Illuminated Vulgate

[Latin Bible].
Illuminated manuscript on vellum.
[Paris, c. 1250]. (Prothro B-01)

Centuries of Bible illustration preceded the development of European printing. In this thirteenth-century manuscript of the “Paris Vulgate,” eighty initials illuminated with biblical scenes introduce various books or sections of the Bible. As was typical of the Paris Vulgate tradition, the only spaces allotted for illustrations were the interiors of the initials, which received either a portrayal of the author of the biblical book or a concise depiction of the book’s central narrative. The displayed opening shows the initial “I” beginning Genesis 1:1, illustrated with the Six Days of Creation, which surmounts a tiny image of the Crucified Christ. This great leap in human history, from the sin of Adam to the death of Christ, evokes the belief that the redeemer’s sacrifice was part of the divine plan from the beginning.


In the Beginning
Illuminated Vulgate