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An introduction to Bible manuscripts

Overview Before 800 800-1000 1000-1200 1400-1600

4: 1200 - 1400

In the ‘high’ Middle Ages images continued to constitute an integral part of Christian bibles in Europe—in some cases, coming to overshadow the text itself. This is apparent in the copy of the Bible moralisée, or ‘moralised Bible’ made for members of the French monarchy. In it, each biblical scene is paired with another describing its moral visually, with only summary texts to each side explaining the imagery. The elaborations are complicated enough to suggest that these books were probably used under the tutelage of personal chaplains. Similarly, in the two Bible picture books in this section, the Holkham Bible Picture Book and the Egerton Genesis, an image dominates each page, accompanied by a brief commentary in French, the language most familiar to contemporary English nobles. These books, too, were likely used for instruction and education. Other types of picture books with commentary, often also in French, Apocalypses, continued in their popularity in this period, particularly in England.

The so-called pocket Bibles produced in the thirteenth century, such as the examples in this section produced in Paris and Bologna, appear to have arisen to address the specific context of preaching and the evangelistic mission of the friars. In this context a complete, portable text of the Bible was a great advantage. As in the case of modern Bibles, that crucial portability was achieved through the use of tiny script and pages of lightweight, very thin material. At the same time, copies of separate books—Psalters, Lectionaries (with the biblical text arranged according to its use in the liturgy), and Gospel books—continued to be made, often including narrative initials illustrating the text, as in the examples below.

(Click on an image for an enlarged view and detailed description.)


Harley 1527, f. 18v
Temptations in the Wilderness, Temptation, Matthew 4:1-10, John 1:35-36, in Latin, Bible moralisée, Paris, 2nd quarter of 13th century, 400 x 275 mm.
Harley 1527, f. 18v


Add. 54179, f. 18v
Anointing and Crowning of David, Presentation in the Temple, Baptism of Christ Psalm 27 (26), in Latin, York Psalter, England, 3rd quarter of 13th century, 345 x 240 mm.
Add. 54179, f. 18v


Yates Thompson 1, f. 4v
Creation, Genesis, in Latin, The Fécamp Bible, Paris, 3rd quarter of 13th century, 140 x 90 mm.
Yates Thompson 1, f. 4v


Egerton 2908, f. 14
Creation, Genesis, in Latin, Pocket Bible, Bologna ?, northern Italy middle of 13th century, 145 x 90 mm.
Egerton 2908, f. 14


Add. 42555, f. 11v
White horse of the Apocalypse Revelation 6:1-2, in Latin and French, The Abingdon Apocalypse, Southern England, 3rd quarter of 13th century, 330 x 210 mm.
Add. 42555, f. 11v


Yates Thompson 18, f. 52
David, Psalm 39 (38), in Latin, Psalter, Paris ?, last quarter of 13th century, 215 x 145 mm.
Yates Thompson 18, f. 52


Add. 47682, f. 4v
Noah and the Ark, The Holkham Bible Picture Book, London ?, 2nd quarter of 14th century, 285 x 210 mm.
Add. 47682, f. 4v


Yates Thompson 34, f. 116v
Trinity, Last Supper, Reading for Corpus Christi, in Latin, Sainte Chapelle Epistle Lectionary, Paris, 2nd quarter of 14th century, 410 x 285 mm.
Yates Thompson 34, f. 116v


Add. 11838, ff. 135v-136
Luke, Four Gospels, Eastern Mediterranean, 1325/1326, 235 x 155 mm.
Add. 11838, ff. 135v-136


Add. 39626, f. 145
Luke, in Serbian, The Gospels of Jakov of Serres, Serres, Serbian Empire, 1354, 310 x 225 mm.
Add. 39626, f. 145


Egerton 1894, f. 3
Lamech killing Cain, Tubal-cain, Noah’s Ark, The Egerton Genesis, Southern England, 3rd quarter of 14th century, 245 x 195 mm.
Egerton 1894, f. 3


Overview Before 800 800-1000 1000-1200 1400-1600

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