Cambridge University Library

Library news rss feed

Uncovering the text of the New Testament

12 September, 2014

CodexA £1.1m campaign by Cambridge University Library to secure one of the most important New Testament manuscripts – the seventh-century Codex Zacynthius – has been a success.

Cambridge University Library reached their appeal target after the National Heritage Memorial Fund recognised the importance of the Codex Zacynthius and stepped in with a grant of £500,000.

Such early manuscripts are extremely sought after as invaluable witnesses to the development of the text of the New Testament. The manuscript will now undergo multi-spectral imaging and XRF spectroscopy to enrich a new generation of research on the text.

Cambridge University Librarian Anne Jarvis said: “Since launching our appeal in December 2013, we have been delighted and humbled by the donations and support we’ve received.

“That support, especially from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, means that Codex Zacynthius can now take its rightful place among our world-renowned faith collections.”

Fiona Talbott, Head of NHMF, 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.”

The huge appeal of this unique item lies in its hidden backstory. Codex Zacynthius is a palimpsest: a manuscript from which the text has been scraped or washed off in order for it to be used again. The recycling of manuscripts was common practice at a time when writing surfaces were precious, few books were produced, and a tiny percentage of the population was literate.

Codex Zacynthius is so-called because it resided on the Greek island of Zakynthos (also called Zante), although its original place of composition is unknown. Its 176 leaves are made of parchment – treated animal skin. The surface of the parchment was first used at the end of the 7th century when it was inscribed in Greek with the text of Luke 1:1–11:33 – a layer of writing now known to scholars as the ‘undertext’. In the 13th century this was partially scraped away and written over with the text of an Evangeliarium, a book composed of passages from the Four Gospels – this is the ‘overtext’.

Lord Williams of Oystermouth, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who supported Cambridge’s fundraising campaign, said: “The discovery and identification of the undertext represents a fascinating detective story. By securing the manuscript, we hope that multispectral imaging techniques will enable scholars to recover fully the hidden text.”

Establishing the definitive text of the New Testament came late to Christianity and the Textus Receptus, produced by the great Dutch humanist scholar Erasmus (1469-1536), was for centuries the standard printed edition, despite its shortcomings. It was based on only six manuscripts and included parts of the book of Revelation that Erasmus had translated into Greek himself, from a Latin edition, since he didn’t have a complete manuscript of the Greek text.

Codex Zacynthius was deposited at Cambridge University Library in 1984 by the British and Foreign Bible Society, which has owned it for almost 200 years. The Bible Society wished to sell Codex Zacynthius as part of an exceptional exercise to release funds to establish a new visitor centre in Wales.

Other News

Sassoon's War Journals Released Online

31 July, 2014

Siegfried Sassoon’s First World War diaries – some bearing traces of mud from the Somme – are among 4,100 pages from his personal archive being made freely available online from today, almost 100 years since Britain declared war on Germany.

More...

80-year old photograph albums throw light on the building of the iconic University Library

29 July, 2014

Photographic albums uncovered at the University Library (UL) offer a unique view of the huge removal job which 80 years ago this week saw one million items successfully moved to their new home.

More...

Heavens above

28 May, 2014

A 600-year-old astronomical document is now moving into the modern era, with a symposium at the Whipple Museum to mark its digitisation.

More...

Stanley Sadie Archive Project

19 May, 2014

Cambridge University Library is delighted to have received the Stanley Sadie Archive as a gift from his widow Julie Anne.

More...

Literature of the Liberation: Cambridge exhibition a world first

06 May, 2014

Seventy years after Hitler’s soldiers were driven from Paris, Cambridge University Library is staging the first-ever exhibition to examine the outpouring of literary works that followed the German retreat from French soil.

More...

From text to texting: 10th century Greek manuscript is brought into the digital age

27 March, 2014

A tenth century Greek manuscript, one of the latest additions to the Digital Library, shows how the transmission and reinterpretation of written knowledge over the centuries still continues in today’s digital age.

More...

Conquering a continent: How the French language circulated in Britain and medieval Europe

22 January, 2014

A 13th-century manuscript of Arthurian legend once owned by the Knights Templar is one of the star attractions of a new exhibition opening at Cambridge University Library today (January 22).

More...

Cambridge University Library bids to purchase early Gospel manuscript

16 December, 2013

Cambridge University Library plans to raise £1.1m to purchase an outstanding Biblical manuscript. Dating from the 6th or 7th century, Codex Zacynthius is a palimpsest that offers scholars a key to understanding the way in which the text of St Luke’s Gospel was transmitted as Christianity spread.

More...

1,000 years of history to be digitised following unique appeal

06 December, 2013

A campaign to save ancient documents chronicling 1,000 years of history has succeeded after £1.2m was raised by the universities of Cambridge and Oxford in their first-ever joint appeal

More...

Donation to digitise Japanese treasures

08 October, 2013

Treasures from the University Library’s Japanese Collections are to be digitised and made freely available to a global audience, thanks to a gift from Professor Mikiko Ishii.

More...

