Our header image

The image in our header is taken from British Library, Cotton Claudius B. IV fo. 59, the Old English Illustrated Hexateuch. The manuscript was produced in Canterbury and dates from the second quarter of the 11th century.

Images relating to the law or the legal process in this period are hard to come by; even more so those which need no explanation in order to be readily understood. Moses as lawgiver, complete with horns, is today not the most obvious of symbols. The picture we have chosen shows Pharaoh overseeing the hanging of the chief baker. It illustrates the story of the chief butler and chief baker in Genesis XL: 1–23. Both men had their dreams interpreted by Joseph, with the news being broken to the latter that ‘within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head – from you! – and hang you on a tree; and the birds will eat the flesh from you’. His words proved to be all too prophetic.

You can see the full manuscript image at the British Library’s Images Online, with the sleeping figure on the right of our header restored to his rightful position at the foot of the folio.

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