Facsimile Editions: World Famous Manuscripts

If you are interested in medieval illumination, you have certainly heard of these works: the Book of Kells, the Très Riches Heures, or the Codex Manesse. Here we would like to give you an overview (not quite complete, of course) of the most famous manuscripts in history and why they have achieved such fame.

Book of Kells

A UNESCO World Heritage document and arguably the most famous manuscript in the world: the mystical masterpiece of insular illumination

Monastery of Iona (United Kingdom) — Ca. 800

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The Très Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry

Our picture of the Middle Ages, created by the Limbourg brothers for the Duke of Berry: one of the most beautiful, valuable, and famous manuscripts in the world

Paris and/or Bourges (France) — 1410–1416 and 1485–1489

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Codex Manesse

The famous great song manuscript from Heidelberg: a unique treasure of German literature, medieval history, and Gothic book illumination

Zurich/Lake Constance area (Zwitzerland) — After 1310 until ca. 1340

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Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire

Part of the Imperial Insignia, written in gold ink on purple parchment: each German emperor swore his oath with his hand on this book

Court School of Charlemagne, Aachen (Germany) — Shortly before 800

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Vienna Dioscorides

A milestone of medicine written 1500 years ago in Byzantium: the largest and most influential work on herbal medicine in history

Istanbul (Turkey) — Ca. 512

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Morgan Crusader's Bible

From King Louis the Saint into the possession of J. P. Morgan in New York via the Shah of Persia: one of the most beautifully illuminated and famous manuscripts of the Middle Ages

Paris (France) — Ca. 1250

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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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The oldest manuscript from the famous monastery of Reichenau and a UNESCO World Heritage Document today: a splendid Ottonian evangeliary in gold and silver commissioned by Archbishop Gero of Cologne

Monastery of Reichenau (Germany) — ca. 696

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Gospels of Henry the Lion

Auctioned for 32.5 million D-marks, it was the most expensive work of art in the world for a long time: an opulently illuminated masterpiece of the German Romanesque period, created for Duke Henry the Lion, the great rival of Emperor Barbarossa

Helmarshausen (Germany) — Around 1175–1188

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Voynich Manuscript

Secret teachings, a work of extraterrestrials, or just an elaborate joke: undoubtedly the most mysterious and puzzling manuscript in the history of book illumination

France, Italy or Spain — End of 15th century or during the 16th century

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Codex Hammer

Bought at auction by Bill Gates in 1994 for over $30 million: Leonardo da Vinci's fascinating studies of nature, named after their former owner Armand Hammer

Italy — 1508–1510

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Bamberg Apocalypse

Possibly the greatest masterpiece from Reichenau Monastery, illuminated in gold and found today on the UNESCO World Heritage list: the only preserved apocalypse from the Ottonian period

Monastery of Reichenau (Germany) — Around 1000–1020

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Bedford Hours

The Bedford Master's magnum opus with splendid full-page miniatures and more than 1,250 medallions: one of the richest and most beautiful illuminated manuscripts of all time

Paris (France) — Written 1410–1415, illuminated 1415–1430

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Kennicott Bible

One of the most important and beautiful manuscripts in Spain: the masterfully illuminated luxury Hebrew Bible of Moses Ibn Zaraba

La Coruña (Spain) — 1476

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Codex Aureus of Echternach

Made on behalf of Theophanus, adorned with a breathtakingly splendor cover, written entirely in gold: arguably the most magnificent and beautiful manuscript ever

Echternach Abbey (Luxembourg) — 1020–1050

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Golden Bull

Created at the famous court of King Wenceslas IV in Prague: the "Constitution" of the Middle Ages, magnificently illuminated and richly decorated with gold

Prague (Czech Republic) — 1400

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Beatus of Liébana - Huelga Codex

The last and at the same time largest manuscript of the famous Spanish Beatus tradition: over 100 Gothic miniatures, some of them double-pages, created for the daughter of King Alfonso III of Castile

Las Huelgas Monastery, Burgos (Spain) — 1220

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