodus, with miniatures set against a solid gold background.

Gold runs from May 20 to October 2, 2022. Some of the manuscripts are available to view online at the library’s Digitised Manuscripts site.