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les Enluminures

Vulgate Bible

In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment
England, c. 1220-1230; c. 1230-1240

TM 973

i (paper, marbled on the recto, now detached) + 304 + i (paper, marbled on the verso, now detached) folios on parchment, missing a leaf in Genesis, a quire with the end of Job and the Psalms, two leaves from Maccabees (collation I: i12 [-one leaf, f. 3, with loss of text, replaced by blank ruled leaf] ii-ix12 [through f. 108v] x9 [structure uncertain, but complete, text on f. 117v was cancelled] xi13 [structure uncertain but complete, with ad hoc signatures a-e and a catchword, but no quire number] xii12 [signed ‘xi’] xiii-xvi12 [ending f. 190v, missing text suggests a quire is missing here] xvii-xix12 [ending f. 226v, end of Bible 1] II:  xx12 [-1 and 2, before f. 227, with loss of text] xxi-xxiii12 xxiv7 [original structure uncertain, but with leaves lost after 7, f. 279v] I: xxv12 [beginning f. 280] xxvi12 [plus one unrelated leaf, f. 304, Bible 2, now added at the end]), layout varies, Bible 1, ff. 1-226v, and ff. 280-303v: horizontal catchwords in most quires,  quires are numbered in roman numerals at the end of the quire, ruled in lead with the top three, middle three, and bottom three horizontal rules full across, extra double rules upper margins (used for running titles), single full length vertical bounding lines flanking columns, with an extra widely spaced set of bounding lines in outer margins, prickings in the top, bottom, and occasionally in the outer margins (justification 225 x 145-137 mm.), written on the top line in a gothic bookhand in two columns in 57-56 lines, red rubrics, running titles in red, chapters begin with 1-line blue initials with red pen decoration set within the line of text (the usual method, in some biblical books the blue initials alternate with red initials), some with blue paraphs, numbered alongside the initials in small red roman numerals (occasionally numbers were copied in the margins instead), modern chapters numbered (in another hand) in larger red Roman numerals, prologues begin with 3- to 2-line blue initials with red penwork, books begin with 5- to 13-line parted red and blue initials (f. 1, 16-line initial with pen decoration extending the full length of the written space) with red and blue pen decoration with green and brown wash used within the initials and to highlight the pen decoration; Bible 2, ff. 227- 279v, and f. 304, ruled in lead with the top two middle two and bottom two horizontal rules full across and with extra single rules (full across) at the top and bottom, full length vertical bounding lines bordering the columns (justification 205 x 128 mm.), written by at least two scribes on the top line in upright gothic bookhands in two columns of 63-60 lines, rubrics lacking, red and blue running titles, modern chapter divisions numbered in the margins in red and blue roman numerals (with the beginning of the chapter marked in the text in various ways, red line, paraph, or in some cases, unmarked) (only 2 Maccabees and the beginning of Matthew have older chapters), 2- to 3-line red or blue initials with contrasting pen decoration before some prologues, 7- to 27-line parted red and blue initials with red and blue penwork before other prologues and biblical books, signs of use throughout, but overall good condition, f. 144, top outer corner missing, f. 195, strip missing at the very bottom, tape, f. 162 repairs to the outer margin, bottom margin ff. 277-279 cut away (no loss of text), lower margin of f. 276v and all of f. 279v, quite darkened, ff. 280-end, edges darkened, occasional stains (e.g. ff. 160 and 299v), f. 304 quite dark, front and back flyleaves are detached, front and back hinges reinforced with modern tape.  Bound in 18th-century brown leather over pasteboard, gold tooled with a narrow border at the edges, smooth spine, tooled in gold forming six compartments, with a star in a circle in five, and the title, “BIB. VULG./ MS IN MEMB/ SEC. XIII”; marbled pastedowns and flyleaves; scuffed at the edges, spine worn at the top and bottom, joints splitting slightly at the top, but in good condition. Dimensions 350 x 240 mm.

This is an unusually large format, impressive Bible of considerable scholarly importance and undoubtedly of English origin. Bibles from the early thirteenth century are much less common than the well-known examples from after c. 1230, and examples from this time period from England are less common than those from France.  The present codex was apparently assembled at an early date from two Bibles of independent origins; noteworthy textual elements include the presence of both older and modern chapters, and an extensive cycle of the apocryphal Ezra books.


