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Don Denny

Book containing the four canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The illustration of these manuscripts was an important art form during the early medieval period in western Europe and at all times in the history of the Eastern Church. The oldest extant decorated Gospel books are of the 6th century ad and show considerable diversity in their illustrations. They suggest that the inclusion of New Testament narrative cycles was a widespread practice at that period, although the cycles might be arranged according to quite varied formats. For example, the Rossano Gospels (Rossano, Mus. Dioc.), written in Greek, include some ten narrative illustrations and seem originally to have contained four portraits of the Evangelists (see Author portrait) and ornamented canon tables (see Canon table); the latter two features came, in the following centuries, to be the most consistently repeated features of Gospel book design. In the ...