British Museum collections, £12.99
On loan from the House of Commons Library .
Enlightenment: Ancient scripts
The Ruthwell Cross, illustrated in Itinerarium Septentrionale by Alexander Gordon
Published in London, AD 1726
The Ruthwell Cross is Anglo-Saxon in orgin and dates from the eighth century. It stands in a small church in Ruthwell in Dumfriesshire, south-west Scotland. It is decorated with runes on that record a Christian poem, 'The Dream of the Rood', which is written in the voice of the cross itself.
This illustration of the stone cross appeared in Alexander Gordon's Itinerarium Septentrionale, a Journey thro' most of the Counties of Scotland, and those in the North of England, published in London in 1726. Gordon carefully recorded the ornament, the Christian scenes and surrounding Latin and English runic inscriptions. Gordon thought that the runes had been added later by Danes. In fact, all the carving is contemporary with the cross itself. Gordon's interest in ancient writing extended to hieroglyphs and he later published an essay on Egyptian hieroglyphs in English collections.