1.This Bible as it exists today presents us with a puzzle.  Most of the manuscript is a well-used Bible, probably dating c. 1220-1230 – details of its text, and the large format and compressed script fit well with other Bibles copied c. 1200-1230, with the maturity of its script and decoration suggesting late in this period, c. 1220-1230 (it is copied on the top line).  This Bible was repaired (perhaps we should say supplemented) by another Bible of almost the same format, also copied in an early gothic bookhand on the top line, but with details of the text and pen initials suggesting a slightly later date, c. 1230-1240. Certainly, both Bibles were copied in England.  Indeed everything about this manuscript supports an origin in England: the text which includes the apocryphal Ezra books, the style of the initials, including the use of only blue initials in many of the books of the Bible in Bible 1, early annotations in English hands, and the distinctively English style of penwork in Bible 2.

Two possibilities present themselves. Perhaps this Bible was damaged very early in its history and repaired? Alternatively, was this Bible assembled from two damaged Bibles, similar in size and format at some point in its history before it was bound in the eighteenth century?  Note that there is still some text missing (one quire in Bible 1 with part of Job and the Psalms, and the end of 1 Maccabees and the beginning of 2 Maccabees, since Bible 2 does not begin exactly where Bible 1 leaves off), and part of the biblical text is found twice (once in each Bible), namely 1 Peter-Jude, Romans, the beginning of 1 Corinthians, and 1 Maccabees 3:12-5:18. The first Bible shows many signs of use and includes marginal annotations; Bible 2 is quite pristine.  

2.Evidence of use in Bible 1 include marginal indications of liturgical readings (e.g. Genesis, “ii” “iii” and sometimes “iiii” marked in red roman numerals, enclosed by blue paraphs, see also Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Song of Songs (in another hand), f. 198, “2o die lectio prima,” and so forth); marginal annotations in pen and lead in many hands (systematically added only at the beginning, ff. 1-6v, but continuing throughout), dirt, and other signs of use. Large decorative majuscules were added in the lower margin of f. 134, although their meaning is unclear.

3.Inside front cover, cutting from a sales catalogue in English, lot 657 (listed for 50 pounds; this price recorded in pencil, front fly leaf, verso).

4.Price code in pencil, front flyleaf verso, “o gl + l +.”

5.Annotations throughout in pencil (s. xix-xx?) about the text, citing James on the corruption of Holy Scriptures, and comparing readings in the Clementine and Sixtine editions of the Vulgate.

6.Laid in, laminated note, “Biblia sacra …. Loan from Dr. Gary Gorman.”


Assembled from two Bibles.  Bible 1, ff. 1-226v, and 280-303v, in the following order: Octateuch, 1-4 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Ezra 5, 3, 4, 6, Major Prophets (with Baruch), Minor Prophets, Job, Proverbs-Ecclesiasticus, Esther, Tobit, Judith, Maccabees, Catholic Epistles, Pauline Epistles, Apocalypse.  Now missing a leaf following f. 2 (replaced by a blank leaf), with the end of the prologue “Desiderii mei,” and Genesis 1-4:1; a quire(?) following f. 186v, Job 33:14-end, and the Psalms, and concluding f. 226v, with 1 Maccabees 11:35 [missing 1 Maccabees 11:36-2 Maccabees 3:1]; also missing (replaced by Bible 2): Gospels, Acts, and James and the beginning of 1 Peter of the Catholic Epistles. With leaves from a second Bible, ff. 227- 279v, beginning with 2 Maccabees 3:1, continuing with the New Testament, arranged Gospels, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Romans, and 1 Corinthians, ending imperfectly at ch. 9:3. At the end of the volume, f. 304rv, is a single leaf from this Bible with 1 Maccabees 3:12-5:18.  The text of 1 Peter-Jude, Romans, and the beginning of 1 Corinthians and one leaf from 1 Maccabees appear twice in the volume.

Bible 1, ff. 1-226v:

