'The Yorkshire Aestel' An Anglo-Saxon gold aestel,

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Lot 312
'The Yorkshire Aestel'
An Anglo-Saxon gold aestel,

Sold for £ 10,800 (US$ 13,978) inc. premium

Antiquities

15 Oct 2008, 10:00 BST

London, New Bond Street

'The Yorkshire Aestel'
An Anglo-Saxon gold aestel, English, late 9th Century A.D.
Hollow cast, of flat-backed drop form, the domed terminal in the form of a zoomorphic head, decorated in applied gold filigree, with scrolling ears and circular eyes in plain wire, one inlaid with a glass eye, the other missing, each eye enclosed with a spiral of twisted filigree curving to form the eyebrows, with two encircling bands of twisted filigree at the base of the cylindrical neck, another band at the rim, the neck pierced with two holes below the rim for attachment, once forming a socket for a manuscript pointer, 31mm high, 4.12g weight,

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Property of Mr Tim Pearson. Found at Aughton, South Yorkshire in January 2005. Disclaimed as Treasure by the Crown. Treasure reference no. 2005 T82.

    Exhibited:
    On loan to Winchester Discovery Centre as part of the exhibition 'Alfred The Great. Warfare, Wealth and Wisdom', February-April 2008.

    Published:
    B. Yorke, Alfred The Great. Warfare, Wealth and Wisdom, exhibition catalogue (2008), pp. 15-18.

    Literature:
    Known as 'The Yorkshire Aestel', this example belongs to a small group of only seven known gold aestels; the most celebrated of which is the Alfred Jewel, found in Somerset in 1693 and now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. All seven are thought to date to the time of King Alfred (871-899), indeed four were found in King Alfred’s Wessex. The other five identified aestels are The Minster Lovell Jewel (Oxfordshire), The Bowleaze Jewel (Dorset), The Wessex Jewel (Warminster, Wiltshire), The Bidford Bobble, (Warwickshire), and The Borg Aestel (Norway). The Yorkshire Aestel is the only known privately-owned aestel.

    Derived from the Latin hastula (a little spear), the word aestel means a pointer, used for the reading of manuscripts. This identification is confirmed by the flat back of all these items as they would lie conveniently on the pages of a book. King Alfred commissioned several aestels and sent them to all the bishops of his kingdom to accompany a copy of his translation of Pope Gregory I’s Regula Pastoralis (590-604). The Bodlean Library Oxford, possess the only surviving copy of King Alfred's translation, which was dispatched to bishop Waerferth of Worcester (d.914 or 5); in this copy the word aestel has later been glossed Festuca (a rod) and indicatorium indicating that this object is indeed a pointer (Hinton, p.29.). Aelfric’s Grammar (Durham, early 11th Century) also glosses the word as indicatorium. It is thought that the actual pointer may have been made from ivory, inserted into the gold aestel as shown in the reconstruction of the Minster Lovell Jewell, in B. Yorke, Alfred The Great. Warfare, Wealth and Wisdom, exhibition catalogue (2008), p.16.

    The subject of Aestels has more recently been discussed in detail by David A. Hinton, The Alfred Jewel, Ashmolean Handbooks, (Oxford, 2008). This work lists the examples noted above and adds to our knowledge of the example (p.32) from Borg, Norway, found in the 1980’s, which is now in the Lofotr Viking Museum, Tromso. This example is very similar to the present one. Hinton speculates how such an item might have got to Norway and cites the Norwegian merchant Ohthere who visited king Alfred’s court trading in walrus ivory. Hinton (p.35) also cites the example with spherical knop decorated with geometric designs which was found at Bidford on Avon (Warks.) which is in the Warwickshire County Museum acquired in 2000 (No.A9209).


    Cf. D.A. Hinton, The Alfred Jewel, (Oxford, 2008). Also cf. L. Webster, 'Aedifica nova; Treasures of Alfred’s Reign' in T. Reuter (ed.) Alfred the Great: Papers from the 11th Centenary Congresses (Ashgate Press, 2003), pp.79-103.
'The Yorkshire Aestel' An Anglo-Saxon gold aestel,
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