Collection British Library/Photo HIP/Scala/Art Resource, NY

Read between the lines. In Principio erat verbum (In the beginning was the word), the Latin opening of the Gospel of John, is written in elaborate script in this lush gospel book produced in the monastery of Lindisfarne, in Northumbria, in about 700 C.E. The colorful vertical bar at far left is the initial letter I; it is joined to a z-shaped N followed by a curvaceous P. The text continues on the same line with RIN in black ink; CIPIO follows on the next line; ERATVERBUM appears as one word on the third line.

Around 1000 C.E., a monk named Aldred added a complete Old English translation to the Lindisfarne Gospels. Written in much simpler script, Aldred’s text begins just above the letters RIN with the words In fruma, meaning “In the beginning,” and then continues in the white space between the decorative Latin lines.