f. 1, [General prologue] Frater ambrosius [Stegmüller 284]; f. 2v, [prologue to Genesis] Desiderii mei, ending imperfectly [Stegmüller 285, ending imperfectly]; f. 3rv, added blank ruled leaf; f. 4, Genesis, beginning imperfectly at ch. 4:2, “[pa]//stor ouium et cayn Agricola …,”; f. 16, Exodus; f. 26, Leviticus; f. 33, Numbers; f. 42v, Deuteronomy; f. 51, [prologue to Joshua] Tandem finito [Stegmüller  311]; f. 51, Joshua; f. 57, Judges; f. 63, Ruth; f. 64, [prologue to Kings] Viginti et duas [Stegmüller 323], f. 64v, 1 Kings; f. 73, 2 Kings; f. 80, 3 Kings; f. 88v, 4 Kings; f. 96, [prologue to Chronicles] Si septuaginta [Stegmüller  328]; f. 96v, 1 Chronicles; f. 103, 2 Chronicles, concluding with the Oratio Manasse [beginning with a rubric and 2-line initial]; f. 111v, [prologue to Ezra] Utrum difficilius [Stegmüller 330]; f. 112, 1 Ezra; f. 114, Nehemiah [rubric, incipit neemias, ending f. 117v, followed by the prologue to Isaiah and the beginning of Isaiah, crossed out with ‘x’s and marked “vacat”]; f. 118, Liber esdre secundus [5 Ezra, Stegmüller 96]; f. 118v, incipit liber esdre tercius [3 Ezra, Stegmüller 94,2]; f. 121v, Incipit liber esdre quartus [4 Ezra, Stegmüller 95]; f. 126v, Incipit liber esdre quintus [6 Ezra, Stegmüller 97]; f. 127v, [prologue to Isaiah] Nemo cum prophetas [Stegmüller 482]; f. 127v, Isaiah; f. 139v, [prologue to Jeremiah] Ieremias propheta [Stegmüller 487]; f. 139v, Jeremiah; f.153v, Lamentations, followed on f. 154v by the letters of the Hebrew alphabet with their meanings, incipit, “Aleph doctrina, Beth domus … Post interpretationem elementorum … tercio exposuimus [Stegmüller 9617]”; f. 154v, [prologue to Baruch] Liber iste [Stegmüller 491]; f. 154v, Baruch; f. 156v, [prologue to Ezechiel] Ezechiel propheta [Stegmüller 492]; f. 156v, Ezechiel; f. 169, [prologue to Daniel] Danielem prophetam [Stegmüller 494]; f. 169v, Daniel; f. 174v, [prologue to Minor prophets] Non idem ordo est [Stegmüller 500]; f. 174v, [prologue to Hosea] Temporibus ozie [Stegmüller 507]; f. 175, Hosea; f. 176v, [prologue to Joel] Sanctus iohel [Stegmüller 511]; f. 176v, Joel; f. 177, [prologue to Amos] Ozias rex [Stegmüller 515]; f. 177, Amos; f. 178v, [prologue Obadiah] Iacob patriarcha; Hebrei [Stegmüller 519 and 517 copied as one prologue]; f 178v, Obadiah; f. 179, [prologue to Jonah] Sanctum ionam [Stegmüller 524]; f. 179, Jonah; f. 179v, [prologue Micah] Temporibus ioathe [Stegmüller 526]; f. 179v, Micah; f. 180v, [prologue to Nahum] Naum prophetam [Stegmüller 528]; f. 180v, Nahum; f. 181, [prologue to Habakkuk] Quatuor prophete [Stegmüller 531]; f. 181v, Habbakuk; f. 182, [prologue to Zephaniah] Tradunt hebrei [Stegmüller 534]; f. 182, Zephaniah; f. 182v, [prologue to Haggai] Ieremias propheta [Stegmüller 538]; f. 183, Haggai; f. 183, [prologue to Zechariah] In anno secundo [Stegmüller 539]; f. 183v, Zechariah; f. 185v, [prologue to Malachi] Deus per moysen [Stegmüller 543]; f. 185v, Malachi; f. 186, [prologue to Job] Cogor per singulos [Stegmüller 344]; f. 186, [prologue to Job] In terra quidem [Stegmüller 349]; f. 186v, Job, ending imperfectly at Job 33:14, “… et secundo idipsum non//”; f. 191, [prologue to Proverbs] Iungat epistola [Stegmüller 457]; f. 191, Proverbs; f. 196, [prologue to Ecclesiastes] Memini me [Stegmüller 462]; f. 196, Ecclesiastes; f. 198, Song of Songs; f. 199, Wisdom; f. 202v, [biblical introduction to Ecclesiasticus, copied as a prologue] Multorum nobis; f. 202v, Ecclesiasticus, with the Prayer of Solomon, and rubrics [subject headings] copied in red in the margins, as De Bruyne, Sommaires /Summaries, p. 562]; f. 212v, [prologue to Esther] Librum hester [Stegmüller  341]; f. 212v, Esther; f. 215v, [prologue to Tobit] Cromatio et  heliodoro ..., Mirari non desino [Stegmüller 332]; f. 215v, Tobit; f. 218, [prologue to Judith] Apud hebreos [Stegmüller  335]; f. 218, Judith, ending top col. b, f. 221; remainder blank; f. 221v, 1 Maccabees, ending f. 226v at chapter 11:35, “… salinarum et//”;

