TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

Vulgate Bible

In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment
France (Paris?), c. 1250-1270
63 illuminated foliate initials and 78 historiated initials by the Johannes Grusch atelier

TM 921

i (parchment) + 535 + i (parchment, now serving as a flyleaf, but ruled and contemporary with bookblock)  folios on parchment, foliated in three series in an early modern hand, 1-79, 81*-153 (misfoliated) + two unnumbered leaves, 1-65, 67*-243 + 1-143, missing five or six leaves (four with historiated initials), else complete, but now bound out of order (collation I. i24 [-12 and 13, with loss of text] ii-iii24 iv24 (misfoliated with 79 followed by 81) v24 vi32; II. vii24 [-1 and 4, 4, foliated as f. 1, preceded by three unnumbered leaves, one now missing] viii24 [beginning f. 23] ix24 (misfoliated with ff. 65 followed by 67) x-xv24 xvi28+2 [structure uncertain, but likely missing two leaves after 13, f. 228]; III. xvii24 (beginning f. 1) xviii-xix24 xx28 [-28, cancelled] xxi24 xxii20), no signatures or catchwords, ruled in lead with an extra set of horizontal rules for the running titles, and with full-length vertical bounding lines, single between the columns, double in the inner and outer margins, with an extra set in the outer margin, some prickings top (occasionally), and bottom margins (justification 102 x 75 mm.), written under the top line in two columns of 45 lines in a very tiny, precise gothic bookhand (superficially uniform throughout but probably by several scribes),majuscules within the text touched in red, red and blue running titles and chapter numbers, two-line alternately red and blue initials with pen decoration in the other color, often running the full length of the column, 63 ILLUMINATED FOLIATE INITIALS before prologues, 78 HISTORIATED INITIALS before biblical books (subjects listed below), overall in excellent condition, trimmed slightly with occasional minor loss of the very bottom of pen decoration, indentations and some cockling in outer margin of some folios:  I.-ff. 76-97v, II-ff. 173-174, and lower margin of II-f. 226.  Bound in seventeenth-century brown leather over pasteboard, front and back boards tooled in gold with an outer border of double fillets edged in dots and an oval center ornament, spine with four raised bands forming five compartments, tooled in gold, speckled edges, rebacked with spine laid down, housed in chemise and fitted leather case, lettered in gold on spine, “Bible Capetienne enluminée, paris, 1270,” in excellent condition.  Dimensions 160 x 110 mm.

Thirteenth-century pocket Bibles were one of the great achievements of thirteenth-century book-making.  This is a luxurious book, with tiny painted initials before all the prologues and biblical books; the workmanship is exquisite throughout, and certainly places the book apart from many of the more everyday examples of Bibles of this type.  A very fine example of a manuscript illuminated by a professional artist working in Paris, the most important center for the making of illuminated manuscripts in this period.


1.This Bible was decorated by artists from Paris in the third quarter of the thirteenth century, c. 1250-1270.  The motifs and colors used in the red and blue pen initials can be compared with Paris, BnF, MS lat. 16541 (Stirnemann, 1990, no. 39, and p. 70).  The style of the painted initials can be compared most closely with the later products of the Johannes Grusch workshop, a rather diverse stylistic group active in the second and third quarters of the thirteenth century (Branner, 1977, appendix VK. pp. 222-223).

The scribe, however, may not have been from Paris; the script is an extremely regular, tiny gothic bookhand, that seems somewhat southern in its regularity and use of uncrossed tironian ‘7’ for “and,” although “qui” is abbreviated in the northern fashion. It is possible that this was copied somewhere outside of Paris, maybe to the south, from an older exemplar, but with complete knowledge of the Paris text, and then brought to Paris to be decorated and painted.  Alternatively, it may have been copied from an older exemplar by a non-Parisian scribe in the capital itself. 

2.The fact that it was copied in three sections is an interesting and unusual detail.  Marginalia and readers’ notes are not frequent, but the Psalms show many signs of use, and the Gospels include marginal concordance notes listing the number of the canon table and parallel passages according to modern chapters rather than the older Eusebian sections.  Folio numbers were added quite early in its history in three series.

