TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

Bible, with Prologues attributed to Saint Jerome and the Interpretation of Hebrew Names

In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment
[France, likely Paris, c. 1240-1250]

TM 180

356 folios, one leaf removed in the late Middle Ages (after f. 285, see below) and last quires considerably misbound but with no apparent loss of text, else complete (collation: i-xiii12, xiv16, xv10, xvi12, xvii2, xviii12, xix10, xx-xxiv12, xxv6, xxvi11 [of 12, i removed], xxvii-xxx12, xxxi12+1), with some modern catchwords, modern pencil foliation (followed here) omits three numbers (76, 255, 295) but repeats 162, and therefore reaches 358 ff. by the end, written in dark brown ink in a very small gothic bookhand, text on double column, circa 57-62 lines (justification 130 x 88 mm), ruled in plummet, a few headings in red, running-titles and marginal chapter-numbers in alternately red and blue letters, one-line high initials (especially in the Psalms and Interpretations, and irregularly elsewhere) in alternately red and blue, 2- to 6-line high initials in red and blue with contrasting penwork, approximately 77 large painted initials in elaborate designs of intertwined vine stems and flowers sometimes including dragons, birds and other creatures, often with marginal extensions, the Genesis initial I on fol. 3v the full height of the page, abundant medieval sidenotes and glosses, in a variety of inks with some in red (13th-15th c.), numerous manicula, faces and other drawings (including a Crucifixion, fol. 251; Christ pointing, fol. 308, etc.). Bound in an early nineteenth-century vellum binding, smooth spine, gilt frieze on the covers composed of single roll with leafy vine motifs, red morocco title labels gilt (A few initials cut out and replaced with blank vellum, some edges cropped with loss of extremities of sidenotes, some leaves thumbed and creased, some repairs to defective corners (including part of fol. 3). Generally sound). Dimensions 178 x 117 mm.

Fine example of a portable Bible with illumination probably by the Gautier Lebaube Atelier, the present manuscript adopted many of the new features attributed to “Paris” Bibles, notwithstanding certain textual variants. Worthy of further study in part for its profuse annotation, most likely in a Dominican milieu, this copy bears many marginal annotations referring to the writings of Albertus Magnus almost as if both the Bible and the Dominican master’s works were read side by side. It was used and augmented well into the fifteenth century, almost certainly in Italy, where additional prologues were copied in a later humanistic hand.


1. Written in France, judging by the script and decoration (likely Paris), and considerably used and annotated throughout the Middle Ages, probably by a Dominican friar. A number of marginal notes quote “albertus,” probably the Dominican master Albertus Magnus (died 1280), who lectured on the entire Bible in Cologne and Paris. However, only small parts of his biblical commentaries were ever published and the notes here may preserve echoes of lectures otherwise unrecorded. Other citations include the Gloss and the Sentences of Peter Lombard, and references to readings in the Temporal, probably for sermons. By the fifteenth century, the book was evidently in Italy, with added prologues in an Italian humanistic hand. The first leaf of the prologues to the New Testament was removed and the end of the prologue on fol. 286 was cancelled. New prologues were added opposite in a semi-humanistic hand and elsewhere (ff. 104, 181v, 269, 325 etc.). There is an erased name, apparently: “Jo. de Clauso” on the last leaf. On the lower edge of the book, legible when the pages are held tightly closed, is a name “g,” a device, and then possibly a surname, apparently late medieval.

2. Prince Augustus Frederick (1773-1843), Duke of Sussex, sixth son of George III, with his armorial bookplate pasted on the front pastedown, and shelfmark VI. H. b. 3. See Pettigrew, Bibliotheca Sussexiana, I, part 1, 1827, pp. lxix-lxx; Sussex sale, II, Evans, 31 July 1844, to Pickering.

3. Quaritch, catalogue 328 (January 1914), no. 556.

4. C.W.S. Dixon, of Newport, Shropshire. Sotheby’s sale, 3 July 1933, lot. 227.

5. Charles E. Roseman, Jr., of Cleveland Heights, Ohio (de Ricci, Census, II, 1937, p. 1959, no. 1), bought from McLeish, 1933.


Old Testament:

ff. 1-3, Prologue, “Frater Ambrosius…” (ff.1-3) and Prologue to Old Testament, “Desiderii mei…” (f. 3);

ff. 3v-18, Genesis;

ff. 18-30v, Exodus;

ff. 30v-38, Leviticus;

ff. 38-49, Numbers;

ff. 49-58, Deuteronomy;

ff. 59-64v, Joshua;

ff. 64v-71, Judges;

ff. 71-72, Ruth;

ff. 72-72v, Prologue to 1 Samuel;

ff. 72v-82, 1 Samuel;

ff. 82-89, 2 Samuel;

ff. 89-96v, 1 Kings;

ff. 96v-104, 2 Kings;

f. 104, Prologue to 1 Chronicles;

ff. 104-110v, 1 Chronicles;

ff. 110v-118v, 2 Chronicles;

f. 118v, Prayer of Manasses;

ff. 118v-119, Prologue to Ezra;

ff. 119-121, Ezra;

