ALTERNATIVE TITLES – Bibbia dei Crociati – Salterio Maciejowski – Morgan Crusader’s Bible – Bible of Louis IX – Shah Abbas Bible – Book of Kings – Bible de Maciejowski – Livre des Rois – Bible des Croisades – Biblia de los Cruzados – Kreuzritterbibel Ludwigs des Heiligen – Kreuzfahrerbibel – Buch der Könige – Библия Мациевского.
CODICOLOGY – Codex on parchment, dimensions 390 x 295 mm., 46 folios (92 pages).
BINDING – The manuscript no longer retains its original binding. In fact, it has been bound several times since the 13th century.
ORIGIN – France (Paris).
CHRONOLOGY – 13th century (c. 1250).
PATRONAGE – The Crusader Bible has long been associated with Louis IX (b. 1214, d. 1270), King of France from 1226 until the year of his death. Canonised by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297, he is also known as Saint Louis or Louis the Saint. It was because of his reputation as a devout king that many French rulers after him would be called Louis. Although the size and luxury of the codex suggest a high degree of patronage, there is no documentary evidence that it was Louis IX himself who commissioned this impressive artistic feat of the Middle Ages. This does not exclude the fact that he was in possession of it and that from him the Bible passed into the hands of his brother Charles I of Anjou (b. 1226, d. 1285).
SUBSEQUENT OWNERS – Besides being a masterpiece of Gothic art, the codex also boasts a very complex and fascinating history. In the 16th century, it became part of the collection of Bernard Maciejowski (b. 1548, d. 1608), a Polish Catholic cardinal and archbishop. He is the first documented owner, as traces of the Bible were lost for several centuries. The ownership by the Polish cardinal is evidenced by a Latin inscription (f. 1r): «Potentissimo Persarum Regi Bernardus Macieuskius […] veram felicitatem exoptans offert […]» (Bernard Maciejowski, with sincere good wishes offers this gift to the supreme king of the Persians). Indeed, in 1604 Maciejowski donated the manuscript to the Safavid Shah of Persia ʿAbbās I (b. 1571, d. 1629), known as the Great (شاه عباس بزرگ), who had Persian inscriptions added to the margins of the manuscript. The codex underwent many changes of ownership in the following centuries, and was owned by several collectors and dealers: Giovanni d’Athanasi (a Greek who traded Egyptian antiquities on behalf of English collectors, b. 1798, d. 1854), Payne & Foss (two London antiquarian booksellers), Sir Thomas Phillipps (English antiquarian and collector, b. 1792, d. 1872), Thomas Fitzroy Fenwick (grandson of Sir Thomas Phillipps), John Pierpont Morgan Jr. (banker, heir to J.P. Morgan & Co, b. 1867, d. 1943), Sydney Cockerell (British art collector, b. 1867, d. 1962), Peter Ludwig (founder of the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, b. 1925, d. 1995).
PRESENT REPOSITORY – The manuscript is now owned by The Morgan Library & Museum (New York), but some folios are kept elsewhere. The Biblothèque Nationale de France (Paris) owns two folios, and The Getty Museum (Los Angeles) owns one folio.
GENRE – Christianity, Bibles / Gospels.
CONTENT – The Crusader Bible illustrates some 346 episodes from the Bible (from Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Judges, Ruth and Samuel). The stories focus on some important figures in the history of Israel: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samson, Samuel, Saul, Jonathan and David (about forty percent of the pages are dedicated to the latter). The aim is to propose models of kingship to be avoided or to be followed. The setting is 13th century France.
LANGUAGE – Originally, the Bible had no inscriptions. Those in Latin were added in Italy in the 14th century. Those in Persian were added in the 17th century by the Safavid Shah of Persia ʿAbbās I the Great (شاه عباس بزرگ, b. 1571, d. 1629). The inscriptions in Hebrew-Persian, on the other hand, date back to the 18th century.
DECORATION – The apparatus of miniatures is impressive: 340 episodes are illustrated, spread over 92 pages.
ILLUMINATORS – Seven artists worked on the Bible and they have all remained unknown: this is the only work of theirs that we know of. Although the Bible was created by several hands, we can identify one master artist who – in addition to having created almost half of the miniatures – designed the entire illustrative layout, giving the work a unified appearance.
STYLE – Gothic.
EXTERNAL LINKS – The Morgan Library & Museum (Ms. M.638 digitised) – Bibliothèque Nationale de France (ff. 43-44 digitised) – Getty Museum Collection (f. 45 digitised).
Data sheet: Illuminated Facsimiles
Full-size colour reproduction of all the portions of the original document which once formed a single 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.
Publisher – Salerno Editrice (Rome, 1998). In coedition with Faksimile Verlag (Lucerne/Munich) and Editorial Casariego (Madrid).
Series – Codices Mirabiles (n. 3).
Limited edition – 980 copies marked with Arabic numerals and 80 copies marked with Roman numerals. 250 copies have been reserved for Salerno Editrice.
Photography – David Loggie (New York).
Photolithographic printing – Print & Art (Graz, Austria)-
Gold reproductions – Print & Art (Graz, Austria) and Heinz Deuschle’s Graphic Workshop (Göppingen, Germany).
Binding – The facsimile was hand-sewn and bound in calfskin leather by Burkhardt bookbinders (Mönchaltore/Zürich).
Commentary – Commentary volume in Italian edited by Andrea Cuna. Texts by Weiss, Daniel H.; Voelkle, William M.; Cockerell, Sydney C.; Lupu, Eran; Babaie, Sussan; Basch Moreen, Vera. ISBN 88-8402-285-1.
ISBN – 88-8402-258-4.
Copyright photos: Illuminated Facsimiles