3.Signature, probably of an early (sixteenth-century?) owner in France, II-f. 107, lower margin,“Antoine de la Gra[gi?]o.”

4.Private European Collection.


Vulgate Bible, in three sections, each foliated independently; now incorrectly bound so that the text begins with Proverbs, here described in correct order (section II, I, III).

Section II. ff. 1-243, Genesis-Psalms, with prologues as follows:

[unnumbered leaf,] [General prologue; Stegmüller 284], beginning imperfectly, incipit, “//<?> qui aperit et venio …”; [second unnumbered leaf, verso], [prologue to Genesis] Desiderii mei [Stegmüller 285]; f. 2, Genesis, beginning imperfectly in 2:20; f. 22v, Exodus; f. 39, Leviticus; f. 50v, Numbers; f. 68, Deuteronomy;; f. 82v, Joshua; f. 92v, Judges; f. 103v, Ruth; f. 104v, [prologue to Kings] Viginti et duas [Stegmüller 323], f. 105v, 1 Kings; f. 119v, 2 Kings; f. 131v, 3 Kings; f. 145v, 4 Kings; f. 158, [prologue to Chronicles] Si septuaginta [Stegmüller  328]; f. 158v, 1 Chronicles; f. 169v, [prologue to 2 Chronicles] Eusebius ieronimus … Quomodo grecorum [Stegmüller 327]; f. 170, 2 Chronicles, concluding with the Oratio Manasse; f. 184, [prologue to Ezra] Utrum difficilius [Stegmüller 330]; f. 184v, 1 Ezra; f. 188, Nehemiah; f. 193v, 2 Ezra; f. 199, [prologue to Tobit] Chromatio et  heliodoro …  Mirari non desino [Stegmüller 332]; f. 199, Tobit; f. 203, [prologue to Judith] Apud hebreos [Stegmüller  335]; f. 203, Judith; f. 208, [prologue to Esther] Librum hester; Rursum in libro [Stegmüller  341 and 343, copied as one prologue]; f. 208, Esther; f. 212v, [prologue to Job] Cogor per singulos [Stegmüller 344]; f. 213, [prologue to Job] Si aut fiscellam [Stegmüller 357]; f.  213v, Job, ending f. 222v, top column a; remainder blank; f. 223, Psalms, ending f. 243, top column a, and with f. 228v, now ending in Psalm 39 and f. 229, beginning at Psalm 53.3; f. 243, [prologue to Joshua, omitted above and supplied by the scribe] Tandem finito [Stegmüller  311]; remainder and f. 243v, blank;

Section I, ff. 1-153, Proverbs-2 Maccabees:

f. 1, [prologue to Proverbs] Iungat epistola [Stegmüller 457]; f. 1, Proverbs; f. 10, [prologue to Ecclesiastes] Memini me [Stegmüller 462]; f. 10, Ecclesiastes, ending imperfectly on f. 11v at 7:27; f. 14, Song of Songs, beginning imperfectly at 5:4 (the scribe continued the running titles for Ecclesiastes on these folios in error); f. 13v [prologue to Wisdom] Liber sapientie [Stegmüller 468]; f. 13v, Wisdom; f. 21v, [biblical introduction to Ecclesiasticus, copied as a prologue] Multorum nobis; f. 23, Ecclesiasticus, with the Prayer of Solomon]; f. 33, [prologue to Isaiah] Nemo cum prophetas [Stegmüller 482]; f. 38, Isaiah; f. 47v, [prologue to Jeremiah] Iheremias propheta [Stegmüller 487]; f. 48, Jeremiah; f. 79v, Lamentations; f. 82v, [prologue to Baruch] Liber iste [Stegmüller 491]; f. 82v, Baruch; f. 85, [prologue to Ezechiel] Ezechiel propheta [Stegmüller 492]; f. 85, Ezechiel; f. 104v, [prologue to Daniel] Danielem prophetam [Stegmüller 494]; f. 105, Daniel; f. 113, [prologue to Minor prophets] Non idem ordo est [Stegmüller 500]; f. 113, [prologue to Hosea] Temporibus ozie [Stegmüller 507]; f. 113, Hosea; f. 115v, [prologue to Joel] Sanctus ioel [Stegmüller 511]; f. 116, [prologue] Ioel filius phatuel [Stegmüller 510]; f. 116, Joel; f. 117, [prologue to Amos] Ozias rex [Stegmüller 515]; f. 117, [prologue] Amos propheta [Stegmüller 512]; f. 117v, [prologue] Hic amos [Stegmüller 513]; f. 117v, Amos; f. 119v, [prologue Obadiah] Iacob patriarcha; Hebrei [Stegmüller 519 and 517 copied as one prologue]; f. 120, Obadiah; f. 120, [prologue to Jonah] Sanctum ionam [Stegmüller 524]; f. 120v, [prologue] Ionas columba et dolens [Stegmüller 521]; f. 120v, Jonah; f. 121, [prologue Micah] Temporibus ioathe [Stegmüller 526]; f. 121, Micah; f. 122v, [prologue to Nahum] Naum prophetam [Stegmüller 528]; f. 123, Nahum; f. 123v, [prologue to Habakkuk] Quatuor prophete [Stegmüller 531]; f. 124, Habbakuk; f. 125, [prologue to Zephaniah] Tradunt hebrei [Stegmüller 534, here copied as two prologues, the second beginning, “Iosiam regem iuda …”]; f. 125, Zephaniah; f. 126, [prologue to Haggai] Ieremias propheta [Stegmüller 538]; f. 126v, Haggai; f. 127, [prologue to Zechariah] In anno secundo [Stegmüller 539]; f. 127, Zechariah; f. 130v, [prologue to Malachi] Deus per moysen [Stegmüller 543]; f. 130v, Malachi; f. 131v, [prologue] Machabeorum librum duo [Stegmüller 551]; f. 131v, 1 Maccabees; f. 144, 2 Maccabees; f. 152v [prologue to Maccabees, copied following 2 Maccabees] Domino excellentisimo …,  Cum sim promptus [Stegmüller 547]; f. 152v, [prologue] Reuerentissimo …, Memini me [Stegmüller 553] [concluding top f. 153, remainder and f. 153v, blank];

Section III.  New Testament, ff. f. 1-99v:

f. 1, [prologue to Matthew] Matheus ex iudea [Stegmüller 590]; f. 1, [prologue to Matthew] Matheus cum primo [Stegmüller 589]; f. 1, Matthew; f. 13v, [prologue to Mark] Marcus evangelista [Stegmüller  607];  f. 13v, Mark; f. 21v, [prologue to Luke] Lucas syrus natione [Stegmüller 620]; f. 21v, Quoniam quidem [Luke 1:1-4, here with a rubric as a prologue]; f. 21v, Luke [initial for Luke placed at “Quoniam”; f. 35v, [prologue to John] Hic est Iohannes [Stegmüller 634] ; f. 35v, John; f. 45v, [prologue to Pauline Epistles], Primum queritur … in celestibus [Stegmüller 670]; f. 46, [prologue to Romans] Romani sunt in partes ytalie … scribens eis a corinto per thimotheum [Stegmüller 677]; f. 46, Romans; f. 51, [prologue to 1 Corinthians] Corinthii sunt achaici [Stegmüller 685]; f. 51, 1 Corinthians; f. 58, [prologue to 2 Corinthians] Post actam [Stegmüller 699]; f. 58, 2 Corinthians; f. 59, [prologue to Galatians] Galathe sunt greci [Stegmüller 707]; f. 59v, Galatians; f. 61, [prologue to Ephesians] Ephesii sunt asyani [Stegmüller 715]; f. 61, Ephesians; f. 62v, [prologue to Philippians] Philippenses sunt macedones [Stegmüller 728]; f. 62v, Philippians; f. 64, [prologue to 1 Thessalonians] Thessalonicenses sunt macedones [Stegmüller 747]; f. 64, 1 Thessalonians; f. 65, [prologue to 2 Thessalonians] Ad thessalonicenses [Stegmüller 752]; f. 65, 2 Thessalonians; f. 65v, [prologue to Colossians] Colosenses et hii [Stegmüller 736]; f. 65v, Colossians; f. 66v, [prologue to 1 Timothy] Tymotheum instruit [Stegmüller 765]; f. 66v, 1 Timothy; f. 68, [prologue to 2 Timothy] Item Tymotheo scribit [Stegmüller 772]; f. 68, 2 Timothy; f. 69, [prologue to Titus] Tytum commonefacit [Stegmüller 780]; f. 69, Titus; f. 69v, [prologue to Philemon] Phylemoni familiares [Stegmüller 783]; f. 69v, Philemon; f. 69v, [prologue to Hebrews] In primis dicendum [Stegmüller 793]; f. 69v, Hebrews; f. 73v, [prologue to Acts] Lucas anthiocenses natione syrus [Stegmüller 640]; f. 73v, Acts; f. 87, [prologue to Catholic Epistles] Non ita est ordo [Stegmüller 809]; f. 87, James; f. 88v, 1 Peter; f. 90, 2 Peter; f. 91, 1 John; f. 92, 2 John; f. 92v, 3 John;  f. 92v, Jude; f. 93, [prologue to Apocalypse] Omnes qui pie [Stegmüller 839]; f. 93v, [prologue to Apocalypse] Apocalipsis iohannes tot habet [Stegmüller 829 ]; f. 93v, Apocalypse [ending f. 99v].