ff. 227-279v, Bible 2:

f. 227, 2 Maccabees, beginning imperfectly at chapter 3:1, “//positionem [sic] et pietatem …”; f. 230v, [prologue to the Gospels] Beato damaso …, Novum opus [Stegmüller  595]; f. 231, [prologue to Matthew] Sciendum etiam [Stegmüller 601]; f. 231, [prologue to Matthew] Eusebius carpiano …, Ammonius quidem [Stegmüller 581]; f. 231, [prologue to the Gospels] Plures fuisse [Stegmüller 596]; ff. 231v-233v, Canon Tables [section numbers only; no decoration or headings]; f. 234, [prologue to Matthew] Matheus ex iudea [Stegmüller 590]; f. 234, Matthew; f. 241, [prologue to Mark] Marcus evangelista [Stegmüller  607];  f. 241v, Mark; f. 246, [prologue to Luke] Lucas syrus natione [Stegmüller 620]; f. 246v, Luke, beginning “Quoniam quidem…” ; f. 255, [prologue to John] Hic est Iohannes [Stegmüller 634] ; f. 255v, John; f. 262, Acts; f. 271, [prologue to Catholic Epistles] Non ita est ordo [Stegmüller 809]; f. 271, James; f. 272, [prologue to 1 Peter] Discipulos saluatoris [Stegmüller 812]; f. 272, 1 Peter; f. 273, [prologue to 2 Peter], Symon petrus [ Stegmüller 818]; f. 273, 2 Peter; f. 273v, [prologue to 1 John], Rationem uerbi [Stegmüller 822]; f. 273v, 1 John; f. 274v, [prologue to 2 John], Osque [sic] a deo [Stegmüller 823]; f. 274v, 2 John; f. 274v, [prologue to 3 John], Caiuum [sic] pietatis [Stegmüller 824]; f. 274v, 3 John;  f. 274v, [prologue to Jude], Iudas apostolus [Stegmüller 825]; f. 274v, Jude; f. 275, [prologue to Romans] Romani sunt [om. in] partes ytalie … scribens eis a chorinto [Stegmüller 677]; f. 275, Romans; f. 278v, [prologue to 1 Corinthians] Corinthii sunt achaici [Stegmüller 685]; f. 278v, 1 Corinthians, ending imperfectly f. 279v at ch. 9:3, “… mea defensio ad eos//”;

ff. 280-303v, Bible 1:

f. 280, 1 Peter, beginning imperfectly in ch. 1:8, “//creditis ad exultabitis …”; f. 280v, 2 Peter; f. 281, 1 John; f. 282, 2 John; f. 282, 3 John; f. 282, Jude; f. 282v, [prologue to
Romans], Ecclesiam e duobus [Stegmüller 651, beginning with the second sentence]; f. 282v, [prologue to Romans], Cum romanis ita [Stegmüller 647]; f. 282v [prologue to Romans], Primum queritur [Stegmüller 670]; f. 283, [prologue to Romans], Romani sunt qui ex iudeis [Stegmüller 674]; f. 283, [prologue to Romans], Iam dudum saulus [Stegmüller 654]; f. 283, [prologue to Romans], Romani sunt [Stegmüller 677]; f. 283, Romans; f. 286, [prologue to 1 Corinthians] Chorinthii sunt achaici [Stegmüller 685]; f. 286, 1 Corinthians; f. 289, [prologue to 2 Corinthians] Post per [sic] actam [Stegmüller 699]; f.  289, 2 Corinthians; f.  291, [prologue to Galatians] Galathe sunt greci [Stegmüller 707]; f. 291, Galatians; f. 292, [prologue to Ephesians] Ephesii sunt asyani [Stegmüller 715]; f. 292, Ephesians; f. 293, [prologue to Philippians] Philippenses sunt macedones [Stegmüller 728]; f. 293, Philippians; f. 293v, [prologue to Colossians] Colosenses et hii [Stegmüller 736]; f. 294, Colossians; f. 294v, [prologue to 1 Thessalonians] Thessalonicenses sunt macedones [Stegmüller 747]; f. 294v, 1 Thessalonians; f. 295, [prologue to 2 Thessalonians] Ad thessalonicenses [Stegmüller 752]; f. 295, 2 Thessalonians; f. 295v, [prologue to 1 Timothy] Tymotheum instruit [Stegmüller 765]; f. 295v, 1 Timothy; f. 296, [prologue to 2 Timothy] Item Tymotheo scribit [Stegmüller 772]; f. 296v, 2 Timothy; f. 297, [prologue to Titus] Tytum commonefacit [Stegmüller 780]; f. 297, Titus; f. 297, [prologue to Philemon] Philemoni familiares [Stegmüller 783]; f. 297, Philemon; f. 297v, [prologue to Hebrews] In primis dicendum [Stegmüller 793] ; f. 297v, Hebrews; f. 299v, [prologue to Apocalypse] Iohannes apostolus [Stegmüller 834]; f. 299v, Apocalypse [ending f. 303v, bottom col. a, col. b, blank].

