During the summer of 2010 researchers from the University of Kentucky’s Vis Center imaged the Chad Gospels, an ancient manuscript from Lichfield Cathedral’s library that combines Irish and Anglo-Saxon heritage. It is similar to the Lindisfarne Gospels, which were written before the Chad Gospels, and the Book of Kells, which was written about 70 years after the Chad Gospels. Researchers chose this manuscript because it has been photographed multiple times since 1912. This collection of historical images presented the opportunity for researchers to explore organizing images diachronically, meaning the images are of different ages, and to track how the antiquity had changed over time.
The St. Chad Gospels, also known as the Lichfield or St. Teilo Gospels, are the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and some of Luke. The earliest recording of its whereabouts is in Wales: a note in the St Chad Gospels records the act of Gelhi trading his best horse for the manuscript and donating it to the altar of St Teilo at Lllandeilo Fawr (Wales). Because of the St Chad Gospels’ time in Wales, the manuscript contains the oldest surviving Old Welsh writing in its margins. How the St Chad Gospels returned to Lichfield is a mystery, but marginal evidence supports that it has been there since the early 11th century and perhaps before. A second volume, containing the remainder of the gospel texts, was lost sometime prior to the early 1670s. Some scholars believe it may have been lost during the British Civil War that lasted from 1640 to 1650.
The Chad Gospel represents one of the earliest decorated manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate New Testaments. The vibrant colors in the illuminations come from local organic pigments. In addition, the manuscripts are recognized for their detail. For instance, drawings of Celtic knots are separated by the width of only two pixels. Historians believe the monks created these images without a magnifying apparatus.
A facsimile version of the manuscript has never been published, so access to the manuscript has been limited. The project’s digital copy opens access to the manuscript for scholarship. In addition, the multi-spectral images deliver information about the manuscript that is invisible to the naked eye, so scholars may gain more from the digital version than the actual manuscript.
A complete digital version of the manuscript can be viewed at infoforest.vis.uky.edu, which contains every available version of each page, showing how the pages have changed over time. Other versions of the manuscript, as well as the code used to produce them, can all be found on the Resources page.