Book of Wonders

Dublin, National Library of Ireland, Ms 32-513


+39 333 9860 410

Illuminated Facsimiles

Book of Wonders

Dublin, National Library of Ireland, Ms 32-513

ALTERNATIVE TITLES – Codex Mirabilis – Defensorium Inviolatae Virginitatis Beatae Mariae – Wondrous Occurrences – Historias Increíbles – Wundersamen Begebenheiten.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION – Codex on parchment, dimensions 102 x 76 mm, 38 folios (76 pages).
BINDING – Green velvet cover with gold embroidery along the outer edges of the boards and spine.
ORIGIN – Germany (Cologne).
DATING – 15th century (c. 1470).
PROVENANCE AND PRESENT REPOSITORY – The patronage of the manuscript is unknown, as are its previous owners. In fact, there is no record of the codex before 1967, when it was found in the office storage cupboard of Richard James Hayes (b. 1902, d. 1976) at the end of his tenure as director of the manuscript section of the National Library of Ireland. Hayes had been head of the department since 1940 but claimed not to remember the provenance of the codex. Two years later – on 28 March 1969 – the manuscript was officially declared to be the property of the National Library of Ireland, where it can still be found today under the shelfmark Ms. 32-513.
GENRE – Christianity, Mythology / Prophecies.
CONTENT – The codex contains 35 exempla inspired by the «Defensorium inviolatae perpetuaeque virginitatis castissimae genetricis Mariae» by Franz von Retz (b. 1343, d. 1427). Von Retz was a Dominican friar and theologian. He taught at the University of Vienna and was five times dean of the Katholisch-Theologische Fakultät, founded in 1384 by Albert III of Austria (b. 1349, d. 1395), known as Albert with the Braid. In «Defensorium inviolatae perpetuaeque virginitatis castissimae genetricis Mariae» he expounds the idea that – if the prodigies of ancient paganism are considered reliable – the same must apply to the miracles of the Christian religion. Following this reasoning, the theologian then attempts to prove the virginal conception of Jesus Christ by the Virgin Mary.
LANGUAGE – Latin and German.
SCRIPT – Gothic script in black and red.
SCRIBE – Anonymous.
DECORATION – The codex has no less than 38 full-page miniatures. The first miniature is on the verso of f. 1r and is a depiction of the face of Jesus Christ seen in profile, set within a radiating heart. The folio – on the recto of which neither text nor images appear – was possibly added to the manuscript at a later date. The next 37 miniatures are all placed within a frame bordered by an upper arch, which is in turn surrounded by vegetal, animal and gold thread decorations. The first two are scenes from the Nativity. The other miniatures illustrate the 35 exempla inspired by the work of Franz von Retz. The scheme according to which text and images are organised is always the same: the scene is on the recto, the text on the verso of the same folio.
ARTISTS – We are unable to give a name to the artist who painted the miniatures: he has remained anonymous and whose other works are not known. Originally, the frames around the 37 illuminated scenes were only surrounded by decorative plant motifs. A second – later – artist embellished these decorations with gold and additional plant and animal inserts. Only f. 15r retains the decoration of the first illuminator without the additions of the second artist.
STYLE – Renaissance.

Data sheet: Illuminated Facsimiles



Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document – The facsimile reproduces as close as possible the physical characteristics of the original document, with the aim to substitute it in the scientific research and in the libraries of the bibliophile collectors. Trimming and composition of the leaves reproduce the profile and structure of the original document. The binding might not correspond to that of the original document as it appears at the present moment.
PublisherMüller und Schindler (Stuttgart/Simbach am Inn, 2007), in co-edition with Eikon Editores (Madrid, 2007). The facsimile was distributed in Italy by Il Bulino edizioni d’arte.
Limited edition – Unique edition of 800 copies in arabic numbering. A further 60 copies in roman numbering are exclusively intended for documentary and archival purposes.
Certificate of authenticity – The certificate of authenticity is printed on the second pastedown of the facsimile.
Binding – Green velvet cover with gold embroidery along the outer edges of the boards and spine.
Commentary – Commentary volume in Spanish, size 11 x 16 cm, 272 pages. Texts by Eberhard König, Ines Dickmann, Gerard Lyne, Kathrin Wagner. Abstract in Italian, size 11 x 16 cm, 47 pages.
ISBN – 978-3-87560-431-3 (facsimile), 978-84-96254-23-7 (commentary).

Copyright photos: Illuminated Facsimiles

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Müller und Schindler