TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

Vulgate Bible

In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment
Northern France, Paris, c. 1220-1230

TM 454

ii (parchment) + 425 + iii (parchment) folios on parchment, parchment is thin, but not of highest quality, with numerous original holes and other imperfections, modern foliation in pencil, top, outer corner recto (collation, i-xiii12 xiv8 [beginning f. 157] xv-xxviii12 xxix2 [ff. 333-334] xxx-xxxiii12 xxxiv10 xxxv8 [through f. 400] xxxvi-xxxvii12 xxxviii1 [structure uncertain, 1, f. 425, single, followed by a single leaf and a bifolium, which are flyleaves and not part of the quire]), quire one signed with a roman numeral on the last leaf, middle, lower margin, quire four includes leaf and quire signatures in the first half of the quire, with a letter designating the quire, and a stroke, the leaf, catchwords, lower margin, below the second column in quires 11-12, 27-28, 31, 33-34, and 37, ruled in lead, sometimes with the top two or three and bottom two horizontal rules full across, double full-length vertical bounding lines, beginning on f. 121, extra double rules in the top (used for running titles), lower, and outer margins, prickings in all four margins (justification, 186-175 x 115-108 mm.), written above the top line by as many as five scribes in upright early gothic bookhands in two columns of fifty-four lines, guide notes for rubrics and guide letters and numbers for initials and chapter numbers, red and blue running titles, chapters begin with one-line alternately red and blue initials, within the line of text, numbered in the margins with red and blue roman numerals, six- to three-line alternately red and blue initials with pen flourishes in the other color at the beginning of books and prologues, some flourishes extending full column, ff. 1 and 4, parted red and blue pen initials, twelve- and twenty-five lines respectively, with pen decoration extending the full-length of the page, generally in sound condition; the text is intact and very legible, most of the numerous holes in the parchment and the variation in the color of the leaves are original, rather than the result of later damage, repairs, bottom margin, ff. 190, 192, 200, and 263, outer margin, f. 265; front flyleaf, f. i, darkened and damaged in the lower margin; back flyleaf, f. i, darkened, and torn in half, with the upper portion of the second column missing. Bound in modern limp vellum, over original sewing on five bands and head and tail bands; structure intact except from the last folio and flyleaves, which are mostly detached. Dimensions 287 x 197 mm.

Unlike the numerous Bibles copied in Paris after c. 1230, Bibles from 1200 to 1230 are not common. Such volumes are known as the Proto-Paris Bible, and to date only fourteen have been identified. The text of the present “transitional” Bible is extremely interesting, for it includes features both of the Proto-Paris Bible and the Paris Bible. The large size, comfortable margins left for note-taking, and many marginal additions and other signs of use suggest that this was a working Bible owned by theology students from the University of Paris.


1. The script and decoration, as well as details of the text of this Bible, together suggest that this Bible was copied in Paris in the early decades of the thirteenth century, probably between 1220 and 1230; the style of the pen initials are similar to the initials in Paris, BNF MS lat 11930-1, a Bible copied in Paris between 1220-30 (see Stirnemann. “Fils de la vierge,” 1990, pg. 66, reproducing ff. 73v and 55v); and two Bibles, possibly slightly earlier, ca. 1210-20, Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, MS 12, f. 121v; and Mazarine, MS 70, ff. 85 (images of the Mazarine Bibles are available on “Liber Floridus,” listed below, online resources). The use of modern chapters divisions in this Bible suggests a date c. 1220-30 rather than earlier, and the fact that the scribes begin the first line of text above the top ruled line supports a date before c. 1230.

Details of the physical composition of this manuscript suggest that it was not made for a wealthy client. The quality of the parchment is variable; some leaves are copied on thin, well-prepared parchment, but other leaves include original holes, for example ff. 19, 25, 26 (and many others), and are quite discolored, for example f. 29. The rather large number of different scribes–perhaps as many as five–is also notable, as is the decorative scheme, which is restricted to pen initials, which are attractive, but certainly not lavish. These details suggest that the original owner of the manuscript was likely a theology student from the University of Paris, who was studying the Bible and probably also preaching. The modest, practical nature of the Bible makes it an extremely interesting and also fairly unusual Bible, since the majority of the surviving Bibles copied in Paris during the early part of the thirteenth century are fine illuminated manuscripts. Its large size is particularly noteworthy recalling that of lecturn Bibles of the previous century. It seems possible that this unassuming Bible represents what a “typical” Bible from this period may have been like – a type of Bible that has not survived in large numbers.