ff. 121-124v, Nehemiah;

f. 124v, Prologue to Tobit;

ff. 124v-127, Tobit;

f. 127, Prologue to Judith;

ff. 127-130, Judith;

f. 130, Prologue to Esther;

ff. 130-132v, Esther;

ff. 132v-138, Job;

ff. 138v-152, Psalms;

ff. 152-172, Interpretation of Hebrew Names;

f. 172, blank;

f. 173, Prologue to Proverbs;

ff. 173-178v, Proverbs;

f. 178v, Prologue to Ecclesiasticus;

ff. 178v-180v, Ecclesiasticus;

ff. 180v-181v, Song of Songs;

ff. 181v-185v, Wisdom (Added Prologue to Wisdom in lower margin in a later humanistic hand);

ff. 185v-196, Ecclesiastes;

f. 196v, blank;

f. 197, Prologue to Isaiah;

ff, 197-211v, Isaiah;

ff. 211v, Prologue to Jeremiah;

ff. 211v-228v, Jeremiah;

ff. 228v-230, Lamentations;

f. 230, Prologue to Baruch;

ff. 230-232v, Baruch;

f. 232v, Prologue to Ezekiel;

ff. 232v-248v, Ezekiel;

ff. 248v-249, Prologue to Daniel;

ff. 249-256v, Daniel;

f. 256v-257, Prologue to Hosea;

ff. 257-259, Hosea;

f. 259-259v, Joel;

f. 260-261v, Amos;

f. 261v, Obadiah;

ff. 261-262, Jonas;

f. 262-263v, Micah;

f. 263v-264, Nahum;

ff. 264-264v, Habakkuk;

f. 264v-265v, Zephaniah;

ff. 265v-266, Haggai;

ff. 266-268v, Zechariah;

ff. 268v-269, Malachi;

f. 269, Added Prologue to Maccabees in lower margin in a later humanistic hand;

ff. 269-278v, 1 Maccabees;

ff. 278v-285v, 2 Maccabees;

f. 285v, Added Prologues to Luke, John, Acts of the Apostles, and Apocalypse in a later humanistic hand;

New Testament:

f. 286, Prologue to Matthew;

ff. 286-296, Matthew;

ff. 296-296v, Prologue to Mark;

ff. 296v-302, Mark;

f. 302, Prologue to Luke;

ff. 302-312, Luke;

ff. 312-319, John;

ff. 319-321v, Acts of the Apostles [breaks off chapter 8; chapter 8-28 are misbound, ff. 334-341];

ff. 322-325, Romans [here end chapter 2-; misbound, chapters 3-16 ];

ff. 325-328v, 1 Corinthians;

ff. 328v-331, 2 Corinthians;

ff. 331-332v, Galatians;

ff. 332v-333v, Ephesians [here chapters 1-6; misbound, end of chapter 6 on f. 346];

ff. 334-341, Acts of the Apostles [chapters 8-28, missing beginning chapter 8; misbound, chapters 1-8, ff. 319-321v, with chapter 8 interrupted];

ff. 341-342, James;

ff. 342-343, 1 Peter;

ff. 343-343v, 2 Peter;

ff. 343v-344v, 1 John;

f. 344v, 2 John;

f. 344v, 3 John;

f. 344v-345, Jude;

ff. 345-345v, Romans [here chapters 1-3, chapter 3 interrupted; misbound, chapters 3-16, ff. 322-325];

f. 346, Ephesians [end of chapter 6; misbound, chapters 1-6 with chapter 6 interrupted, ff. 332-333v];

ff. 346-346v, Philippians;

ff. 346v-347v, Colossians;

f. 347v, Epistle to the Laodiceans;

ff. 347v-348v, 1 Thessalonians;

ff. 348v-349, 2 Thessalonians;

ff. 349-350, 1 Timothy;

ff. 350-350v, 2 Timothy;

ff. 350v-351, Titus;

f. 351, Philemon;

ff. 351-354, Hebrews;

ff. 354-358v, Apocalypse;

