Cotton Genesis

Egypt? Fifth or sixth century

Abraham with angels

Although tragically damaged by fire in 1731, this manuscript in Greek still forms a landmark in the history of biblical illustration. When first produced, it contained a uniquely full sequence of over 300 illustrations of the book of Genesis. Its survival has raised the question of whether other books of the Bible were profusely illustrated in the early Christian period. It also retains crucial evidence of the highly accomplished technique of late antique book painting, despite the shrinking of the parchment leaves in the fire to about half their original size. In this fragment, Abraham meets or possibly pleads with, the angels sent by God to destroy Sodom. Parts of the Greek text written in majuscule letters are legible above and below the image.

John Reeve (ed.). Sacred. British Library. 2007.