2. This conclusion is supported by the notes in several early hands, including the notes on the flyleaves, described below. The earliest hand usually added fairly brief notes, including several distinctions (providing the various figurative meanings of a word in different biblical contexts), as on ff. 109v and 147, notes on passages that would be a suitable theme (“thema”) for a sermon, for example, f. 147v, and frequently, cross references to other books of the Bible with similar content, often beginning these notes, “Simile est …” There are occasional longer notes in this hand, for example see f. 232v, citing “Tullium,” or Cicero. These notes are possible because this manuscript includes the entire text of the Bible in one volume, and it is divided into numbered chapters–features of the Bible that we take for granted, but which were still new in this period.

3. The manuscript continued to be used in the schools through the next century. It includes extensive notes from the Glossa ordinaria, the standard commentary on the Bible, added by an early fourteenth-century user of this Bible; the number of notes varies throughout the Bible, but they are particularly frequent in the Psalter, Gospels, and the Apocalypse. Most of these notes begin “Glosa,” but one cites on f. 340v, cites Chrysostum, and one on f. 354v alongside Luke 5, begins, “Secundum magistrum Guidonum in librum de concordantias evangeliorum ..,”, very likely Guido Terreni de Perpignan, a Carmelite, who taught at Paris from 1313-18, the author of De concordantia evangelistarum (Stegmüller 2758).

4. There are a number of erasures on the front flyleaf, f. i, verso, possibly with early owners’ notes that might be legible under ultra-violet; this leaf also includes an enigmatic note concerning a certain John: “Non venit Johannes gayraldi,” crossed out, and below, “ii non iun. [?]. Venit Johannes gayraldi.”

5. Likely belonged to a carmelite Friar in the fourteenth century: back flyleaf, f. i, verso, a fourteenth-century owner’s note, now partially torn, “Iste biblia est f//.”

6. Front flyleaf, f. ii, verso: Ch. Treutz, s. XVII.

7. Private Collection, France.


Flyleaves, notes added in a number of thirteenth and fourteenth century hands, front flyleaf, f. i, verso (recto blank, possibly once a pastedown); front flyleaf, f. ii, list of the books of the Bible with the number of chapters in each, probably contemporary with the Bible or a very early addition; brief note on f. ii, verso; back flyleaf, f. i, recto, notes in a number of hands; verso blank; back flyleaf, f. ii, recto, blank; notes on verso; back flyleaf, f. iii, recto, notes, now washed or erased; verso blank. The notes are both exegetical in character, focusing on the biblical text, and more abstract and theological, addressing topics such as “Whether God is everywhere?” and defining sin; they seem typical of a student’s interest.

