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15th Century


In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Bible continued to be copied by hand in Latin. Gutenberg’s printing press was not operational until the mid-fifteenth century [1455]. Most surviving Bibles of the late Middle Ages conform to the standard Latin text and the arrangement of the books created in Paris in the 13th century. The practical purpose of these “giant” manuscript Bibles is not always easy to determine. Many were placed on lecterns in cathedrals and monasteries for public reading. But others may also have been appropriate for private study in monasteries or by wealthy patrons who could afford to have a personal copy scribed for their use.

In these large examples of manuscript Bibles from the 15th century, the similarities between the scribal hand and the typeface of the soon-to-be-printed Gutenberg Bible in 1455 are quite striking. The “illumination” (decoration or illustration) of the text can be quite elaborate or simply focused on the large beginning letter of each chapter with a rather serendipitous addition of random decoration.

The text of this leaf from a large folio Latin manuscript Bible scribed in Bohemia includes a section of Isaiah from the end of chapter 4 through the beginning of chapter 8.


University Special Collections

Digitization Date

March 18, 2022

Archives Collection

Bible Heritage Collection

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Photo Credit

Scott Huck

Screen Reader Description

Color photograph of a page from a manuscript Bible


Cedarville, Biblical Heritage Gallery, giant Bibles