The Book of Secret Revelation

The Book of Secret Revelation Facsimile Edition

Italy or France — Late 13th / early 14th century

A French-English-Italian apocalypse from the collection of the Earl of Ashburnham: 52 impressive, full-page and gold-decorated miniatures of the Late Middle Ages on the Revelation of John

  1. This magnificent manuscript features miniatures of the Bolognese school and the school of Metz and follows the tradition of English illumination

  2. 52 full-page, often gold-decorated miniatures depict the dramatic struggle of the powers of heaven against the powers of darkness

  3. The manuscript was in the possession of Lord Bertrand IV Earl of Ashburnham when he sold his collection to the Italian government in 1884, which eventually gave it to the Biblioteca Laurenziana in Florence

The Book of Secret Revelation

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
The Book of Secret Revelation

This richly adorned Apocalypse manuscript is as mysterious as it is gorgeous: the 52 full-page miniatures of the manuscript appear to have been created between 1276 and 1300, but the text was not added until the early 1330’s. Originally created in Metz, the codex nonetheless exhibits influences from English and Italian art while also predating the emergence of the International Gothic by decades. Despite being richly adorned with precious pigments and gold leaf, the original patron remains anonymous, but the manuscript later found itself passing through the hands of some of the most famous antiquarians and collectors of the 19th century. The Book of Secret Revelation thus remains an intriguing work of art whose mysteries have yet to be fully explained.

The Book of Secret Revelation

Although many of the details regarding this splendidly illuminated manuscript remain unclear, it has been deduced by researchers that the 52 full-page miniatures brightly colored and embellished with gold leaf, some in the style of the Bolognese school and the rest in the French style, were created in Metz during the late-13th century. The image program appears to be modelled on contemporary English Apocalypse manuscripts, the Lambeth Apocalypse in particular. As such, this work is a hybrid of artistic influences that predates the International Gothic style by a generation or two. Internal elements of the text indicate that it was added to the manuscript between 1331 and 1334: a note on fol. 72v refers to the reign of the Avignon Pope John XXII, which ended upon his death in 1334, and another note on fol. 73v is dated 1331. The text was neatly written in two columns by a skilled hand and is adorned by filigree tendrils, historiated and zoomorphic initials, and various figures.

The Turbulent History of a Coveted Manuscript

Although the fate of the manuscripts in the early centuries of its existence remains a mystery, one of the previous owners may have left his coat of arms with an eight-pointed star on the inside of the previous cover and a circular ink stamp with the coat of arms of Savoy is found on fols. 1r, 33r, and 139r. The manuscript was rebound in leather with a motif of metal palmettes between 1751 and 1850 and the title APOCALISSE stamped in gold on the spine. It is known with certainty that the manuscript belonged to the Pucci family, who sold it to Count Guglielmo Libri (1803–69) in 1840. The latter took it to Paris in 1843 and sold it, together with his entire collection, to Lord Bertrand IV Earl of Ashburnham (1797–1878) in 1847. In 1884, Lord Bertrand V Earl of Ashburnham (1840–1913) sold his book collection to the Italian government, which was eventually assigned to the Biblioteca Laurenziana in Florence under the shelf mark Ashb. 415.


Alternative Titles
Das Buch der geheimen Offenbarung
Size / Format
278 pages / 21.5 × 16.0 cm
Late 13th / early 14th century
52 full-page miniatures
Revelation of John
Previous Owners
Puci Familiy
Gugliemo Libri
Lords Bertrand IV Earl of Ashburnham

Available facsimile editions:
The Book of Secret Revelation – Codex Ashb. 415 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy) Facsimile Edition
Imago – Rimini, 2021
Limited Edition: 399 copies
Detail Picture

The Book of the Secret Revelation

Zoomorphic Initial with Seven-Headed Dragon

This “I” initial following an incipit written in red ink depicts the dragon, a manifestation of Satan that is typically depicted with seven heads. During the War in Heaven, the Archangel Michael and his angels do battle with Satan and his fallen angels, who are cast down to earth and lose their fair hues. This is represented here by the figure of a naked man falling from an orb that is gold on top (heaven) and blue on the bottom (earth).

Das Buch der geheimen Offenbarung
Single Page

The Book of Secret Revelation

The Third Seal

Riding a horse black as night and carrying a pair of scales, the arrival of famine and scarcity is announced by the third living creature, depicted by the artist as the bull associated with Luke the Evangelist, which is surrounded by clouds in the upper left corner with a golden halo. This is not consistent with Scripture but is in accordance with the imagery of the Lambeth Apocalypse.

The Horseman wears luxurious garments of emerald green and red; the scales he carries are a symbol of suffering used to balance good and evil as well as an allegory for famine because they were used to weigh bread. Without wallowing in self-indulgent detail, the artist has elegantly presented this image in a manner that is open to interpretation.

Das Buch der geheimen Offenbarung
Facsimile Editions

#1 Das Buch der geheimen Offenbarung

Imago – Rimini, 2021

Publisher: Imago – Rimini, 2021
Limited Edition: 399 copies
Binding: Embossed leather binding decorated with metalwork
Commentary: 1 volume
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.
Regular price without login (used)6,390 
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