ff. 1-425v, Latin Bible, with prologues as follows: f. 1, [General prologue] Frater ambrosius [Stegmüller 284]; f. 3, [prologue to Genesis] Desiderii mei [Stegmüller 285]; f. 3v, capitula list to Genesis; f. 4, Genesis; f. 19, capitula list for Exodus; f. 19v, Exodus; f. 31v, capitula list to Leviticus; f. 31v, Leviticus; f. 39v, capitula list for Numbers; f. 40, Numbers; f. 51v, capitula list for Deuteronomy; f. 52v, Deuteronomy; f. 62 [prologue to Joshua] Tandem finito [Stegmüller 311]; f. 62v, capitula list for Joshua; f. 62v, Joshua; f. 69v, capitula list for Judges, f. 70, Judges; f. 77v, capitula list for Ruth; f. 77v, Ruth; f. 78v, [prologue to Kings] Viginti et duas [Stegmüller 323], f. 79v, capitula list for 1 Kings; f. 79v, 1 Kings; f. 90, capitula list for 2 Kings; f. 90v, 2 Kings; f. 98v, capitula list for 3 Kings; f. 98v, 3 Kings; f. 109, capitula list for 4 Kings; f. 109v, 4 Kings; f. 123, [prologue to Chronicles] Si septuaginta [Stegmüller 328]; f. 123v, capitula list for 1 Chronicles; f. 123v, 1 Chronicles; f. 132, [prologue to 2 Chronicles] Eusebius ieronimus … Quomodo grecorum [Stegmüller 327]; f. 132v, capitula list for 2 Chronicles; f. 132v, 2 Chronicles, concluding with the Oratio Manasse; f. 144v, [prologue to Ezra] Utrum difficilius [Stegmüller 330]; f. 144v, capitula list for Ezra; f. 147, 1 Ezra; f. 148, Nehemiah; f. 152v, 2 Ezra; f. 157, 5 Ezra [Stegmüller 96]; f. 157v, 4 Ezra [Stegmüller 95]; f. 164, 6 Ezra [Stegmüller 97]; f. 164v, [prologue to Tobit] Chromatio et elyodoro .. Mirari non desino [Stegmüller 332]; f. 165, capitula list for Tobit; f. 165, Tobit; f. 167v, [prologue to Judith] Apud hebreos [Stegmüller 335]; f. 168, capitula list for Judith; f. 168, Judith; f. 172, [prologue to Esther] Librum hester; Rursum in libro [Stegmüller 341 and 343, copied as one prologue]; f. 172, capitula list for Esther; f. 172, Esther; f. 176, [prologue to Job] Cogor per singulos [Stegmüller 344]; f. 176v, [prologue to Job] Si aut fiscellam [Stegmüller 357]; f. 176v, capitula list for Job; f. 177, Job; f. 185, Psalms; f. 203v, [prologue to Proverbs] Iungat epistola [Stegmüller 457]; f. 203v, capitula list for Proverbs; f. 204, Proverbs; f. 210, [prologue to Ecclesiastes] Memini me [Stegmüller 462]; f. 210, capitula list for Ecclesiastes; f. 210v, Ecclesiastes; f. 212v, Song of Songs; f. 213v, capitula list for Wisdom; f. 214, Wisdom; f. 218v, [biblical introduction to Ecclesiasticus, copied as a prologue] Multorum nobis; f. 218v, capitula list for Ecclesiasticus; f. 219, Ecclesiasticus, without the Prayer of Solomon]; f. 232v, [prologue to Isaiah] Nemo cum prophetas [Stegmüller 482]; f. 233, capitula list for Isaiah; f. 233v, Isaiah; f. 251, [prologue to Jeremiah] Ieremias propheta [Stegmüller 487]; f. 251v, capitula list for Jeremiah, f. 252v, Jeremiah; f. 272, Lamentations; f. 273v, [prologue to Baruch] Liber iste [Stegmüller 491]; f. 273v, Baruch; f. 275v, [prologue to Ezechiel] Ezechiel propheta [Stegmüller 492]; f. 275v, capitula list for Ezechiel, f. 276v, Ezechiel; f. 291, [prologue to Daniel] Danielem prophetam [Stegmüller 494]; f. 291v, capitula list for Daniel; f. 291v, Daniel; f. 298v, [prologue to Minor prophets] Non idem ordo est [Stegmüller 500]; f. 298v, [prologue to Hosea] Temporibus ozie [Stegmüller 507]; f. 298v, Hosea; f. 300v, [prologue to Joel] Sanctus ioel [Stegmüller 511]; f. 300v, [prologue] Ioel fatuel filius [Stegmüller 510]; f. 300v, Joel; f. 301, [prologue to Amos] Ozias rex [Stegmüller 515]; f. 301v, [prologue] Amos propheta [Stegmüller 512]; f. 301v, [prologue] Hic amos [Stegmüller 513]; f. 301v, Amos; f. 303, [prologue Obadiah] Iacob patriarcha; Hebrei [Stegmüller 519 and 517 copied as one prologue]; f. 303, Obadiah; f. 303v, [prologue to Jonah] Sanctum ionam [Stegmüller 524]; f. 303v, [prologue] Ionas columba et dolens [Stegmüller 521]; f. 303v, Jonah; f. 304, [prologue Micah] Temporibus ioathe [Stegmüller 