Section III. ff. 100-142v, Interpretationes hebraicorum nominum incipientium per a, incipit, “Aaz apprehendens uel apprehensio … Zuzim consiliantes eos uel consilatores eorum.”

The usual version of the Interpretations of Hebrew Names, commonly found in Bibles dating after c. 1230; Stegmüller, 1950-1980, no. 7709; printed numerous times in the fifteenth century, and in the seventeenth century, when it was included in among the works of Bede, Cologne, 1612, 3:371-480; there is no modern edition, despite the text’s great importance for the history of the Bible, exegesis and preaching in the High Middle Ages.  The text is attributed in one manuscript (Montpellier, Bibl. de la Faculté de Médecine, MS 341) to Stephen Langton (d. 1228), who taught in Paris in the theology school in the later decades of the twelfth century to c. 1206, when he left to become a Cardinal, and then Archbishop of Canterbury in 1207, but this attribution has recently been questioned (Murano, 2010).


Each book of the Bible begins with an historiated initial, and all prologues begin with painted rinceaux initials.  These initials are a wonderful expression of the Parisian aesthetic, and stylistically seems most similar to the later work of the Johannes Grusch workshop (Branner, 1977, appendix VK. pp. 222-223), active over a long period of time (and exhibiting a range of styles), in the second and third quarters of the century.  Blue and a dusky pink predominate; this painter is also fond of bright orange, with occasional gray-violet and brown.  The initials are skillfully painted, with attention to facial expression (see for example the initial to Acts), and even in sequences of repeated standing and sitting figures used to illustrate the Minor Prophets and the Pauline Epistles, for example, the artist varied the poses.  Touches of brushed gold, bronze, and white highlights make the initials shine.  Possibly by two artists; compare the initial to Ezra 1, with loose, curly hair, and shaded drapery, to the initial to Nehemiah, with more heavily inked folds, and stiffer hair (although they are overall similar in style).

The figures have long faces and sharp noses, with small mouths, and long expressive fingers; they are all rather youthful looking.  The facial features here are close to those associated with the early Johannes Grusch atelier.  See in particular Branner, 1977, fig. 226,  a manuscript that Branner notes still uses the type of face found in early manuscripts from this workshop, joined with awareness of the stylistic developments common c. 1250 and later (see also fig. 222 and 224,for similar faces, but with earlier style initials).

