Created long before Luther: a large Bible in German vernacular with over 550 expressive images

Vorau Picture Bible

South Germany — 1467

Vorau Picture Bible

Vorau Picture Bible

South Germany — 1467

  1. A German vernacular Bible from long before Luther's translation of the Bible

  2. The four-volume work boasts 559 miniatures rendered skillfully in innovatively expressive watercolors

  3. The figures of this popular Bible already have individual characteristics that were still lacking in contemporary "high art"

Die Vorauer Volksbibel (Special Edition in 1 Volume)

Vorau Picture Bible

Adam in the Garden of Eden

As a joyful God reigns overhead in the clouds, Adam is shown walking through the Garden of Eden in a blissful state of nude ignorance and presumably naming the animals that surround him. This miniature shows the period directly preceding the creation of Eve and depicts Paradise as a walled garden. The enclosed garden or hortus conclusus as a metaphor for paradise goes back to ancient Persia and symbolizes the Immaculate Conception as well as having numerous other allegorical connotations.

Vorau Picture Bible

Alternative Titles:
  • Vorauer Volksbibel
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

Picture Bibles were hugely important in the Middle Ages for transmitting biblical knowledge and events to a population that was semi-literate. The Bible Historiale went a step further by combining biblical and secular history, thus creating a kind of universal history stretching from the present back to Creation. To make the information even more accessible, they were usually written in vernacular instead of Latin. The most beautiful among these German-language Bible Historiale is undoubtedly the Vorauer People's Bible. The four-volume work boasts 559 miniatures rendered skillfully in watercolors and possessing a complex expressiveness that was unique for the time, as is the precise dating of the manuscript's completion.

Vorau Picture Bible

The end of the Middle ages was marked by great spiritual, social, and economic upheavals. These are also reflected in the manuscripts of that time, which can be regarded as outstanding documents of this cultural development. This was especially true of the Bible Historiale, a synthesis of biblical and secular history. Biblical stories were developed through them by secular-historic and philosophical digressions to a type of medieval universal-history that stretches from Creation to the present. Historical gaps in the biblical events were closed with legends and terrestrial history-works. Written in the language of the people, the Bible Historiale filled the demand by offering religious-educational edification on the one hand and also served to widen the knowledge of the population through an accessible history book.

559 outstanding miniatures

Among the approximately 100 German-language Bible Historiale, the Vorauer People's Bible occupies the highest position in an artistic sense. Altogether 559 miniatures accompany the text written in a Bavarian-Austrian dialect. These incredible miniatures are spread across 4 volumes:
1. The New Testament
2. The Old Testament I
3. The Old Testament II
4. The Old Testament III

The Most Beautiful German Picture Bible

The artists colored the skillfully executed quill pen drawings in shining watercolors with their own expressionistic tendencies. The figures are expressed with an inner and outer emotionality indicating an attempt at characterization and individualization -- style-characteristics that were noticeably absent from the "High Art" of the time. Originally, the miniatures were primarily used to interpret the texts and to illustrate the manuscript, but they also fill another function for the present day observer: they document medieval life in a most diverse way. Throughout the illustrations, the Vorauer People's Bible turns into a virtually inexhaustible source for the costumes and decorations of the time. The text of the Vorauer Peoples Bible was executed very carefully in Austrian bastarda and as such is easily legible. The text was written in red while the initials are in red and blue.

Provenance

The Vorauer People's Bible can be exactly dated to its time of completion. Folio 447v contains details of the dates by the scribe: "Also hat ein endt dy wibel dy alt ee vnd ein tail der newen ee vnd ist geendt waren in vigilia omnium sanctorum anno domini M °CCCC °67". The day of the completion was therefore the 31. 10. 1467. The name of the scribe is not mentioned. With all likelihood, it was someone well informed in religious matters, probably a minister from the region of southern Germany. The manner in which the manuscript came to the library of Vorau has not yet been determined. Its first mention there is in the year 1733 and since that time has been regarded as its major treasure.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Vorauer Volksbibel
Size / Format
920 pages / 40.5 x 28.5 cm
Date
1467
Style
Gothic
Language
Illustrations
559 colored pen drawings and numerous initials
Die Vorauer Volksbibel (Special Edition in 1 Volume)

Vorau Picture Bible

Cain and Abel

In the Book of Genesis, Cain famously slays his brother Abel after God rejects his offering in favor of his brother’s, and then lies about it, earning him the curse and mark of Cain. Aside from being the first two children of Adam and Eve, the brothers possess tremendous symbolic value, representing everything from the birth of evil to the rise of agriculture.

The miniatures are inserted in line with the two-column German text. On the left, the brothers present their burnt offerings at the altar, Abel the shepherd presents the choicest lamb of his flock while Cain merely offers a bushel of grain. The following scene shows Abel lying on the ground, head already bleeding from a wound, as Cain raises the hoe to strike again.

6 available facsimile edition(s) of „Vorau Picture Bible“

Die Vorauer Volksbibel (Special Edition in 1 Volume)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
Vorau Picture Bible – Codex 273 – Monastery Library Vorau (Vorau, Austria)
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Die Vorauer Volksbibel (Special Edition in 1 Volume)

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 2003
Limited Edition
50
Binding
Leather with blind stamping exactly like the cover of the original.
Commentary
1 volume (142 pages) by F. Hutz
Language: German
More Information
The facsimile corresponds to the original down to the smallest detail. The photographs necessary for the realization of an exact replica were taken at the library in Vorau. The most modern laser scanner technology made possible the control of all individu
Die Vorauer Volksbibel (Full set of 4 volumes)
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Die Vorauer Volksbibel (Full set of 4 volumes)

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1989-1993
Limited Edition
480
Binding
Leather (true copy of the original binding). All folios are cut according to the original.
Commentary
1 volume (142 pages) by F. Hutz
Language: German
More Information
The facsimile corresponds to the original down to the smallest detail. The photographs necessary for the realization of an exact replica were taken at the library in Vorau. The most modern laser scanner technology made possible the control of all individu
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Die Vorauer Volksbibel (Volume 1)
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Die Vorauer Volksbibel (Volume 1)

1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. Only 1 volume of 4 volumes.
Publisher
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1989
Limited Edition
480
Binding
Leather (true copy of the original binding). All folios are cut according to the original.
Commentary
1 volume (34 pages) by F. Hutz
Language: German
More Information
Content: The New Testament with two prologues.
Die Vorauer Volksbibel (Volume 2)
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Die Vorauer Volksbibel (Volume 2)

1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. Only 1 volume of 4 volumes.
Publisher
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1990
Limited Edition
480
Binding
Leather (true copy of the original binding). All folios are cut according to the original.
Commentary
1 volume (36 pages) by F. Hutz
Language: German
More Information
Content: The Old Testament, Part I.
Die Vorauer Volksbibel (Volume 3)
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Die Vorauer Volksbibel (Volume 3)

1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. Only 1 volume of 4 volumes.
Publisher
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1991
Limited Edition
480
Binding
Leather (true copy of the original binding). All folios are cut according to the original.
Commentary
1 volume (36 pages) by F. Hutz
Language: German
More Information
Content: The Old Testament, Part II.
Die Vorauer Volksbibel (Volume 4)
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Die Vorauer Volksbibel (Volume 4)

1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. Only 1 volume of 4 volumes.
Publisher
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1993
Limited Edition
480
Binding
Leather (true copy of the original binding). All folios are cut according to the original.
Commentary
1 volume (36 pages) by F. Hutz
Language: German
More Information
Content: The Old Testament, Part III.
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