Coinciding with the current London exhibition – Treasures of Lambeth Palace Library (17 May-23 July 2010) – July’s CABS book-of-the-month is a full-colour fascimile of the Lambeth Apocalypse (manuscript 209 in Lambeth Palace Library).
The Lambeth Apocalypse is a richly-illustrated copy of the text of the Revelation of St John, accompanied by extracts from the commentary of Berengaudus (9th century) on the allegory.
Apocalypses were amongst the most popular manuscripts used by the clergy and laity throughout the Middle-Ages. The Lambeth Apocalypse is one of about 20 apocalypse manuscripts still in existence that were produced in England in the 13th and 14th centuries.
It is believed to have been produced some time in the latter half of the 13th century and though its provenance is debated, one theory is that it was created under the patronage of Lady Eleanor De Quincy, Countess of Winchester, (c.1230 and 1274), presumed to be the kneeling figure beside the Virgin in one of the full-page images in the manuscript.
For a while the Lambeth Apocalypse was in the hands of the Elizabethan book collector, John, Lord Lumley (1534-1609). After his death, his book collection became part of the Royal Library, (which eventually formed the nucleus of the British Library), and it then passed on to become part of the founding collection of the Lambeth Palace Library.
The full-colour facsimile, in our CABS collection, was published in 1990 with an accompanying critical commentary by Nigel Morgan in a limited edition of 550 copies (which can be found on the open shelves at D2897.LAM MOR). Photographs of many of the images from the Apocalypse can also be found in the Conway Library.
As explained in the foreword by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, Robert Runcie, interest in the Lambeth Apocalypse also threatened its preservation. To preserve the original manuscript and to make it available to a wider audience, the Lambeth Librarian, Dr. E. G. W. Bill, decided to have the facsimile made.
If you wish to see the original manuscript along with a range of other archives and manuscripts from Lambeth Palace Library, information on the exhibition can be found here: