When a bible’s not a bible…

Recent news coverage suggested that a small, engraved, gold bead found in Yorkshire was intended to represent a Bible. ‘A metal detectorist who found a miniature gold Bible thought to have belonged to medieval royalty is in line to earn hundreds of thousands of pounds from its sale. Buffy Bailey, 48, an NHS nurse, was searching farmland near York with her husband, Ian, 59, when her detector picked up a strong signal close to a footpath. She dug five inches down expecting to find little more than a sheep’s ear tag or a ring-pull from an old can.’ [The Times] But there’s no evidence at all for this being a Bible says Kathleen Kennedy on the website hyperallergic [https://hyperallergic.com/691807/when-a-bibles-not-a-bible/]

The bead found in Yorkshire in November 2021 by Buffy and Ian Bailey (all images courtesy Buffy and Ian Bailey)

The one-and-a-half centimetre, five-gram, gold bead’s exterior is cast in the form of an open book, and the interior is carefully engraved with images of St. Leonard and St. Margaret, saints  who don’t appear in the Bible. They do however appear in prayer books like books of hours.  Both saints are associated with childbirth: Margaret was known for bursting out of a dragon’s stomach, while Leonard is shown on the bead holding the manacles of his imprisonment. It seems likely, Kennedy says, that, however it was worn or carried, the bead offers an example, like birth girdles, of the common practice of praying to specific saints for intercession to survive pregnancy and delivery. Iconographic rings, rings engraved with images of saints, were the costume jewellery of their day. There are many dozens, possibly hundreds, of iconographic rings remaining from 15th-century England in museum and private collections today. This style of engraving is common to all of them.  They were usually enamelled in white, red, green, and blue, clear enamel to offer protection for the ring.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s