Vienna Genesis

Vienna Genesis

Syria — First half of the 6th century

One of the oldest surviving biblical manuscripts: Greek text in silver ink and charming miniatures on purple-colored parchment

  1. This is a primary work of Byzantine illumination and one of the oldest surviving biblical manuscripts

  2. Purple parchment and Greek text written in precious silver ink make it a unique treasure of illumination

  3. This highly coveted manuscript was the possession of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I (1640–1705) inter alia

Vienna Genesis

Regularly 1,190 €
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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (2)
Description
Vienna Genesis

The co-called Vienna Genesis is one of the most significant treasures of the Austrian National Library in Vienna: a primary work of Byzantine illumination and one of the oldest surviving biblical manuscripts. The biblical text of the Book of Genesis is wonderfully illustrated with 48 colorful miniatures in this 6th century manuscript. With its purple pages and Greek text written in precious silver ink, these high-quality early bible illustrations present the manuscript as a unique treasure of illumination history!

Vienna Genesis

The co-called Vienna Genesis is one of the most significant treasures of the Austrian National Library in Vienna: a primary work of Byzantine illumination and one of the oldest surviving biblical manuscripts. The biblical text of the Book of Genesis is wonderfully illustrated with 48 colorful miniatures in this 6th century manuscript. With its purple pages and Greek text written in precious silver ink, these high-quality early bible illustrations present the manuscript as a unique treasure of illumination history!

The Work of a Group of Miniaturists

The gorgeously powerful colors of the miniatures, which handsomely come into their own against the dark-purple background, immediately enchant every beholder with their allure. Several masterful illuminators were involved in the creation of this splendid primary work of Byzantine illumination. They can be distinguished by their various styles and are collectively referred to as the Masters of the Vienna Genesis in research.

Fascinating Illumination from Late Antiquity

They created 48 luminous miniatures illustrating the text of the Book of Genesis. From the Fall of Man to the expulsion from Paradise, these depictions deal with the biblical stories of Noah, Abraham, Lot, and other figures on up to Joseph. The miniatures, under their respective texts, are sometimes ordered into to registers stacked one above the other and are mostly placed on the page without frames. They show gorgeous depictions of human figures as well as animals (e.g. the scene of Noah’s Ark), landscapes, and architecture. As a result, the successful attempt at imitating nature as closely as possible is clearly recognizable. The miniatures are considered to be true masterpieces of ancient illumination!

A Fragile Treasure

The famous Codex theol. gr. 31 of the Austrian National Library occupies an outstanding position in the history of illumination as one of the few surviving testimonies of illumination from late-antiquity. In addition to this aspect as an attestation of early bible illustration, the Vienna Genesis is also one of the oldest surviving biblical manuscripts. The manuscript with its Greek text is a 6th century work, probably originating from Syria. Due to the very fragile and vulnerable condition of the extremely precious manuscript, the 48 purple sheets written with silver ink are stored individually between acrylic glass plates.

In the Imperial Art Collection

The late-antique manuscript, which probably circulated in Italian for a time, and was in the possession of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in the 17th century. This he bequeathed in his will to Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I in 1662. It came to the court library from the imperial art collection in 1664 and today is part of the manuscript collection of the Austrian National Library.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Wiener Genesis
Genèse de Vienne
Génesis de Viena
Size / Format
48 pages (of an original 192) / 30.7 - 33.3 × 25.0 - 27.0 cm
Origin
Date
First half of the 6th century
Epochs
Language
Script
Uncial
Illustrations
48 miniatures are preserved (of an original 192)
Content
Book of Genesis
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Archduke Leopold Wilhelm

Available facsimile editions:
Vienna Genesis – Cod. theol. gr. 31 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2019
Limited Edition: 480 copies

Vienna Genesis – Cod. theol. gr. 31 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Insel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1980
Limited Edition: 900 copies
Detail Picture

Vienna Genesis

Lot and his Family Flee Sodom

Since not even ten righteous men can be found in the city, Sodom is doomed, but Lot and his family are spared: “When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, ‘Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.’ And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.” (Gen. 19:15-16)

Die Wiener Genesis
Single Page

Vienna Genesis

The Fall of Man

This gorgeous purple page from one of the earliest biblical manuscripts is divided in two: a text field written in silver ink and a miniature contained in a simple red frame. In the miniature, the story of Adam and Eve’s fall from a state of holy innocence is depicted in three stages. The first two humans are depicted here in a thicket of flowering fruit trees.

On the left, we see Adam accepting the forbidden fruit from Eve, but the treacherous serpent is nowhere to be seen. In the center, we see the moment that they realize their own nudity – their faces, Eve’s especially, clearly express their shame. In the final scene on the right, they are hiding their nakedness from God, looking up fearfully at His hand shown extending down from Heaven.

Die Wiener Genesis
Facsimile Editions

#1 Die Wiener Genesis

Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2019
Vienna Genesis – Cod. theol. gr. 31 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Vienna Genesis – Cod. theol. gr. 31 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2019
Limited Edition: 480 copies
Binding: Dark brown goatskin with gold tooling
Commentary: 1 volume (207 pages) by Otto Mazal
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Folios are not according to the original.
Regularly 1,190 €
Edition available
Price: Login here!

#2 Wiener Genesis

Insel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1980

Publisher: Insel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1980
Limited Edition: 900 copies
Binding: Red goatskin
Commentary: 1 volume (207 pages) by Otto Mazal
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Folios are not cut according to the original.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Please ask for a quote!
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