Benedict Biscop, the man who loved books
Benedict Biscop, who lived in 7th century Britain, thought books were so important that he made repeated trips to the continent, at a time when such trips were difficult and dangerous, to find and acquire books and build up the monastery library at Wearmouth. Somehow Benedict managed to acquire or have copied around five hundred volumes, each of them written by hand on vellum, for the education of his monks and students. In many cases his books were one of only two or three copies of a text in existence in the entire world.
Benedict (Biscop simply means bishop) inspired the young Bede. Not yet called Venerable, Bede was a young monk at Wearmouth Monastery when Benedict built a second monastery seven miles away at Jarrow. Determined he would protect his monks and his books, Benedict had the monastery at Jarrow built in stone with glass windows, a rarity at that time.
Only the Saxon chancel at Jarrow stands today (it contains some of the world's oldest stained glass), but Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People survives, a tribute to Benedict’s faith in the splendour of the written word. The History made a tremendous impression on everyone from Alfred the Great to Winston Churchill. It suggested that the actions of men and women would be examined and remembered in the light of history.
Bede describes the birth of English poetry in his history, and we recall that strange and incandescent moment here..