Bible of William of Devon


Made in England around the middle of the 13th century, this grand illustrated manuscript includes the entire Bible in one large volume of 580 folios (or almost 1200 pages). An inscription at the end of the manuscript supplies the name of its scribe: Will[elmu]s devoniensis scripsit istum librum (‘William of Devon wrote this book’).

The Bible contains several large illustrations. The first serves as a visual preface to the Bible proper. It depicts the Crucifixion beneath an image of the Coronation of the Virgin Mary, in which Christ crowns the Virgin as the Queen of Heaven following her Assumption (on f. 4r). Another Crucifixion scene appears alongside a representation of the Martyrdom of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral (on f. 231v), prefacing the Book of Psalms. The volume also features numerous historiated initials, or enlarged letters containing images, which mark the beginning of all biblical books. 

One initial of St Jerome (b. 347, d. 420) writing at a desk, opens the book, marking the beginning of his Epistle to Paulinus, the standard prefatory text for Bibles by this date. In the margins, four pairs of friars appear, balanced on golden pillars, each pair representing a different order: the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Pied Friars or Trinitarians, and the Carmelites. It has been suggested that their inclusion here relates to St Jerome’s letter itself. The text begins by describing various pagan sages who travelled in search of wisdom. It then goes on to discuss the preaching ministry of St Paul (d. c. 67) and urges Paulinus to forsake his possessions and devote himself to God. The pagan sages and St Paul may be viewed as precursors of the mendicant friars represented on the page, who undertook a vow of poverty and travelled the world, preaching wherever they went. 

Full title:
Bible of William of Devon
c. 1275–1300, Southern England
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Royal MS 1 D I

Full catalogue details

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