Golden Bible - Biblia Pauperum

Golden Bible - Biblia Pauperum – Faksimile Verlag – Kings MS 5 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)

The Hague (Netherlands) — Ca. 1395–1405

Created in the Hague at the court of Count Albrecht of Bavaria-Holland: a magnificently illuminated picture Bible with images from the New and Old Testaments in an unusual landscape format

  1. The quality illumination and unusual landscape format make each page of this codex a small work of art

  2. Shown are two scenes of the Old Testament and one of the New Testament

  3. Lost for three centuries, it was rediscovered by a British noble family and gifted to King George III

Golden Bible - Biblia Pauperum

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Golden Bible - Biblia Pauperum

The Golden Bible is a Biblia Pauperum in an unusual, landscape format codex, which documents the stories of the New Testament in pictures. The splendid miniatures, richly adorned with gold and silver, make each page of the codex a small work of art. The magnificent 15th century manuscript had an eventful ownership history before coming into the possession of King George III and the British Library.

The Golden Picture Bible “Biblia Pauperum”

A codex arose at the beginning of the 15th century in an unusual form, which told the stories of the Holy Scripture in captioned pictures. The illustrated book showed expensively gilded scenes from the New Testament, which were accompanied by clarifying images from the Old Testament. The work contains 93 images of gold and silver bedecked miniatures, of which there are three on each page. The middle image always contained an event from the New Testament that are framed by drawings of busts of the prophets. Depictions from the Old Testament are to be found the right and left of these scenes, respectively, that are to be considered as forerunners for the New Testament events. An example of this is found in the fourth page of the book, depicting the flight of Mary and Joseph with Jesus as a child. To the left of this scene one finds an image that shows the flight of Joseph to his uncle Laban, and to the right, an image of St. Michael as he aided David in his flight from Saul. In this way, an explanatory correlation between the biblical stories of the New and Old Testaments was manufactured.

The Master Remains Unknown

The Golden Bible was most likely created by an artist, who was active at the court of Count Albrecht von Bayern-Holland and his second wife Margaretha von Kleve in the early years of the 15th century. Judging by remarkable similarities in the artwork, it is very likely to have been the same artist who is responsible for the creation of Margaretha’s book of hours, it cannot be a mere coincidence. The illuminator wanted his work to have a very specific purpose. Heretics, such as the Cathars, which attracted more and more followers at the end of the Middle Ages, were to be confronted with such a fine biblical text. Their dangerous ideas, which brought the prevailing Christian world view into question, were to be refuted using an artistically appealing manner.

A Turbulent History

After the picture Bible was finished, it disappeared for nearly three centuries and its abode in this time has still not been fully clarified today. Its name is recorded in a 16th century book, namely the Ratclyff Boke. It was verifiably transmitted from this lord to an English noblemen in Lancashire. A descendant of this family gifted the book in the 18th century to King George III. At this time, the bible was furnished with a red leather binding from Morocco and gold embossing. In 1823, the entire library of King George III was given over to the state by his son. Today the book is to be found in the British Library in London.

Definitely Not a Poor Man’s Bible

The codex only has the affixed name Biblia Pauperum through a chance accident. Although the poor at the end of the Middle Ages were still mostly illiterate, illustrated books were used to disseminate biblical texts. The Golden Bible can hardly be considered a work that was intended for the lower classes because of its opulent gilding. The magnificent, vividly colored, and richly bedecked with gold and silver miniatures evince the talent of its master and indicate a princely commissioner. The large format of the biblical scenes is particularly appealing, for which the painter chose a width of 18 centimeters and a height of nearly 40 centimeters for his picture bible. This format is truly unusual. The long, landscape formatted pages are particularly enjoyable for the modern beholder to read and discover.


Alternative Titles
Goldene Bilderbibel - Biblia Pauperum
Size / Format
70 pages / 17.9 × 38.4 cm
Ca. 1395–1405
Gothic Textura Quadrata
93 miniatures preserved (out of at least 99 originally); 31 New Testament and 62 Old Testament
Picture Bible
Albert I, Duke of Bavaria (1336–1404), or his second wife Margaret of Cleves (ca. 1375–1411)
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Ratclyff family
King George III of England (1738–1820)
George IV of England (1762–1830)

Available facsimile editions:
Golden Bible - Biblia Pauperum – Faksimile Verlag – Kings MS 5 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 1993
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Detail Picture

Golden Bible - Biblia Pauperum

Harrowing of Hell

Staff in hand, Christ reaches out to the denizens of Hell, depicted in typical fashion as the mouth of a great monster – the Hellmouth. This common scene occurring between the Crucifixion and Resurrection shows Christ proclaiming good tidings to the dead and bringing salvation to all the righteous who have died since the beginning of the world. The miniature is almost completely symmetrical, divided between the gaping Hellmouth and background of tiles with delicate patterns in gold ink.

Golden Bible - Biblia Pauperum – Faksimile Verlag – Kings MS 5 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Single Page

Golden Bible - Biblia Pauperum

The Resurrection

A rare landscape format allows for interesting compositions like this. As was typical in Gothic manuscripts, a primary scene from the New Testament is juxtaposed with scenes from the Old Testament with which it shares some common message. Here, the Resurrection is flanked to the left by a miniature of Samson carrying off the gates of Gaza and to the right by Jonah, who has just been spit up by the wale.

All three images have similar frames of red, blue, and gold, the two Old Testament scenes feature burnished gold backgrounds while the Resurrection is presented before a fine pattern of dark blue and gold. Deliverance is the common theme: Jesus is released from death, Samson escapes his enemies, and Jonas is liberated from the belly of the whale.

Golden Bible - Biblia Pauperum – Faksimile Verlag – Kings MS 5 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Goldene Bilderbibel - Biblia Pauperum

Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 1993

Publisher: Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 1993
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: The magnificent binding of red morocco leather with its rich gold ornamentation was elaborately handmade. Gold edges shine on all three cut sides of the volume.
Commentary: 1 volume by Janet Bachhouse, James Marrow, and Gerhard Schmidt
Languages: English, French, 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: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
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