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circa 1350


This leaf from a 14th century Latin manuscript “portable” Bible was scribed in France, probably in Paris. The text includes the prologue to Matthew and then chapter 1 through the first part of chapter 4. The very precise text, on vellum, is handwritten and hand-illuminated (colored). Note the faint lines used to guide the scribe in the copying process.

Unlike the large, multi-volume manuscript (handwritten because printing was not invented until the 15th century) Bibles of the preceding centuries, the 13th century saw the development of smaller “portable” manuscript Bibles, sometimes called “Paris Bibles.” These Bibles now had the complete text of the Scriptures in a single volume. As well, the content of these handwritten volumes and the order of the books of the Bible were becoming standardized and for the first time chapter headings were becoming more consistent from Bible to Bible. This development of smaller single-volume Bibles was driven by the growing use of the Bible as a personal reference and study book by priests and bishops. As well, unlike the large multi-volume folio Bibles, these portable Bibles could more easily be taken by bishops and priests on their journeys, because copies could be carried in saddle bags. Compared to a modern printed Bible, the 13th century portable Bibles look very similar. The weight, size, shape, thin paper, chapter numbers, two columns of text, and the order of the books of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, are all virtually unchanged today.


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 small manuscript Bible


Cedarville, Biblical Heritage Gallery, portable Bibles