Subjects as follows (listed in correct order, not in the order of the present codex):

[General Prologue and Genesis, initials missing]

II-f. 22v, Exodus, Moses receives tablets;

II-f. 39, Leviticus, Offering, face of God above;

II-f. 50v, Numbers, Moses with the tablets; face of God above;

II-f. 68, Deuteronomy, Moses preaching;

II-f. 82v, Joshua, two seated men; face of God above;

II-f. 92v, Judges, seated man; face of God above,

II-f. 103v, Ruth, two tiered initial with Elimelech, above, and Naomi, below.

II-f. 105v, 1 Kings, Elcana, standing, and Anna, praying before an altar;

II-f. 119v, 2 Kings, beheading of Amalekite;

II-f. 131v, 3 Kings, attendant brings Abishag to David;

II-f. 145v, 4 Kings, Ahaziah falls from tower;

II-f. 158v, 1 Chronicles, seated figures (pedigree register?);

II-f. 170, 2 Chronicles, Solomon praying;

II-f. 184v, 1 Ezra, Cyrus building (three-tiered initial);

II-f. 188, Nehemiah, Nehemiah presents gold cup to Artaxerxes;

II-f. 193v, 2 Ezra, asperging;

II-f. 199, Tobit [historiated initial was place at the prologue in error, instead of before the biblical book], Tobit in bed, with another figure standing alongside;

II-f. 203, Judith; Judith beheading Holofernes;

II-f. 208, Esther, Ahasuerus and Esther (two-tiered initial);

II-f.  213v, Job, Job and his wife;

II-f. 223, Psalm 1, David playing the harp;

II-f. 226, Psalm 26, David pointing to eyes;

II-f. 228v, Psalm 38, David pointing to mouth;

[Initial Psalm 52 missing]

II-f. 231, Psalm 68, God; David in the water;

II-f. 233v, Psalm 80, David playing the bells;

II-f. 235v, Psalm 97, singers;

II-f. 239, Psalm 109, God(?), blessing;

I-f. 1, Proverbs, King Solomon, holding a sword, and a youth;

I-f. 10, Ecclesiastes, King Solomon holding a staff with a fleur-de-lis;

[Initial Canticles missing]

I-f. 13v, Wisdom, King Solomon holding a sword;

I-f. 22, Ecclesiasticus, Seated figure (Solomon teaching?);

I-f. 38, Isaiah, Isaiah being sawn;

I-f. 48, Jeremiah, Head of God and Jeremiah;

I-f. 79v, Lamentations, Jeremiah laments Jerusalem;

I-f. 82v, Baruch, Baruch writing;

I-f. 85, Ezechiel, Tetramorph; Ezechiel in bed;

I-f. 105, Daniel, Daniel in the lions’s den;

I-f. 113, Hosea, standing prophet;

I-f. 116, Joel, seated prophet;

I-f. 117v, Amos, seated prophet;

I-f. 120, Obadiah, seated prophet;

I-f. 120v, Jonah, Jonah and the whale;

I-f. 121, Micah, standing prophet;

I-f. 123, Nahum, standing prophet;

I-f. 124, Habbakuk, standing prophet;

I-f. 125, Zephaniah, standing prophet;

I-f. 126v, Haggai, standing prophet in a Gothic alcove;

I-f. 127, Zechariah, standing prophet in a Gothic alcove holding a scroll, with face of God above;

I-f. 130v, Malachi, standing prophet;

I-f. 131v, 1 Maccabees, beheading of idolatrous Jew;

I-f. 144, 2 Maccabees, standing man and seated man with staff;

III-f. 1, f. 1, Matthew, tree of Jesse;

III-f. 13v, Mark, Mark, standing in alcove;

III-f. 21v, Luke [initial for Luke placed at “Quoniam”], cloaked figure standing before an altar (Luke?);

III-f. 35v, John, John, standing in an alcove;

III-f. 46, Romans, Paul with sword;

III-f. 51, 1 Corinthians, Paul with sword hilt;

III-f. 58, 2 Corinthians, Paul, seated with sword;

III-f. 59v, Galatians, Paul, seated with sword, gesturing;

III-f. 61, Ephesians, Paul, seated with sword;

