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article imageNotes hidden in 500-year-old bible shed light on Reformation

By Karen Graham     Mar 18, 2016 in Science
London - A historian in the U.K. discovered secret notes hidden within the text of a 500-year-old Latin Bible housed in Lambeth Palace Library in London, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury,
Dr Eyal Poleg, a historian from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) is credited with making the discovery of the notes. They were hidden under thick pieces of paper in the Bible, one of seven surviving copies of a Bible published in 1535 by Henry VIII's printer.
The notes have great significance and shed light on the speed of the Reformation and how the royal text got into the hands of the common man, and for that matter, a thief. "We know virtually nothing about this unique Bible – whose preface was written by Henry himself – outside of the surviving copies," said Dr. Poleg in a press release.
The Bible was found in the library of Lambeth Palace  the London residence of the Archbishop of Cant...
The Bible was found in the library of Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Archbishop of Canterbury
Uncovering the annotations was a challenge
On initial examination, the Bible appeared to be "clean." But Dr. Poleg noticed that heavy paper had been pasted over the blank pages in parts of the Bible. This presented a challenge. So Poleg turned to Dr. Graham Davis, a specialist in 3D X-ray imaging at QMUL's School of Dentistry,
Dr. Davis used a light sheet and slipped it beneath the pages to expose the hidden text. For all the pages with hidden text, two long exposures were used, one with the light sheet turned on, and one with the light off. The first exposure showed all the annotations hidden between the printed text while the second exposure showed only the printed text.
You can guess what Dr. Davis did next. The doctor wrote a novel software program to subtract the printed text image from the first exposure, leaving only a clear picture of the annotations. The annotations were written in English between 1539 and 1549, and disguised with heavy paper in 1600, reports Fox News.
The preface in the Bible was written by Henry viii and the annotations are copied from the famous ...
The preface in the Bible was written by Henry viii and the annotations are copied from the famous ‘Great Bible’ of Thomas Cromwell.
Wikiipedia.org
The "Great Bible" of Thomas Cromwell
The notes found in the Bible are from the famous 'Great Bible' of Thomas Cromwell, one of the leaders of the English Reformation. Dr. Poleg believes the notes support the idea that the Reformation was a gradual process, rather than a singular transformative event.
"Until recently, it was widely assumed that the Reformation caused a complete break, a Rubicon moment when people stopped being Catholics and accepted Protestantism, rejected saints, and replaced Latin with English," he said. The Reformation was a series of events in 16th century England that resulted in the Church of England breaking away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church.
Written between 1539 and 1549  the notes were covered and disguised with thick paper in 1600 and rem...
Written between 1539 and 1549, the notes were covered and disguised with thick paper in 1600 and remained hidden until this year. An image of an unassuming page is shown left and hidden notes, right.
Lambeth Palace Library
Dr. Poleg points out, "This Bible is a unique witness to a time when the conservative Latin and the reformist English were used together, showing that the Reformation was a slow, complex, and gradual process."
The English Reformation was a time of turmoil
The historian says the notes were written during the most tumultuous years of Henry viii's reign. Besides the move away from the Catholic Church, there was the Act of Supremacy, where Parliament made Henry the head of the Church of England and required an oath of loyalty from his subjects recognizing his marriage to Anne Boleyn.
This period also included the closing of the Catholic monasteries and confiscation of all their land and holdings. This wealth was added to the treasury in Henry's war with France. But there were many executions, among them, Anne Boleyn, Thomas More, and John Fisher, as well as the Pilgrimage of Grace. The Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion, considered "the most serious of all Tudor rebellions," resulted in a bunch of executions, a whole story in itself.
The story of the pickpocket
On the back page of the Bible, Dr. Poleg discovered another hidden note, or actually, a transaction between two men named as Mr. William Cheffyn of Calais, and Mr. James Elys Cutpurse of London. The word "cutpurse" is medieval English for a pickpocket.
The transaction states that Mr. Cutpurse agrees to pay 20 shillings to Cheffyn, or he would be sent to Marshalsea, which was a notoriously bad prison in Southwark. With the information gleaned from the written transaction, Dr; Poleg looked through the records and discovered Mr. Cutpurse was hanged in July 1552.
"Beyond Mr. Cutpurse's illustrious occupation, the fact that we know when he died is significant," Dr. Poleg said. "It allows us to date and trace the journey of the book with remarkable accuracy - the transaction obviously couldn't have taken place after his death."
More about hidden notes in bible, Henry viii, first printed bible, the reformation, 500 years old
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