Last Wednesday I accompanied the canon chancellor of Lichfield cathedral to London to visit Quaritch, the antiquarian bookdealer. In our care were two rare bibles from the cathedral library. For insurance purposes, there had to be two people to escort the Judas Bible (bottom pic) and the recently acquired Bishops Bible (top). I like to think that I was hired in my capacity as fearsome bodyguard and skilled martial artist. But much more likely I was asked because of my standard fee of nothing at all when it comes to obliging the chancellor. Well, apart from help with my tax return and putting oil in the car, and other tasks I can't seem to get my head round.
As it happened, my judo black belt was not required. We got the bookdealer's unmolested. Possibly we looked like tourists with our little wheelie suitcases as we headed up Oxford Street and across Grosvenor Square. For those of you who are interested in such things, the Judas Bible, when cradled in bubble wrap and resting on a bed of polystyrene packaging chips, fits perfectly into a suitcase of regulation hand-luggage size for Ryan air. The Bishops Bible is slightly smaller.
The Judas Bible will be lent to another cathedral for an exhibition later in the year. Hence the need for a proper evaluation for insurance purposes. The chancellor was not at all nervous about wheeling thousands of pounds worth of Bible through London's busiest shopping street. Possibly because he frequently has to carry Lichfield cathedral's Chad Gospel (OLDER THAN THE BOOK OF KELLS) in solemn procession on high days and holidays. I once commented that he always smiled as he did this. 'Yes. It's my "I'm carrying 53 million pounds worth of book" smile,' he replied.