Cambridge's criminal past revealed in centuries-old court records

30 September, 2013

Adultery, libel, bribery, attempted murder: Cambridge University’s criminal underbelly has been exposed after painstaking research on its Vice-Chancellor’s Court records from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

More...

Darwin's Women

09 September, 2013

On matters of gender, Charles Darwin was supposedly an arch conservative who argued that a woman's place was in the home. Now new research shows that in private, he was anything but...

More...

Cambridge University Library launches design competition

25 July, 2013

A landscape design competition to transform the space surrounding Cambridge University Library has been launched.

More...

The longitude problem: 300-year-old archive opened to the world.

18 July, 2013

Now, for the first time, the full story of attempts to solve the longitude problem - unravelling the lone genius myth popularised in film and literature - is freely available to everyone via the Cambridge Digital Library

More...

Alumni Access to JSTOR

12 July, 2013

The Library is delighted to announce increased alumni access to academic research. In addition to the longstanding right of MAs to borrow books from the Library, alumni will now be able to access a huge range of academic work online and free of charge via JSTOR.

More...

Milstein donation brings Library's treasures to global audience

21 June, 2013

The gift from the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation will enable the University Library to reimagine the way in which it displays its collections in both the physical and online worlds.

More...

Crime and punishment: a 19th-century love affair

30 April, 2013


Read all about it! Wrongdoing in Spain and England in the Long Nineteenth Century exhibition opens free to the public on April 30 and reveals a catalogue of criminality from the Library’s remarkable collections of books, broadsides, penny dreadfuls and cheap, mass-produced ephemera.

More...

Click to save the nation's digital memory

05 April, 2013

Millions of web pages from millions of websites, as well as public Facebook posts and tweets, are being preserved far into the future by Cambridge University Library and five other major libraries.

More...

Historic rivals join forces to save 1,000 years of Jewish history

08 February, 2013

Cambridge University Library and the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries have today announced their first ever joint fundraising campaign to purchase the £1.2 million 'Lewis-Gibson Genizah Collection', currently owned by the United Reformed Church’s Westminster College.

More...

Non-Print Legal Deposit regulations laid before parliament

07 February, 2013

On 28 January, the Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013 were laid before parliament. The regulations seek to ensure that the Legal Deposit Libraries (LDLs) can provide a national archive of the UK’s non-print published material, such as websites, blogs, e-journals and e-books in a way that does not prejudice publishers’ commercial interests and that respects copyright ownership.

More...

Ten Commandments go digital

11 December, 2012

The Library is releasing digital versions of some of the most significant religious manuscripts in the world through the Cambridge Digital Library. This includes a 2,000-year old copy of The Ten Commandments (the famous Nash Papyrus) and one of the most remarkable ancient copies of the New Testament (Codex Bezae).

More...

Poet Laureate launches major poetry and museums project at the University of Cambridge

02 November, 2012

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has invited ten of the best UK poets writing today to take part in an unprecedented series of residencies at the University of Cambridge, supported by Arts Council England.

More...

Margaret Drabble deposits archive in University Library

11 October, 2012

Leading author Dame Margaret Drabble has deposited her literary archive in Cambridge University Library.

More...

Siegfried Sassoon's Poems for 'Mamsy'

05 September, 2012

Newly-catalogued childhood notebook sheds light on Sassoon's poetic vocation.

More...

Cambridge University Music Collections receive IAML(UK & Irl) Excellence Award

09 July, 2012

Cambridge University Library’s Music Department and the Pendlebury Library of Music are delighted to have been jointly awarded the 2012 IAML (UK & Irl) Excellence Award.

More...

A Soviet design for life

03 July, 2012

A unique tour through the Soviet century – via one woman's extraordinary collection of books, propaganda posters, ration coupons and even cigarette packets – is the focus of a new exhibition opening to the public on July 4.

More...

Rose Book-Collecting Prize winner 2011-2012

13 June, 2012

The winner of this year’s Rose Book-Collecting Prize is Alessandro Bianchi of Robinson College, for his collection Japanese Popular Publications before the Twentieth Century.

More...

Industrial inspiration

27 April, 2012

A Ukrainian steel factory and a BP chemical works in Yorkshire provided the inspiration for a series of artworks on display in Cambridge University Library's Entrance Hall.

More...

Unpublished journal offers new take on Darwin's daughter

12 April, 2012

A small, lockable leather diary - kept in the vast archives of Cambridge University Library - has led to a reassessment of one of the key relationships in Charles Darwin’s life.

More...

View the Library's treasures cover to cover

29 March, 2012

Further content and functionality has been added to the Cambridge Digital Library, including new collections and some library treasures.

More...

University Library's greatest treasures on show

18 January, 2012

An unpublished Rupert Brooke poem will sit alongside some of Cambridge University Library's greatest treasures when a free exhibition of highlights from its priceless collections opens to the public.

More...

Library manuscripts featured on BBC Radio 4

04 January, 2012

Several items from the Library's collections are featured in BBC Radio 4's 'The Written World'.

More...