In the introduction to On the Nature of Things, Kendall and Wallis attempt to trace the origins of Bede’s copy of Isidore’s On the Nature of Things. They conclude that Bede’s copy came from a group of texts labeled H for Hispania and that it arrived in c. 670. They seem to be at a loss for how Bede got a copy from such an early and regionally restricted manuscript group.
Kendall and Wallis discuss two major routes: diffusing northward from Theodore and Hadrian’s school at Canturbury or from direct contact between Wearmouth and Jarrow and Spain. They overlook that both of these routes would have been trodden by Benedict Biscop. As Theodore’s first abbot in Canturbury, he could have obtained books for his new monastery there. Kendall goes so far as to suggest that Bede had a Visigothic teacher at Jarrow in his chapter in the Cambridge Companion to Bede. There is no evidence that I know of placing any Spanish/Visigothic visitors in England. I think that it is very unlikely that Bede would have omitted Visigothic visitors or teachers at Wearmouth-Jarrow from his History of the Abbots. Obtaining foreign teachers for his young monks would have been the kind of ideal support that Bede is eager to show Benedict Biscop providing. It is possible that Biscop traveled through Spain on one if his many trips to Rome, perhaps even for the purpose of sampling their libraries. Could Biscop have been such a connoisseur of books that he went through Spain to get manuscripts as close to Isidore’s as possible? Maybe?
Another more likely scenario exists. Biscop could have picked up a library of Isidore’s works at Lérins. The islands strategic location near Cannes would have made it a convenient stopping place for Biscop to rest and regroup on most of his trips to Rome. If Biscop had a home monastery anywhere, it was at Lérins where he stayed two years as a novice and took the tonsure. Being so critical in Biscop’s formation they may have taken special interest in his career and his drive to create a great library at the end of the Earth. Now Lérins was located very close to Visigothic territory and Isidore’s King Sisebut ruled Septimania (Narbonne and vicinity) and was on good terms with the Lombards. It seems likely to me that they would have early versions of Isidore’s works. Like Wearmouth-Jarrow a century or so later, Lérins was destroyed by non-christian conquers, Saracens in their case in about 732, so tracking texts back there is likely to be difficult if not impossible.