Cambridge University Library Purchases the Codex Zacynthius

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Cambridge University Library has purchased the Codex Zacynthius for £1.1m after a fundraising appeal was supplemented by a £500,000 grant from the National Heritage Fund. A critically important manuscript in the development of the New Testament, the 7th century Codex Zacynthius has been on loan to the Cambridge University Library since 1984.  The library was able to purchase the codex from its lenders, the British and Foreign Bible Society, who wished to raise funds to establish a new visitor center in Wales

The Codex Zacynthius is a palimpsest, meaning that it is a recycled manuscript with a hidden layer of “undertext.” That undertext - part of Luke’s gospel in Greek - was written in the seventh century. The undertext was eventually scrapped off sometime in the 13th century, when it was replaced with the text of an Evangeliarium comprised of text from all four gospels.  The known existence of the Codex’s undertext - and the clues it offers into the early development of Christianity - make the manuscript particularly valuable to religious scholars.

The Head of the National Heritage Fund, Fiona Talbott, said: “The Codex Zacynthius has been part of the UK’s heritage for over 200 years and is a truly fascinating and unique object. Our trustees felt it was incredibly important that it should be safeguarded so future generations can explore its undiscovered secrets.”

Cambridge University Library will now conduct multi-spectral imaging and XRF spectroscopy on the Codex Zacynthius in the hopes of revealing more of its secrets.

[Image from Cambridge University Library]
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