526]; f. 304, Micah; f. 305, [prologue to Nahum] Naum prophetam [Stegmüller 528]; f. 305v, Nahum; f. 306, [prologue to Habakkuk] Quatuor prophete [Stegmüller 531]; f. 306v, Habbakuk; f. 307, [prologue to Zephaniah] Tradunt hebrei [Stegmüller 534]; f. 307, Zephaniah; f. 308, [prologue to Haggai] Ieremias propheta [Stegmüller 538]; f. 308, Haggai; f. 308v, [prologue to Zechariah] In anno secundo [Stegmüller 539]; f. 309, Zechariah; f. 312, [prologue to Malachi] Deus per moysen [Stegmüller 543]; f. 312, Malachi; f. 313, [prologue to Maccabees] Domino excellentisimo …, Cum sim promptus [Stegmüller 547]; f. 313, [prologue] Reuerentissimo …, Memini me [Stegmüller 553]; f. 313v, [prologue] Machabeorum librum duo [Stegmüller 551]; f. 313v, capitula list for 1 Maccabees; f. 314, 1 Maccabees; f. 325v, capitula list for 2 Maccabees; f. 326, 2 Maccabees; f. 334, [prologue to Matthew] Matheus ex iudea [Stegmüller 590]; f. 334, [prologue to Matthew] Matheus cum primo [Stegmüller 589; ending f. 334v, top, column a, remainder blank]; f. 335, Matthew; f. 344, [prologue to Mark] Marchus evangelista [Stegmüller 607]; f. 344, capitula list for Mark; f. 344, Mark; f. 350v, Quoniam quidem [Luke 1:1-4 treated as a prologue]; f. 350v, [prologue to Luke] Lucas syrus natione [Stegmüller 620]; f. 350v, capitula list for Luke; f. 351v, Luke; f. 364, [prologue to John] Hic est Iohannes [Stegmüller 634] ; f. 364v, capitula list for John; f. 364v, John; f. 373v, capitula list for Romans; f. 374 [prologue to Romans] Romani sunt in partes ytalie … scribens eis a chorinto [Stegmüller 677]; f. 374, Romans; f. 378v, [prologue to 1 Corinthians] Chorinthii sunt achaici [Stegmüller 685]; f. 378v, capitula list for 1 Corinithians; f. 379, 1 Corinthians; f. 383, [prologue to 2 Corinthians] Post actam [Stegmüller 699]; f. 383, capitula list for 2 Corinthians; f. 383v, 2 Corinthians; f. 386v, [prologue to Galatians] Galathe sunt greci [Stegmüller 707]; f 386v, capitula list for Galatians; f. 386v, Galatians; f. 388, [prologue to Ephesians] Ephesii sunt asyani [Stegmüller 715]; f. 388, capitula list for Ephesians; f. 388v, Ephesians; f. 389v, [prologue to Philippians] Philippenses sunt macedones [Stegmüller 728]; f. 389v, capitula list for Philippians; f. 389v, Philippians; f. 390, [prologue to Colossians] Colosenses et hii [Stegmüller 736]; f. 390v, capitula list for Colossians; f. 391, Colossians; f. 392, [prologue to 1 Thessalonians] Thessalonicenses sunt macedones [Stegmüller 747]; f. 392, capitula list for 1 Thessaloinians; f. 392, 1 Thessalonians; f. 393 [prologue to 2 Thessalonians] Ad thessalonicenses [Stegmüller 752]; f. 393, capitula list for 2 Thessalonians; f. 393, 2 Thessalonians; f. 393v, [prologue to 1 Timothy] Tymotheum instruit [Stegmüller 765]; f. 393v, capitula list for 1 Timothy; f. 393v, 1 Timothy; f. 394v [prologue to 2 Timothy] Item Tymotheo scribit [Stegmüller 772]; f. 394v, capitula list for 2 Timothy; f. 394v, 2 Timothy; f. 395v, [prologue to Titus] Tytum commonefacit [Stegmüller 780]; f. 395v, capitula list for Titus; f. 395v, Titus; f. 396, [prologue to Philemon] Phylemoni familiares [Stegmüller 783]; f. 396, capitula list for Philemon; 396, Philemon; f. 396v, [prologue to Hebrews] In primis dicendum [Stegmüller 793] ; f. 396v, capitula list for Hebrews; f. 396v, Hebrews, ending mid column b, f. 400; remainder and f. 400v, blank; f. 401, [prologue to Acts] Lucas anthiocenses natione syrus [Stegmüller 640]; f. 401, capitula list for Acts; f. 401v, Acts; f. 414, [prologue to Catholic Epistles] Non ita est ordo [Stegmüller 809]; f. 414, James; f. 415, 1 Peter; f. 416v, 2 Peter; f. 417, 1 John; f. 418v, 2 John; f. 418v, 3 John; f. 418v, Jude; f. 419, [prologue to Apocalypse] Omnes qui pie [Stegmüller 839]; f. 419v, capitula list for Apocalypse; f. 419v, Apocalypse, ending f. 425 with scribal colophon, “Laus tibi sit christe quam labor explicit iste”; f. 425v, blank.

