The Sacred Word
The spoken teachings of the great religious leaders have taken myriad handwritten and printed forms. Often the manuscripts are magnificent: those shown here, ranging in size from a large copy of the Qur’an to a miniature roll of the Hindu Baghavadgita, exemplify superb penmanship, rich decoration and fine binding. The first printed Bible, produced by Johannes Gutenberg, was intended to rival the finest manuscripts.
The exceptional quality of these objects befitted the sacred word, but written scripture need not be magnificent to be treasured. A papyrus fragment of the apocryphal Gospel of St Thomas, found in northern Egypt at the end of the nineteenth century, is remarkable for its age and rarity. An Apocalypse, painstakingly copied out by an amateur scribe together with a commentary, and crudely illustrated, is just as eloquent a witness to religious devotion as the work of an assured professional.