In the context of the new needs of the Paris classroom and the development of preaching, the standardized “Paris” Bible took its final shape by about 1230, prefigured in a group of Bibles copied between 1200 and 1230 (see Light, 1994). It includes a canonic sequence of texts, prologues, numbered chapters, running titles, and so on. The present manuscript is a thirteenth-century Bible in standard order, with certain of the canonic Parisian prologues although all the canonic prologues are not here included (on the order of Prologues and Bible Books, see Branner, 1977, pp. 154-155; see also Light, 1994, for a discussion of the canonic 64 Prologues found in “Paris” Bibles). Chapter numbers are in the margins, rather than inset into the text, which suggests a date of not later than mid-century. Unusually, the Interpretation of Hebrew Names (Aaz apprehendens) immediately follows the Psalms, and evidently it always did. Possibly the book was intended to be in two volumes, divided after fol. 172 (the Interpretation of Hebrew Names). Note in the present Bible the disappearance of the Eusebian canon tables, the capitula lists, and the older chapter divisions, features that disappeared with the creation of the “Paris” Bible.
Until the early or mid thirteenth century, the contents of Bibles varied considerably in many different respects, including the choice and order of the biblical books, their prologues, and the way the books were divided into chapters and verses, as well as details of the text itself. During the course of the thirteenth century, a concerted effort was made to standardize these variant features, largely because of the emergence and rapid growth of the University of Paris. Paris provided a focus for centralized production, and the University provided the means for regulating and standardizing the text. It is for this reason that the “standard” medieval vulgate Bible is often referred to as the “Paris” Bible. By the middle of the thirteenth century, when the present manuscript was made, the “Paris” text of the Bible had became the norm in France, England and Italy.
Although the present Bible fits generally the category of the “Paris” Bible, it includes some relevant differences. For example, it does not present the usual significant textual variant in the Book of Ruth (chapter 1, verse 7), where the words “posita revertendi” of the “monastic” text are transposed to “revertendi posita,” the text in most “Paris” Bibles. The present manuscript thus preserves the previous “monastic” word-order. However, the Book of Nehemiah is treated as a separate book, and Lamentations precedes rather than follows Baruch (which is not the case in “monastic” Bibles). Moreover, the present manuscript does not contain all the “new” prologues usually found in “Paris” Bibles, such as the prologues to Maccabees, generally attributed to Hrabanus Maurus; the prologue to the Apocalypse, beginning “Omnes qui pie…” (attributed to Gilbert de la Porrée); or the new prologue to Matthew (preferring instead the standard prologue found in the medieval Vulgate)(see Light, 1984, p. 85; 1994, pp. 163-168). It is important to note that although the “Paris” Bibles usually followed a similar order for the prologues and the biblical books, there are numerous exceptions and variations, even in Bibles clearly produced in Paris (as noted by Light, 1984, p. 88; and Branner, 1977, pp. 214-215). In short, the present Bible includes many of the features of the new “Paris” Bible, without actually being a typical or standard “Paris” Bible (Light, 1994, p. 156-157). Further study (at present undertaken by Laura Bruck and Paul Saenger) still remains necessary to disentangle further the manuscript tradition of the “Paris” Bible and related Bibles.
One of the most interesting features of the present manuscript is its profuse annotation throughout the later Middle Ages, testifying to its considerable use. The annotations are worth further study to understand better how Bibles were read in the later Middle Ages. Some annotations clearly refer to readings selected for liturgical or dominical celebrations (“in vigilia epiphanie,” “dominica in ramis palmarum”) or for specific feasts such as the feast of saint Thomas Beckett of Canterbury, canonized in 1173 (see upper margin, f. 352), or that of saint James, another for Saint John in Porta Latina (f. 292). Other annotations suggest the Bible was used for preaching as there are notes referring to sermons and topics: “Sermo pro dalfino (?)…” (f. 269v) ; and their topics: “De caritate”; “De matrimonies”; “De paciencia” (f. 287). According to Light, “The history of the Paris Bible is still not written. Much work remains to be done to clarify its origins and to trace the extent of its circulation in Paris and northern France….” (Light, 1994, p. 156).


Since the text and prologues of the present Bible are not clearly that of canonic “Paris” Bibles, and granted there are a number of Bibles produced in Paris that do not share all “Paris” Bibles features, the likely Parisian origin of the present manuscript is largely based on stylistic comparison with other Bibles produced in Paris and studied especially by Branner (1977).
The present Bible is decorated with nearly 80 decorated and painted initials, all strictly ornamental, some with a few zoomorphic elements in the extensions or in the infills (pig, f. 319; and dragons). The palette of the initials juxtaposes more subdued tones of pastel pink and blue with primary colors such as bright red. Although it is difficult to attribute the present initials to a specific workshop because there are no figurative elements, the ornamentation bears certain comparisons with the production of the Gautier Lebaude Atelier, active in Paris around 1240 (see Branner 1977, pp. 72-73). The workshop preferred light, bright colors, such as bright red, pink, blue and even green and yellow. Of the manuscripts attributed to this atelier, 13 out of 15 are Bibles, and Branner suggests Gautier and his associates probably worked for official university circles (Branner, 1977, p. 75).


Berger, S. Les préfaces jointes aux livres de la Bible dans les manuscrits de la Vulgate, Paris, Klincksiek, 1902.

Branner, Robert. Manuscript Painting in Paris during the Reign of Saint Louis, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1977.

Bruck, Laura. “Word into Deed: Text and Image in Thirteenth-Century Parisian Portable Bibles,” Dissertation (in progress), Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.

De Bruyne, Donatien. Les préfaces de la Bible, Namur, A. Godenne, 1920.

De Hamel, Christopher. The Book. A History of the Bible, London, Phaidon, 2001.

Light, Laura. “Versions et révisions du texte biblique,” in Le Moyen Age et la Bible, ed. Pierre Riché and Guy Lobrichon, Paris, Beauchesne, 1984, pp. 55-93.

Light, Laura. “French Bibles c. 1200-1230: A New Look at the Origin of the Paris Bible,” in The Early Medieval Bible. Its Production, Decoration and Use, ed. by R. Gameson, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 155-176.

Online resources

Bible Gateway

Theology, Liturgy and the Bible on the Web (Mediaevum.de)