Facsimile Editions: Written in Gold and Silver

Since ancient times, tinctures enriched with gold and silver powder have been used to give manuscripts a particularly splendid calligraphic finish. In the Middle Ages, gold and silver ink was reserved only for the highest-ranking religious texts and symbolized light, heaven, and the immaterial omnipotence of God. The metallic glow of the script was also often emphasized by means of purple or black dyed parchment pages, which made the manuscripts many times more expensive. While the silver inks today often appear black because they have formed silver sulfide over the centuries, the golden letters of the Codices Aurei rarely lack their ancient luster.

Codex Aureus of Echternach

Made by order of Theophanus, written entirely in gold, and adorned with a breathtaking magnificent binding: arguably the most splendid and beautiful manuscript of all time, created in the famous scriptorium of Echternach

Echternach Abbey (Luxembourg) — 1020–1050

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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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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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Codex Aureus Escorialensis

Created in the famous abbey of Echternach, magnificently illuminated, and written entirely in gold: the Salian imperial evangeliary of Henry III

Echternach Abbey (Luxembourg) — 1043–1046

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Gospels of John of Opava

The "founding work" of the Austrian National Library, written entirely in gold ink, with its magnificent original binding: a Bohemian Codex Aureus with breathtaking historiated initials and miniatures

Bohemia (Czech Republic) — 1368

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Codex Purpureus Rossanensis

Containing the earliest portrait of an Evangelist in book illumination: one of the oldest surviving and most fascinating Gospel books in history on purple parchment

Asia Minor — 6th century

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Codex Aureus of St. Emmeram

Created in the palace school of Charles the Bald and the cornerstone of the famous scriptorium of Regensburg: uniquely complex ornamentation and magnificent miniatures in a golden luxury codex from the Early Middle Ages

Abbey of Saint-Médard de Soissons (France) and Abbey of St. Emmeram, Regensburg (Germany) — Ca. 870 and 975–1000

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Durazzo Book of Hours

A masterpiece entirely in gold and purple: one of the last and one of the most beautiful purple manuscripts of the late Middle Ages

Parma (Italy) — Beginning of the 16th century

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Royal Prayer Book for Otto III

Germany — 983–991

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Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza

Black parchment and bright colors commissioned by Charles the Bold: arguably the most beautiful of the seven black illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages that survive today

Bruges (Belgium) — 1466–1476

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Vienna Genesis

The word of God in silver ink and enchanting miniatures on purple parchment: one of the oldest surviving biblical manuscripts and a masterpiece of Byzantine book illumination

Syria — First half of the 6th century

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Mainz Gospels

A German Codex Aureus in the Mainz cathedral treasure: written with golden ink and adorned with bright miniatures in a jagged style

Mainz (Germany) — 1230–1250

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Golden Psalter of St. Gall

A psalterium aureum from the Carolingian period for the famous monastery of St. Gall: probably created in the circle of King Louis the German, written almost entirely in gold and decorated with purple scenes from the life of King David.

Francia (Soissons?) and the St. Gall Monastery — Ca. 870–900

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Book of Hours of Cardinal Carafa

Careful calligraphy, ornate initials, and pastel miniatures in perfection: a gleaming golden Renaissance masterpiece on purple parchment for the mentor of the future Pope Paul IV

Italy — 15th century

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Black Hours

Radiant miniatures, glowing borders and gold initials on black colored parchment: one of only seven black manuscripts that have survived to this day

Bruges (Belgium) — Ca. 1475

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Golden Calendar of Albrecht Glockendon from 1526

A sparkling jewel of the German Renaissance: golden calendar pictures by the famous Nuremberg painter Albrecht Glockendon

Nuremberg (Germany) — 1526

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