Paris in the thirteenth century was the center of the dissemination of a new text of the Vulgate known as the Paris Bible. The mature form of the Paris Bible dates from c. 1230 (the earliest dated example was copied in 1234). Most of the textual elements which distinguish the Paris Bible are also found in a small group of Bibles copied in Paris between c. 1200-30, known as the Proto-Paris Bibles. The Bible discussed here is of considerable textual interest, because it is a transitional volume between the Proto-Paris Bibles and the mature Paris Bible. In contrast with the many hundreds of Bibles copied in Paris after c. 1230, the number of one-volume Bibles copied ca. 1200-30 is quite restricted; this Bible should be added to the list of fourteen examples of the proto-Paris Bible known to this author (see Light, 1994).

Copies of the mature Paris Bible are distinguished by a particular order of the biblical books closely resembling the order of modern Bibles, except in the New Testament where the Gospels are followed by the Pauline Epistles, Acts, the Catholic Epistles and then the Apocalypse. This, in fact, is a new order, found for the first time in the Proto-Paris Bible of c. 1200-30. The books of the Paris Bible are introduced by a characteristic set of sixty-four prologues (conveniently listed in N. R. Ker. Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, Oxford, 1969-, volume one, pp. 96-8, and in Branner, 1977, pp. 154-155). Paris Bibles also include characteristic textual variants.

The biblical books in the Bible discussed here are arranged according to the new order of the Paris Bible, except that it includes the books known today as the Ezra Apocalypse or 4 Ezra (Stegmüller 96, 95, and 97). These books seem to be fairly uncommon in manuscripts of the Vulgate before the thirteenth century, although they are found in the ninth-century Bible, now Paris, BNF MS lat 11504 and the tenth-century Bible, Madrid, Bibl. Univ. Centrale MS 31. Their circulation in the thirteenth century would be an interesting area of study; although far from standard, they do occur in a number of Bibles (see for example Berger, 1893, appendix, p. 335, nos. 95, 106, 114, 131, 138 and 146).

All of the prologues associated with the Paris Bible are also included in this Bible, except the prologue to Wisdom, “Liber sapientie ….” [Stegmüller 468]. An examination of selected passages of its text indicates that the text of this Bible includes the characteristic textual readings found in the Paris Bible. This Bible does not include the Interpretation of Hebrew Names, a glossary of words in the Bible that commonly accompanied the biblical text in manuscripts dating after c. 1230, and exceptionally, in earlier Bibles; the last quire in this manuscript is however, incomplete.

Manuscripts of the Proto-Paris Bible include chapter divisions that differ from those used today and also include a series of summaries, known as capitula lists, before most of the biblical books. One of the hallmarks of the mature Paris Bible is the presence of modern chapters, and the disappearance of capitula lists. The Bible described here was copied with modern chapters divisions. Each chapter begins with small one-line initials placed within the line of text, numbered in the margins by red and blue roman numerals. It also, however, includes capitula lists, making it an interesting transitional volume.

Capitula lists were a traditional accompaniment to the biblical text, and are found in most Bibles dating before c. 1230. They provided a summary of the biblical text, and were intended to correspond to the division of the text into chapters (at least in theory; in practice there are many examples of Bibles where the actual textual divisions do not correspond to the capitula lists). Capitula lists and the corresponding chapter divisions were different from those used today. Since the text of this Bible is divided into the new, modern chapters, its capitula lists have no direct relationship to the textual divisions, and a later hand added Arabic numerals to the capitula lists to link them to the modern chapters.

