I don’t want to preach, but the Lindisfarne Gospels are ours

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The British Library has deigned to lend the North East something that actually belongs here anyway.

The Lindisfarne Gospels are holidaying in Newcastle, where you can pay to see the book until December 3. Better than nothing.

The British Library says: “The Lindisfarne Gospels has long been acclaimed as the most spectacular manuscript to survive from Anglo-Saxon England.”

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The 1,300-is year-old tome is in almost pristine condition and the BL takes meticulous care of it.

A facsimile of the Lindisfarne Gospels as seen in the Elephant Tea Rooms in Sunderland.A facsimile of the Lindisfarne Gospels as seen in the Elephant Tea Rooms in Sunderland.
A facsimile of the Lindisfarne Gospels as seen in the Elephant Tea Rooms in Sunderland.

In 2013 it was loaned to Durham University where 100,000 viewed it. Pages were turned, not as easily as you might imagine, so people could see more (we won’t spoil it by telling you what happens). Whatever your beliefs, it’s a masterpiece.

So can we have our book back permanently please?

The main argument for this is simple. It was crafted to honour St Cuthbert, who lies in Durham Cathedral. Henry VIII swiped it, before it was appropriated by the British Museum, then British Library.

More earthly considerations are North East tourism and giving it a more appropriate setting. Such a magnificent artefact deserves a suitably majestic home.

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The ancient splendour of Durham is renowned; whereas the British Library bears a more than passing resemblance to an unusually large branch of Wilko.

The Library admits it “is an arm's length body sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Most of our funding is received from DCMS as Grant in Aid.”

In other words, we pay for it. This does not alter an ongoing refusal to release the manuscript from a dowdy red-brick building on Euston Road.

The last word we know of from the Library on the subject of the book’s relocation came in 2008; a rather sniffy statement which made limited sense.

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They said: “The British Library Board would be seriously derelict in its obligation to provide access to these manuscripts for people of all faiths and nationalities, if we allowed this collection to be broken up by removing one of its greatest treasures."

It wasn’t created as part of a “collection”. Yet evidently, if it’s worth having, it must stay in London.