Million pound 12th-century Bible is Maidstone Museum's most prized possession
Registrar Clare Caless,
left, and collections officer Sam Harris with the Lambeth Bible at
by Angela Cole
It's not as well known as The Hungry Caterpillar, but it's
one of the finest examples of a book anywhere in Kent.
As hundreds of youngsters prepare to celebrate reading during
World Book Day next Thursday, housed in Maidstone Museum is one of
the most expensive and oldest books in the county – the Lambeth
Bible, written entirely in Latin, and worth around £1 million.
Kept in a glass case at the St Faiths Street building, staff
must turn the pages regularly so they are not exposed to too much light.
An unpaid scribe – possibly a monk – would have laboured for
several years over the perfect writing back in the mid 1100s,
although even today the marks showing how he kept the lines
straight are still visible if visitors look closely.
Its pages are made of vellum, a type of animal skin, rather than
paper and the red dye used in some of its details may have been
made with cochineal, otherwise known as beetle blood.
Collections officer Samantha Harris said: "It is a really
beautiful book. At the time this was written very few people would
have been able to read or write so this person would have been
considered highly educated, although they would not have been
It is the second volume – the first is housed in Lambeth Palace
Library – and the illuminated manuscript would have once stood on a
church lectern, with a priest reading from it to his congregation,
who would not have been able to read it themselves.
It has been linked to Faversham Abbey as it is believed it was
produced for King Stephen and Queen Matilda.
It was brought closer to its current home when it was resident
at All Saints’ Church in Mill Street, Maidstone, in 1716.
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