Corpus Apocalypse

Corpus Apocalypse – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – MS 20 – Parker Library, Corpus Christi College (Cambridge, United Kingdom)

London (United Kingdom) — 1340–1350

A highlight of the English Gothic style and a testimony to history: the Book of Revelation together with the English Coronation Rules of 1308 in a magnificently illuminated bilingual manuscript

  1. The Book of Revelation and the Coptic Apocalypse of Paul in a never before seen wealth of gold and silver

  2. Written in Latin and Anglo-Norman, the bilingual verses are an anomaly in contemporary English book art

  3. In addition, the Codex, named after the Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, contains the English coronation order of 1308

Corpus Apocalypse

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Corpus Apocalypse

The Corpus Apocalypse is a codex which originates from England in the 14th century, specifically between 1340 and 1350. The work shows the Book of Revelation and the Coptic Apocalypse of Paul in a never before seen wealth of pictures with gold and silver inlay. Additionally, it contains the English coronation rules of 1308 and is written in Latin and Anglo-Norman. The bilingual verses are an anomaly in English book art of this time and make the work popular beyond English borders.

Corpus Apocalypse

The last book of the New Testament, namely the Book of Revelation, was generally referred to as the Apocalypse. The revelation contains visions of the Day of Judgement, the end of the world, and finally the dawn of God’s Kingdom. This very vivid and symbolic biblical text had a strong influence over the whole of occidental culture. The Corpus Apocalypse is the richest in imagery and most artistically valuable edition of this text. It originates between 1340 and 1350 and contains the Coptic Apocalypse of Paul in addition to the Book of Revelation, as well as a transcript of the English coronation rules. In total, the 144 pages of text are illustrated with 121 extensive miniatures on a gold and silver background, with 280 blue initials in fire read intertwined tendrils and 59 high-quality gold initials.

Commissioned by a Venerable Family

The magnificent manuscript originates from the commission of the Cobham family. The Lords of Cobham were great landholders in southeastern England and high officials of the English court. Lord Henry Cobham, chief justice of the treasury at Westminster, had taken part in the coronation of Edward II in 1308. His son John, who most likely commissioned the codex, was likewise an attendant at a coronation, namely that of King Edward III in 1327. The coronation rules in the codex were a very personal remembering of the esteem and dignity that the family experienced with the participants of this ceremonial act. The masters who created this work are not known by name. Nevertheless they shirked no cost or labor in the furnishing of this valuable jewel.

An Eventful History

After the death of its commissioner, the Corpus Apocalypse entered into the possession of the English noblewoman Juliana de Leybourn. After her death in 1337 she bequeathed the manuscript to Benedictine Abbey of St. Augustine in Canterbury, which was dissolved in the early years of the Reformation. The book collector Mathew Parker succeeded in saving hundreds of codices from the abbey, including the Apocalyptic text. Parker, who served as the director of the Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, was named Archbishop of Canterbury in 1559 by Elizabeth I and therewith head of the Church of England. He bequeathed to his erstwhile college an enormous collection of manuscripts, among which was the Apocalypse. To this day the codex is in Cambridge and is one of the oldest and costliest works of the Parker Library.

Uniquely Rich Illustrations

There is no other manuscript of the Book of Revelation that exhibits a similar wealth of miniatures. One or possibly two gifted masters appointed the work with magnificent, artistic, and inconceivably elaborate pictures. The miniatures are painted in luminous colors on a shimmering gold background, which are designed with the help of the finest tools. There are numerous silver elements to be rediscovered in the miniatures. For the first time, the Coptic Apocalypse of Paul is visually represented with an impressive pictorial cycle. The text pertaining to the coronation rules are heralded with whole page, festive miniatures.

An Unusual Text Combination

The Corpus Apocalypse consists of three bodies of text, first the Book of Revelation, thereafter follows the Coptic Apocalypse of Paul, and closes with the coronation rules of 1308. It was normal for medieval codices to combine different texts in one book. Nevertheless the Corpus Apocalypse was recorded in a single task. The text was completed in two languages, namely Latin and Anglo-Norman, the language of the English nobility at that time. In this way, it was guaranteed that the commissioner could read and understand his work in a familiar language.


Alternative Titles
Parker Library MS 20
L'Apocalypse de Cambridge
Cambridge Corpus Christi MS 20
Size / Format
144 pages / 37.0 × 26.0 cm
Gothic Textura Quadrata
121 large-format, richly decorated miniatures, 280 blue initials with red flourishing, and 59 gold initials
The Book of Revelation, the Coptic Apocalypse of Paul, and the English coronation rules of 1308
Probably John de Cobham, 2nd Baron Cobham (d. 1355)
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Juliana de Leybourn, Countess of Huntington (1303/04–67)
St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury
Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury (1504–75)

Available facsimile editions:
Corpus Apocalypse – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – MS 20 – Parker Library, Corpus Christi College (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2012
Limited Edition: 680 copies
Detail Picture

Corpus Apocalypse

The Beast and His Armies Defeated

Riding white horses, beautifully adorned in high medieval armor and wearing golden crowns, the heavenly host is depicted routing the Beast and his armies, driving them into the Hellmouth. “Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” (Rev. 19:20)

Corpus Apocalypse – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – MS 20 – Parker Library, Corpus Christi College (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Single Page

Corpus Apocalypse

The Pale Horseman

This splendid miniature depicts one of the most chilling verses from the Bible: “And I looked, and behold, a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over a fourth part of the earth to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” (Rev. 6:8)

To the right and before a face-patterned background we see the Pale Rider holding a sword, the fourth of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, followed by the Hellmouth. It is situated below the Lamb of God in the mandorla, who has the book with the seven seals and is flanked by a winged lion, one of the “living creatures”. To the left, we see John with his book before a patterned background of red and blue.

Corpus Apocalypse – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – MS 20 – Parker Library, Corpus Christi College (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Corpus-Christi-Apokalypse

Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2012

Publisher: Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2012
Limited Edition: 680 copies
Binding: Light-colored leather, like the original Presented with commentary volume in a protective case made of acrylic glass
Commentary: 1 volume by Nigel J. Morgan, Peter K. Klein, Christopher de Hamel, and Daron Burrows
Languages: English, German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
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