Frontispiece to the Book of Numbers. Moses and Aaron number the people of Israel, CCCC MS 2, f. 70r.

In the first of a new series of short articles exploring images from around the University, we look at the 12th-century Bury Bible from the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College.

What is it?

This is an illustration from the Bury Bible, in the Parker Library. It is a large illuminated Bible manuscript that was made c. 1135 for the abbey of Bury St Edmunds. After the dissolution of the abbey during the Reformation, it came into the possession of Archbishop Matthew Parker who gave it to his old college. It has been in the library since the late 16th century.

Why is it so special/ what is the story?

The abbey’s records tell us that the Bible was commissioned by Hervey, one of the monks of the abbey, for his brother Talbot, the prior, and that its beautiful half or full-page paintings and numerous decorated initials were done by Master Hugo, presumably a professional artist and one of the earliest English artists known by name. The illustrations are masterpieces of Romanesque art. Master Hugo was clearly influenced by both European and Byzantine traditions in his use of colour, particularly the rich blue lapis lazuli, and in his figures with their expressive faces and damp-fold drapery.

Can we see it?

The Bury Bible is one of many medieval manuscripts which will be on display on Saturday 10 September as part of the library’s exhibition of treasures during Open Cambridge.

Want to know more?

The whole of the Parker Library manuscript collection has been digitised and is available online at The Bury Bible is here: A guidebook to the library and its collection is available for £5.00 from the library or the porters’ lodge at Corpus Christi (

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