Facsimile Editions: Treasures from the Vatican

A library with a long history and one of the most valuable collections in the world: the Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana houses some of the greatest treasures of illumination. Here is an overview of some of the most outstanding works in the Holy See's important collection of manuscripts.

Lorsch Gospels

Held in the hands of Emperor Charlemagne, adorned with a masterful ivory cover: a world famous highlight of Carolingian book art

Aachen (Germany) — Ca. 810

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Missale Pontificis - Christmas Missal of Alexander VI

Still used at Christmas in St. Peter's Basilica: a magnificent Renaissance masterpiece for the famous Borgia Pope Alexander VI

Rome (Italy) — Late 15th century

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Leo Bible

Made by order of the imperial treasurer Leo Patrikios: the oldest Byzantine picture Bible with the earliest depictions of saints in Christianity

Court Scriptorium, Istanbul (Turkey) — Ca. 925–950

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Bible of Federico da Montefeltro

A huge, two-volume masterpiece with grandiose miniature paintings: the luxury Bible for one of the richest princes of the Italian Renaissance

Florence (Italy) — 1476–1478

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Bodmer VIII Papyrus - Epistles of St. Peter

Epistles of Peter, the apocryphal correspondence of 3 Corinthians and the birth of Mary: a fascinating insight into the origins of the Bible in a nearly 1,800-year-old papyrus

Egypt — 3rd century

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The Art of Falconry by Frederick II

De arte venandi cum avibus, one of the most famous manuscripts of the Middle Ages: the masterpiece of falconry, written by the Staufer Emperor Frederick II

Rotunda or Naples (Italy) — Ca. 1258–1266

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Codex Borgia

Painted and folded sheets with a total length of almost 11 meters: a richly illuminated testimony to the seemingly strange world of ancient Mexico before the arrival of the Conquistadores

Written possibly in the zone of Puebla-Tlaxcala-Cholula (Mexico) — 15th century

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Menologion - Book of Saints of Emperor Vasilios II

Byzantine illumination commissioned by the Emperor: the lives of saints in 400+ golden miniatures

Istanbul (Turkey) — Late 10th century or early 11th century

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Romance of the Rose of Berthaud d'Achy

The tender rose as a symbol for the woman: 93 golden miniatures illuminate what is perhaps the most famous allegorical romance novel of the Middle Ages

Paris (France) — Ca. 1280

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Divine Comedy of Sandro Botticelli

A masterpiece full of images associated with the great names of the fine arts: Dante Alighieri, Sandro Botticelli, and Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici.

Florence (Italy) — 1480–1490

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Pontifical of Boniface IX

Created for a pope at war with the Visconti: A golden treasure of Gothic book illumination and a highlight of the Vatican Library

Italy — End of the 14th century

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Vatican Book of Hours from the Circle of Jean Bourdichon

A genius painter active at the court of no less than three French kings: Jean Bourdichon and his magnificent masterpiece of the Gothic style from the Vatican

France — Second half of the 15th century

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Vergilius Vaticanus

Like murals from Pompeii: the oldest Vergil manuscript from antiquity and the most important example of an illustrated book of the period

Rome (Italy) — Around 400

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Codex Vaticanus B

A unique testimony from the 4th century: the oldest complete Greek manuscript of the Old Testament and perhaps the best version of the Septuagint

Probably Constantinople (Turkey) — 4th century

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Dante Urbinate

Owned by the Renaissance prince Federico da Montefeltro: one of the finest illuminated editions of Dante's Divine Comedy

Urbino and Ferrara (Italy) — Ca. 1480

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Atlas of Henry VIII

Made for the imperial aspirations of the English king: the magnificent luxury atlas of Henry VIII created by the famous Venetian cartographer Battista Agnese

Venice (Italy) — 1542–1547

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Codex Benedictus

Commissioned by Abbot Desiderius: a magnificently illuminated lectionary with insights into the life of St. Benedict and the everyday life of the Montecassino Abbey

Montecassino Abbey (Italy) — Ca. 1070

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Latin Dioscorides

Depictions and information concerning 600 plants: a masterful Dioscorides manuscript in the possession of Pope Alexander VII

Italy — Ca. 1400

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Legenda Aurea - Anjou Legendarium

Intended as a picture book for the son of the Hungarian king: a masterpiece with golden miniatures of the Trecento based on Jacobus de Voragine's famous tale of the saints

Hungary — Ca. 1330–1340

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