Velislai Biblia Picta

Velislai Biblia Picta – Sumptibus Pragopress – ms. XXIII.C.124 – National Library of the Czech Republic (Prague, Czech Republic)

Prague (Czech Republic) — 1325–1349

The Bible as an enormous picture book with an incredible 747 miniatures on more than 365 pages: a Gothic Biblia pauperum created at the Prague court of King John I of Bohemia and his son, Emperor Charles IV

  1. The manuscript was created between 1325 and 1349 in Prague, where both monarchs held court

  2. It was commissioned by Velislav the Canon (d. 1367), a notary and court scribe in Prague

  3. Aside from typical biblical texts, it contains the legends of the Bohemian saints Wenceslas and Ludmila

Velislai Biblia Picta

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Velislai Biblia Picta

The Velislai biblia picta, also known as the Velislaus Bible or Velislav's Bible, is a richly illuminated manuscript originating between 1325 and 1349 in Prague. It is a picture Bible, the text of which is limited to titles or brief descriptions of the 747 miniatures on 188 folios illustrating the events of the Old and New Testaments. Most of these images are drawn only in ink, but some have been colored. The codex was created by a team of artists working at the behest of Velislav the Canon, who served as a notary and court scribe for King John I of Bohemia and his son Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, both of whom established their courts in Prague.

Velislai Biblia Picta

The Velislai Biblia Picta is a masterfully designed picture Bible created at the beginning of a golden age of illumination in Prague. It is named after its patron, Velislav the Canon (ca. 1300–67), who is depicted kneeling before a statue of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Although it does not assume the typical form a Biblia pauperum being more sophisticated and having more images, the manuscript is generally considered as such. Some art historians have referred to it as a “medieval comic book” because of its image-forward design with captions and occasionally names of characters.
Its contents comprise the books of Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, Judges, Judith, and the Book of Revelations as well as various cycles concerning Christ, the Antichrist, and the lives of St. Wenceslas and St. Ludmila of Bohemia. The fact that most of the manuscript remained uncolored allows us to observe the fine pen strokes from the skillful hands of the master illuminators who drew them. Their sophisticated design of the miniatures already exhibits some of the characteristics of the nascent International Gothic style, especially the elegance of the figures and more realistic depiction of animals.

The Roots of Czech Nationality and Culture

The reigns of King John I of Bohemia (1296–1346) and especially that of his son Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (1316–78) were important for Czech political and cultural history and represent a period of prosperity as Prague became the imperial capital. The reign of Charles IV marks the first flowering of book art in Prague as illuminators from across Europe were attracted by the Emperor’s reputation as a patron of the arts who funded the construction of the iconic Charles University, Charles Bridge, Charles Square, Prague Castle, and St. Vitus Cathedral. Prague became one of the places where the International Gothic or Soft Style, which blended aspects of various national artistic styles to create a style of courtly sophistication, first emerged. Thus, Charles IV is not only the Pater Patriae of the modern Czech Republic, but a significant figure of art history as well.


Alternative Titles
Velislav's Bible
Velislavova bible
Velislaus bible
Size / Format
376 pages / 30.7 × 24.5 cm
747 miniatures of biblical scenes as pen and ink drawings in various sizes
Beginning of the Old Testament, part of the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, the entire Apocalypse and the legend of St. Wenceslas
Velislav the Canon (d. 1367), notary and court scribe to King John I of Bohemia and his son Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV

Available facsimile editions:
Velislai Biblia Picta – Sumptibus Pragopress – ms. XXIII.C.124 – National Library of the Czech Republic (Prague, Czech Republic)
Sumptibus Pragopress – Prague, 1970
Limited Edition: 970 copies
Detail Picture

Velislai Biblia Picta

The Fifth Trumpet

At the sound of the Fifth Trumpet, an angel is given a key to open the bottomless pit, out with which emerges smoke and locusts resembling warhorses armored for war. Their crowned heads have the faces of men and the long hair of women, they have teeth like lions, tails like scorpions, and their wings thunder like charging chariots and horses. Commanded by the angel Abbadon, depicted holding a sword and book, they torment all who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads for five months.

Velislai Biblia Picta
Single Page

Velislai Biblia Picta

Jacob’s Ladder

Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.” (Gen. 28: 12–13)

The dream of Jacob’s Ladder is highly debated among theologians, but it is generally agreed that is represents both the obligations and inheritance of God’s chosen people as well as the perpetual intercourse between heaven and earth, which in the Christian context is symbolized by Jesus Christ, who is depicted sitting on top of the ladder with a banderole connecting him to the sleeping Jacob.

Velislai Biblia Picta
Facsimile Editions

#1 Velislai Biblia Picta

Sumptibus Pragopress – Prague, 1970

Publisher: Sumptibus Pragopress – Prague, 1970
Limited Edition: 970 copies
Binding: Imitation leather binding in cassette
Commentary: 1 volume by Karel Stejskal
Language: English, French, German, Russian, Czech
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€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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