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Prior to the invention of Gutenberg's printing press in 1455, the Bible continued to be copied by hand. 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 in 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.

Item Description

This leaf from a 15th century Latin manuscript Bible was scribed in Bohemia. The text is from the end of the 4th chapter of Isaiah on the front side through the beginning of the 8th chapter on the back side. The text, scribed on vellum, is handwritten and colored.


Biblical Heritage Gallery, Cedarville University, Giant Manuscript Bibles