f. 304rv, [One leaf from Maccabees, 1 Maccabees 3:12-5:18, from Bible 2],

incipit, “//omnibus diebus.  Et audiuit … ad custodiendum et precepit illis//.”

Bibles containing the complete Old and New Testaments in one, often very small, volume were one of the greatest achievements of thirteenth-century book production. Bibles copied in the early decades of the thirteenth century, c. 1200-1230, are particularly important, since it is in this period that we can see the evolution, textually and in terms of physical format, of the “new” Bible of c. 1230 and later.  Scholarly discussion has focused on French, and particularly Parisian, Bibles from this early period, known as the Proto-Paris Bible (Light, 1994, listing fourteen examples, perhaps double that number exist).  English Bibles from this time period are almost completely unstudied and are certainly less common.

The chapters still used today in modern Bibles are found (with very few exceptions) in medieval Bibles dating after c. 1230.  Before that, Bibles were divided according to many different systems of chapter divisions.  Bibles copied in the first three decades of the thirteenth century are particularly interesting, since they often include two systems of chapter divisions.  As discussed above, this manuscript is assembled from two Bibles, which we are calling Bible 1 and Bible 2.  The chapter divisions in these two sections of the manuscript are quite different. The biblical books in Bible 1 are divided into older chapters, each beginning with one-line initials, set within the line of text, and in most cases, numbered in small red Roman numerals right before the number (that is inserted within the line of text).  Modern chapters are marked in the margins, usually in red Roman numerals. In Bible 2, there modern chapters are numbered in the margins with red and blue Roman numerals, but in most cases, the chapters do not begin with initials, and sometimes, very oddly, the beginning of the chapters are not marked at all. 2 Maccabees also includes (unnumbered) old chapters beginning with one-line initials, as does the first folio or so of Matthew, but thereafter there are only modern chapters.

It is also noteworthy that Bible 1 lacks capitula lists (summaries of the biblical text corresponding to older chapter divisions) which we see in most Bibles of this type.  Nothing about its text (the order of books, textual readings, and choice of prologues) shows any influence of the Paris Bible (or of the proto-Paris Bible, if we want to be more accurate). 

Of special interest in the text of this Bible are the apocryphal Ezra books, books not included in the Paris Bible, and indeed, not common in medieval Bibles at all. The names scholars use for the Apocryphal Books of Ezra are confusing.  In an appendix to the Stuttgart edition of the Vulgate (Biblia, 1994) they are printed as one book called Ezra 4.  Using the nomenclature of the Repertorium biblicum of Stegmüller (1950-1980), following the usual books of Ezra and Nehemiah, our Bible includes 5 Ezra (Stegmüller 96), 3 Ezra (Stegmüller 94,2, found in almost all thirteenth-century Bibles), 4 Ezra (Stegmüller 95), and 6 Ezra (Stegmüller 97).  This arrangement of the apocryphal Ezra cycle, although always exceptional, can be found in other manuscripts of the Vulgate, particularly from England.  Another unusual text is the short Interpretation of the Hebrew Alphabet (Stegmüller 9617) following Lamentations.


Berger, Samuel. Histoire de la vulgate pendant les premiers siècles du moyen âge, Paris,1893 (repr. Hildesheim, 1976).

Biblia iuxta vulgatam versionem, ed. Robert Weber, Roger Gryson, et al. Stuttgart, 1994.

De Hamel, Christoper. The Book. A History of the Bible, London and New York, 2001.

Light, Laura. “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, Laura. “The Thirteenth-Century Bible: The Paris Bible and Beyond,” The New Cambridge History of the Bible. Volume two, c. 600-1450, eds. Richard Marsden and E. Ann Matter, Cambridge, 2012, pp. 380-391.

Stegmüller, Fridericus. Repertorium biblicum medii aevi, Madrid, 1950-61, and Supplement, with the assistance of N. Reinhardt, Madrid, 1976-80.

Online Resources

Latin Bible

Repertorium biblicum medii aevi (digital version)

TM 973