Super Small Gold Book Discovered Near York, England

A miniature golden book was recently found on some farmland near Sheriff Hutton Castle, outside of York, England. It’s believed to have once belonged to 15th century royalty, some 500-600 years ago. It measures 1.5 centimeters in length, weighs about 5 grams, and is made from either 22-carat or 24-carat gold. Reportedly, its estimated value is over 200,000 pounds, which is over a 250,000 US dollars.

The find was made by the NHS nurse from Lancaster, Buffy Bailey (48 years old). Her and her husband Ian (59) got permission to metal detect there from the property owner. They discovered the book just off a footpath and about 5 inches below the surface. Now, it’s going up for auction, the profits of which will be split between Bailey and the property owner.

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“I dug down five inches and it was just there — I still didn’t believe it was anything special but when I took the clay off I realized it was something a bit different. … It was so heavy and shiny, just absolutely beautiful. When you held it into the light it threw rainbows at you.”[2]
Buffy Bailey, discoverer

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The rare treasure expert Julian Evan-Hart, who is the editor for Treasure Hunter magazine, has inspected it and says “The book is dated between 1280 and 1410 when sumptuary law made it illegal for anyone other than the nobility to carry gold”. He likens it to the Middleham jewel. A 15th century gold pendant found by a metal detectorist in 1985. This pendant was sold to the Yorkshire Museum for 2.5 million pounds in 1992, which is about 3.4 million US dollars.

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Matt Lewis is a member of the Richard III Society who saw the book. He also likened it to the Middleham jewel, going further to say that these two objects could have been made or commissioned by the same person.

The Yorkshire Museum is currently investigating its provenance. That is, its history and chain of ownership.

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This news reminded me of this quote:

“By now we should regard all farmer-in-the-field discoveries with a healthy amount of skepticism because time and time again they have proven to be dubious.”[4, p.32]
Dr. Lynn Catterson (2005)

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As examples, she draws attention to the forged Etruscan Warriors that were bought by the Metropolitan Museum between 1915 and 1921. Also the “Colossal Head of a Goddess or
Woman” bought by the Fogg museum in 1900.[4, p.53]

I looked briefly for information on forgeries in the Yorkshire Museum but didn’t find much aside from this Twitter post. Let me know if you have any info on this by commenting below or sending me an email.

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Early news about this find called the artefact a Bible. As there are no words on the book, experts are saying it is inappropriate to call it a Bible.

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References:

[1] – Humphries, Will. “Gold Bible is good news for its finder” (The Times, 5 Nov. 2021). https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/gold-bible-is-good-news-for-its-finder-q8mk0hvvg. Accessed 6 Nov. 2021.

[2] – Patel, Bhvishya. “Some VERY Good News: NHS nurse is set to make hundreds of thousands of pounds after finding tiny gold bible believed to have belonged to relative of Richard III while metal-detecting on farmland near York” (Daily Mail, 4 Nov. 2021). https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10167833/NHS-nurse-set-make-hundreds-thousands-pounds-finding-tiny-gold-bible.html. Accessed 6 Nov. 2021.

[3] – BBC News. “Metal detectorist finds small gold bible near York”. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-59181714. Accessed 6 Nov. 2021.

[4] – Catterson, Lynn. “Michelangelo’s ‘Laocoön?’” Artibus et Historiae, vol. 26, no. 52, IRSA s.c., 2005, pp. 29–56, https://doi.org/10.2307/20067096. Accessed 6 Nov. 2021.

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5 Comments on “Super Small Gold Book Discovered Near York, England

  1. I would definitely tend to err on the side of ‘genuine’. To fake this would be a majorly difficult technical exercise (and an expensive one as well, given the price of gold) and all for a couple of hundred thou and the risk of prison? Nah. But the clincher is that it doesn’t contribute anything new. It’s hardly a bible, more a bangle in the shape of a bible. Weird but medievally weird.

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      • Yes, sorry, I looked it up later. One gets so used to kitchen sink fakes! But even so this is too sophisticated for a nurse and her hubby. So that means three people. And half goes to the landowner (assuming he’s not the third). So is $20,000 a good ROI? And forget about prison, what if it is not accepted? They couldn’t know, this is a bit of a one-off as far as I can research. Then it’s $300. All I can say is that it doesn’t fit the profile.

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  2. They are normally so blatant it seems more a matter of applying common sense. But, yes, it ought to be systematised and hasn’t been (by me, it speaks volumes that nobody else seems to have done so but you’ll know better than me.) No 1 on the list is “Don’t assume it’s genuine just because it’s in a museum”. If academics observed just this one rule they’d stop talking quite so much garbage.

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