The text of the capitula lists in this Bible are a distinct set, one that seems to have been created early in the thirteenth century in Paris, made up of older capitula lists, revised versons of older lists, and new lists. The presence of this series of capitula lists is one of the identifying textual characteristics of the Proto-Paris Bible. The layout used for the capitula lists in this Bible varies; some preserve their original intent as a list, with each entry beginning with a colored initial, or highlighted in red, but some are copied simply as a prose text.

As an example of the capitula lists found in this Bible, those for the Octateuch are listed below; they were printed in De Bruyne, 1914, identified by the sigla Fr, and in Biblia sacra, 1926-94, identified by various sigla:

Genesis, incipit, “De die primo in quo lux facta est ... [81]” (Biblia Sacra b);

Exodus, incipit, “Nomina filiorum Israhel qui ingressi sunt Aegyptum et de infantibus ... [56]” (Biblia Sacra b [136]);

Leviticus, incipit “Que sit forma holocausti faciendi ... [45]” (Biblia Sacra K);

Numbers, incipit, “Nomina et numerus xii tribuum ... [39]” Biblia Sacra K);

Deuteronomy, incipit, “Verba qui locutus est Moyses ... [38]” (Biblia Sacra K)”

Joshue, incipit, “Promittit deus Iosue dicens ... [28]” (Biblia Sacra b);

Judges, incipit, “Iudas eligtur dux belli ... [18]”(Biblia Sacra b);

Ruth, incipit, “Elimelech peregrinatur in terram ... [8] (Biblia Sacra K).”

In common with many Bibles copied during the early decades of the thirteenth century, this is a moderately large Bible. Its text, however, is compressed within a compact written area, leaving very large margins for notes. These notes are one of this Bible’s most interesting features. In addition to the two main annotators, discussed above under provenance, notes in other hands include corrections to the Pauline Epistles, extensive notes, now very faint, in lead point to the Minor Prophets, and subject headings added in Ecclesiasticus. Small symbols have also been added in the margins alongside the text in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Ecclesiasticus, and occasionally in other biblical books, although less frequently (examples on ff. 205v, 211v-212, 223v, and 226). The function of these symbols is unclear; they may be indexing marks, but also may simply be a personal nota system, since the same mark is used repeatedly.


Berger, Samuel. Histoire de la vulgate pendant les premiers siècles du moyen âge, Paris, Hachette, 1893; reprint Hildesheim, 1976.

Biblia sacra iuxta latinam vulgatam versionem ad codicum fidem … cura et studio monachorum abbatiae pontificiae Sancti Hieronymi in urbe O. S. B. edita, ed. Henri Quentin, et. al., 18 vols., Rome, Typis polyglottis vaticanis, 1926-94.

Branner, Robert. Manuscript Painting in Paris during the Reign of St. Louis, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1977.

De Hamel, Christoper. The Book. A History of the Bible, London and New York, Phaidon Press, 2001, ch. 5, “Portable Bibles of the Thirteenth Century.

Bruyne, Donatien de. Sommaires, divisions et rubriques de la Bible latine, Namur Belgium, A. Godenne, 1914.

Light, L. “French Bibles c. 1200-30: a New Look at the Origin of the Paris Bible,” The Early Medieval Bible: its production, decoration and use, ed. Richard Gameson, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 155-176.

Light, L. “Versions et révisions du texte biblique,” in Le Moyen Âge et la Bible,” eds. Pierre Riché and Guy Lobrichon, (Bible de tous les temps 4), Paris, Éditions Beauchesne, 1984, pp. 55-93.

Stegmüller, Fridericus. Repertorium biblicum medii aevi, Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, 1950-61, and Supplement, with the assistance of N. Reinhardt, Madrid, 1976-80.

Stirnemann, P. “Fils de la vierge. L’initiale à filigranes parisienne, 1140-1314,” Revue de l’Art 90 (1990), pp. 58-73.

Online resources

Latin Bible

“Liber floridus, manuscrits médiévaux enluminés dans les bibliothèques de l’enseignement supérieur” (including images of manuscripts in the Bibliothèque Mazarine, Paris):