Digital Commonwealth

Biblia pauperum

Item Information

Biblia pauperum
Eight leaves of a Biblia pauperum, a medieval "picture Bible" demonstrating through pictorial example the Old Testament's prefigurement of the New, perhaps the earliest such manuscript of Italian origin (see Sotheby's catalogue, 1957). This manuscript is not included in W. L. Schreiber's study of the development of the Biblia Pauperum in the introduction to P. Heitz, ed., Biblia Pauperum (1903), nor is it among the sources listed in Henry's 1987 study. The manuscript does not fit in to the manuscript families established by Cornell (pp. 3-7). Because the text and layout of most of the miniatures resembles the early blockbooks, this copy may be based on an early xylographic edition. The text varies significantly only on f. 8v and in the Old Testament scenes on folio 4. The only other significant variant appears to be a copying error; the Old Testament portraits and quotes at the top of f. 7 actually belong on the previous (missing) page (Henry "q"). The blockbook consists of twenty leaves; assuming this copy followed that model, there would be twelve leaves missing as indicated above.
Former owner:
Weil, Ernst, 1891-1965
Former owner:
Sotheby's (Firm)
Former owner:
Maggs Bros.
Manuscripts, Latin (Medieval and modern)
Boston Public Library
Rare Books Department
Collection (local):
Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts (Collection of Distinction)
ItalyVeneto (region)Verona (province)Verona
8 leaves : parchment, ill. ; 170 x 115 mm.
Terms of Use:
No known copyright restrictions.
No known restrictions on use.
Place of origin:
Notes (ownership):
Provenance: Remnants of 19th-century label on front cover. Sold by Weil, cat. 22 (1954), lot 1 (SDBM 19474) and Sotheby's London, 8 July 1957, lot 67 (SDBM 4190).
Notes (acquisition):
Source of acquisition: Acquired by BPL from Maggs in 1957.
Notes (citation):
Bond, W.H. Supplement to the Census of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the United States and Canada, Suppl. 219
Ms. leaves.
Bibliographic record created by BPL staff based on description by Dr. Lisa Fagin Davis.
Origin: Written in Italy (Verona?), mid-15th century.
In Latin.
Bibliography: Wright, Edith. "Two Copies of the Biblia Pauperum" in The Boston Public Library Quarterly XI (1959), pp. 3-15; Henry, Avril. Biblia Pauperum: A Facsimile and Introduction (Ithaca, 1987) (with further bibliography); Netzer, N. ed. Secular/Sacred 11th-16th-Century Works from the Boston Public Library and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston College, 2006), exhibit nr. 31; Cornell, Henrik. Biblia Pauperum (Stockholm, 1925).
Notes (object):
Script: Written in a Gothic cursive hand in black ink.
Secundo folio: [Legitur in] Genesii 3 quod dixit dominum serpenti ... / ... dimisit eos ab ire illeso.
Collation: Parchment (fragmentary), fol. 8 (single leaves, out of the presumably 20 original leaves). Ca. 19th-century black ink arabic foliation, lower left corner of each recto and upper right corner of each wax interleaf.
Layout: Three compartmentalized illustrations with accompanying text on each page.
Decoration: Three miniatures and two or four portraits on each page in ink and wash. Each page laid out according to a schema similar to that used in the early xylographic edition (see Henry), using thirteen elements: two Old Testament prefigurative (or antithetical) illustrations with corresponding captions, four Old Testament prophets with corresponding banderoles (only two prophets on ff. 1, 1v and 2), and a New Testament illustration from the life of Christ (with no identifying caption).
Binding: Sewn into cardstock bifolium (19th-century), laid-in 19th-century brown calf over pasteboard, gilt-fillet border, paper pastedowns. Housed in a tan cloth box.
MS-q-Med-164_001 - MS-q-Med-164_028
Call #:
RARE BKS MS q Med. 164
MS 1589 (no longer used)