Bible (Genesis - Psalms)

Netherlandish (Zwolle); German (Cologne)
Medieval (Gothic)

Place of Manufacture: Zwolle, The Netherlands


Overall (page dimensions): 36.4 x 26.5 cm (14 5/16 x 10 7/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Tempera, gold leaf, pencil (modern), and ink on parchment; bindings of calfskin over boards, bronze, and leather

Not On View





ff. 1-273v: Bible, Genesis - Psalms, some books in non-canonical order with, for the most part, the common set of prologues (as in Ker, MMBL below). Frater ambrosius tua michi…/…Omne quod spirat laudet dominum alleluia./ Explicit liber psalmorum.
Epistola (Stegmüller 284); Pentateuch (Steg. 285); Joshua (Steg. 311); Judges; Ruth; Kings I-IV (Steg. 323); I Chron. (Steg. 328 ); II Chron.; Ezra (Steg. 330); Proverbs (Steg. 457); Ecclesiastes; Canticum Canticorum; Sapientia; Ecclesiasticus; Psalms (Steg. 414, 389, and 443) (Psalm divisions at Psalms 26, 38, 51, 52, 68, 80, 97, 101, and 109, representing a combination of the 8-fold and 3-fold divisions).

Bible, containing Genesis through Psalms, of 273 folios (ff.) and 1 leaf. 2 columns of 46 lines of text in Latin. Bounding lines in black ink, full-length to upper and lower edges, prickings preserved in lower margin for bounding lines.

One folio lacking after f. 3 (the Genesis initial); ff. 244 and 245, the last two folios of Ecclesiasticus, are singletons, one tipped to the end of quire 31 and the other tipped to the beginning of quire 32, probably originally intended to be the two final leaves of the first volume. Quires 1-31 signed A-Z, 9 [con-], §, a, 7 [et] [quire 31, signatures not extant]; new series for quires 32-34, signed 1a, 2a…1c, 2c. All of this evidence, combined with the fact that the colophon is on f. 245v (the final folio of quire 31), implies that the volume was originally intended to finish with quire 31, at the end of Ecclesiasticus. Some cursive catchwords extant, lower right corner of last verso of quire. Modern pencil foliation in arabic numerals, upper right corner of each recto.

Written in a Gothic bookhand with some cursive elements in black ink with red rubrics. Fourteen 12-line initials painted in Cologne in blue and red on gold leaf background with foliate infill in colors, or gold leaf with color infill and background, floral tendrils along inner margin and into upper and lower margins, with gold berries. Prologues and minor books begin with 8-line initials in blue and gold with red, purple and green foliate background and infill or blue background and infill, eighteen in all. Chapter initials 2-line in colors with contrasting filigree (those in quires 19-25 (ff. 144-199) decorated in Zwolle in the Ijssel regional style, the remainder in Cologne). Psalm verse initials in-text alternate red and blue.

Written at St. Gregoryhouse (Fraterhuis), Brethren of the Common Life, in Zwolle in 1454. Originally, the volume was to end at Ecclesiasticus, f. 245. Sometime between the writing and the binding of the set, the Psalms were added to this volume. Quires 19-25 were decorated in Zwolle, and these only with the penflourished initials. After writing, the volume was sent or sold to Cologne, where the painted initials were added to the entire volume and the penflourished initials completed in the same year.

Binding: Original binding of incised and blind-stamped calf over boards (stamps include an eagle, fleur-de-lis, and various flowers), lacking clasps and straps, catches intact on upper cover, bronze round central and corner bosses extant on both covers, front cover detached, spine lacking. Parchment pastedowns. Bronze supports on lower edges, lacking inner two. Leather tabs or knots attached to outer edge of bookblock mark major text divisions.


Colophon on f. 245: "Finita est haec prima pars bibliae Anno domini Mo cccco liiiio. Scripta in domo clericorum Zwolle."


1454, written at St. Gregory house (Fraterhuis), Brethen of the Common Life, Zwolle, Germany; after writing, sent or sold to Cologne [see note 1]. 1909, deposited at the MFA by an unidentified source. (Accession date: January 1, 1909)

[1] In Cologne, the painted initials were added to the entire volume and the penflourished initials completed.

Credit Line

Source unidentified