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"An extremely rare and even more bizarre artifact"
September 25, 2007 11:53 PM   Subscribe

Legend has it that the world's biggest bible is the work of the Devil. The Codex Gigas (Giant Book), also known as the Devil's Bible, is the largest medieval manuscript in the world. Housed at the Swedish National Library since the 17th century, it recently returned to the Czech Republic (it originated in a monastery in Bohemia) for display. The book contains an entire pre-Vulgate version of the Latin bible, as well as various other texts and illustrations, including calendars, medical formulas and local records. You can browse the complete Codex Gigas in high resolution here.
posted by amyms (32 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cool, thanks amyms--I heard about this a couple of weeks back (I saw a story about it in one of the Swedish papers) but couldn't find the complete digitised book.
posted by misteraitch at 12:10 AM on September 26, 2007


This just sounds like viral advertising for The Gygax Code.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:17 AM on September 26, 2007


Nice finding!!
posted by zouhair at 12:20 AM on September 26, 2007


I never realized that medieval scribes used lined hides to write on. Looking at the devil page, it looks like the author could have used a grid system to transpose the image from a cheaper medium.
posted by stavrogin at 12:29 AM on September 26, 2007


I am in ur biblz stealing ur soulz
posted by i_cola at 1:12 AM on September 26, 2007


It's very impressive to witness The Codex Gigas in person, as well. Do it if you ever get the chance, I say!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 1:18 AM on September 26, 2007


Made of the skins of about 160 animals — some say donkeys, others say calves — the manuscript measures a king-size 90 x 50 x 22 centimeters (roughly 36 x 20 x 9 inches) and weighs 75 kilos (165 pounds), requiring two people to lift it.

Christ, what an ass-scroll!
posted by rob511 at 2:06 AM on September 26, 2007 [9 favorites]


Wow. Fascinating stuff.
posted by brundlefly at 2:09 AM on September 26, 2007


Great post!
posted by pantufla at 2:21 AM on September 26, 2007


All bibles are the work of the devil. The devil's greatest trick was convincing us he wasn't using a pseudonym.
posted by Sparx at 3:08 AM on September 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


Only the Devil could have penned a book with such a deeply kick-ass name.
posted by RokkitNite at 3:09 AM on September 26, 2007


My hand cramped in sympathy for the author's/artist's efforts.
posted by Mojojojo at 3:27 AM on September 26, 2007


Not to be confused with The Wicked Bible.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:38 AM on September 26, 2007


Dude.
posted by The Straightener at 4:51 AM on September 26, 2007


Christ, what an ass-scroll!

rob511 wins, hands down!
posted by quonsar at 5:13 AM on September 26, 2007


Nifty, and I mean the book itself, the return, and the fact that its all scanned and available online. Thanks amyms.
posted by sotonohito at 5:24 AM on September 26, 2007


the fact that a primarily religious work includes codified pagan and mystical beliefs makes the book an extremely rare and even more bizarre artifact.

I'd like to see what they are referring to here. Medieval iconography can be confusing for the modern reader who might imagine the Middle Ages as some sort of pure Christian ideal, which is far from the truth. Pagan imagery and mysticism were very common. For example the early 13th century, when this codex was made, was the height of the Gothic Cathedral with its gargoyles and devil statues and pagan references abound. That doesn't mean they were heretical, it all fit and worked if you know the iconography and how to decode it.

The picture of the devil opposes an image of a multi-level tower, which has 9 floors ie. the 9 levels of hell that Dante would go on to make so famous in The Inferno. It looks a lot like a level from a 1980s video game with the Boss devil at the bottom.
posted by stbalbach at 6:14 AM on September 26, 2007


The Codex Giggity-giggity, the Magna Carta. . . didn't Nostradamus warn us about the migration of ancient texts?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:30 AM on September 26, 2007


How big is it?
posted by asok at 7:00 AM on September 26, 2007


Oh, so that's what preview is for!
posted by asok at 7:00 AM on September 26, 2007


stbalbach Yeah. My History of Christianity class spent a few days on the mixtures of Christian and non-Christian imagery in art, artifacts, etc.

And, for that matter the mixing of non-Christian ideas into Christianity out in the hinterlands. There was an account by a monk traveling out to the German wilderness in which he expressed shock at the fact that many priests were completely unfamiliar with Church docterne, were preaching what was basically heresy, and often got even the most basic words in the rituals wrong. He cited specifically one priest who blessed people "in the name of the Father, the Daughter, and the Spirit of Knowledge". Not, apparently out of any deliberate attempt to subvert the trinity, but due to the fact that the priest in question apparently didn't speak Latin well.

Still, the mixing of Christian and non-Christian imagery in art, while hardly rare, is interesting from a socio-historic standpoint.
posted by sotonohito at 7:06 AM on September 26, 2007


The picture of the devil opposes an image of a multi-level tower, which has 9 floors ie. the 9 levels of hell that Dante would go on to make so famous in The Inferno. It looks a lot like a level from a 1980s video game with the Boss devil at the bottom.

The page you linked to as well as some other pages at the site indicate that the tower is the Heavenly City, not a depiction of hell.
posted by jedicus at 7:35 AM on September 26, 2007


The devil is the Black Beast of AAAAAARGH?
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 7:55 AM on September 26, 2007


I see "heavenly city" on the far left column but does that refer to the image on the page, or the name of the Book/chapter? It could be heaven, I just made the assumption based on the devil on the facing page and the 9 levels and everything is in red (fire) and what looks like red flames on some of the levels.

Ok I zoomed into the city and it does look more heavenly than hellish in the details. I guess the juxtaposition of the city and the devil is just that, heaven and hell.
posted by stbalbach at 8:20 AM on September 26, 2007


SCROLLXTIANS
posted by fleetmouse at 8:23 AM on September 26, 2007


Modern interpretation of medieval art is also a hit and miss thing. I have seen a couple pieces of artwork refering to judgement where a man sits in a ballance being weighed against something, while a little demon trys to throw off the measure earning eternal damnation, etc. (At least one of these is in the Victoria and Albert in London. I can't remember where the other(s) is/are.)

I have seen this spun both ways. In one, it is Christ's saving grace in the other pan and the man makes it into heaven, in the other it is his sins in the other pan and the little demon is there to drag him down to hell.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:37 AM on September 26, 2007


This is great, thanks!
posted by Peecabu at 8:57 AM on September 26, 2007


sotonohito, yeah this was pretty common throughout the middle ages. My favorite example is one reason Protestantism was so well accepted is because country preachers wouldn't preach in Church, they would stand behind a screen, mumble gibberish that sounded Latin-like, and then walk away (after taking donations).

The Dominican Order was created in the 13th century for the purpose of teaching preachers how to properly read and interpret the Bible.

Kid Charlemagne, "great" name :) There is also humor in Medieval iconography it may have been intentional irony?
posted by stbalbach at 9:15 AM on September 26, 2007


Around midnight, the monk realized he would not be able to finish by daylight, so he invoked the devil to help him, selling his soul in the process.

Such utter bullshit. All we did was sit around for a couple of hours snorting coke. He got all fidgety and I blazed out of there. I never touched his soul.

And the likeness is totally off, he must have been just tripping balls at that point.
posted by quin at 9:58 AM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Neat stuff, but it's too bad about the stupid image browser.

Why not just let us download high resolution images directly?
posted by Sukiari at 11:54 AM on September 26, 2007


Fascinating find. Great post, thanks.

I've got to agree with Sukiari about the image browser.
posted by kryptondog at 1:14 PM on September 26, 2007


All the cooler for being a Vetus Latina text.
posted by eritain at 9:05 AM on September 27, 2007


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