III-f. 62v, Philippians, Paul, seated holding the hilt of a sword;

III-f. 64, 1 Thessalonians, Paul, standing with sword;

III-f. 65, 2 Thessalonians, Paul, seated with a short sword, gesturing;

III-f. 65v, Colossians, Paul, seated, gesturing;

III-f. 66v, 1Timothy, Paul, seated with sword;

III-f. 68, 2 Timothy, Paul, seated with sword;

III-f. 69, Titus, Paul, seated with sword;

III-f. 69v, Philemon, Paul, seated with sword;

III-f. 69v, Hebrews, Paul and another man, seated;

III-f. 73v, Acts, the apostles;

III-f. 87, James, James, standing in an alcove;

III-f. 88v, 1 Peter, Peter, seated with key;

III-f. 90, 2 Peter, Peter, seated with key;

III-f. 91, 1 John, John, seated;

III-f. 92, 2 John, John, seated, gesturing;

III-f. 92v, 3 John, John, seated, gesturing; 

III-f. 92v, Jude, standing in an alcove;

III-f. 93v, Apocalypse, John, writing on Patmos.

In northern France in the early thirteenth century the organiza­tion and text of Vulgate Bibles underwent a series of radical changes, resulting c. 1230 in the text known as the Paris Bible.  Prior to this, most Bibles were large volumes, copied in many volumes.  By c. 1230, a single-volume format was adopted; the text was re-ordered; the individual books were divided into standardized chapters; a set of sixty-four pro­logues became the rule; and the Interpretations of Hebrew Names, beginning “Aaz apprehendens,” was appended to the biblical text. The first three of these changes are still in evidence in today’s printed Bibles, which gives some idea of their far-reaching importance, and while the last two have since gone out of use, they were no less significant at the time. 

This Bible includes all the hallmarks of the Paris Bible, including the new order of the books (although it is now bound out of order), modern chapters, the usual version of the Interpretations of Hebrew Names, and the characteristic set of sixty-four prologues (with a few minor exceptions). The text itself, however, lacks the distinctive readings found in the Paris Bible, and it is possibly that this was copied somewhere outside of Paris, maybe to the south, from an older exemplar, but with complete knowledge of the Paris text, and then brought to Paris to be decorated and painted.  Alternatively, it may have all been copied from an older exemplar by a non-Parisian scribe in the capital itself. 

The biblical books were once arranged according to the new order of the Paris Bible (Octateuch, 1-4 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles + Prayer of Manasses, Ezra, Nehemiah, 2 Ezra (= 3 Ezra, Stegmüller 94,1), Tobit, Judith, Esther, Job, Psalms, Five Sapiential Books, Major Prophets with Baruch, Minor Prophets, 1-2 Maccabees, Gospels, Pauline Epistles, Acts of Apostles, Catholic Epistles, Apocalypse), with two minor exceptions:  Colossians follows 2 Thessalonians (it usually is placed immediately before 1 Thessalonians), and with the prayer of Solomon following Ecclesiasticus.  It also includes the usual prologues with two additional prologues, “Primum queritur” (Stegmüller 670) to the Pauline Epistles, and “Apocalipsis iohannes tot habet” (Stegmüller 829) to the Apocalypse.  Two prologues were omitted by the scribe and copied out of order at the end of sections.


Branner, Robert. “The Johannes Grusch Atelier and the Continental Origins of the William of Devon Painter,” The Art Bulletin 54.1 (1972), pp. 24–30. 

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

De Hamel, Christopher.  The Book. A History of the Bible, London and New York, 2001, reproducing ff.  126v-127 (then in a private collection).

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.

Murano, Giovanna. “Chi ha scritto le Interpretationes Hebraicorum Nominum?” in Étienne Langton, prédicateur, bibliste, théologien, eds. Louis-Jacques Bataillon, Nicole Bériou, Gilbert Dahan et Riccardo Quinto, Turnhout, 2010, pp. 353-371.

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

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

Online Resources

Repertorium biblicum medii aevi (digital version of Stegmüller)

TM 921