Biblia Pauperum: A Fifteenth-Century Blockbook, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Biblia Pauperum

A Fifteenth-Century Blockbook, 1st Edition

By Avril Henry


178 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9780859675420
pub: 1987-10-29
SAVE ~$33.00

FREE Standard Shipping!


The Biblia Pauperum, neither a bible nor a book for the poor as its title suggests, is a medieval picture book that pairs Old and New Testament scenes as a way of showing that events in the past were divinely intended to foreshadow the future. It is a blockbook, printed in its entirety - text and pictures - from woodblocks. This version of the Biblia Pauperum, commonly regarded as the most beautiful, dates from around 1460 and was widely distributed throughout German and French speaking Europe. Avril Henry's edited transcription of the original Latin, and her extensive introduction, commentary, and bibliography, make this central medieval work accessible for the first time to the English speaking non-specialist; the facsimile edition will enable the modern reader to recapture the fifteenth-century reader's experience in using the blockbook. It contains forty central New Testament scenes, or Antitypes, that tell a highly selective version of the story of God's relationship with man. Each scene is flanked by two prefigurations, usually from the Old Testament, and an accompanying Latin text. Revealing a wealth of complex verbal and visual design, this edition will enhance our understanding of medieval culture, Christian iconography, and the history of Western art and literature. Only by understanding the system of thought which the Biblia Pauperum typifies can we grasp the full meaning of much Christian art, including the west fronts of our cathedral, the great scheme of stained glass in King's College Chapel, Cambridge, and even the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It is also fundamental to an understinging of literary forms such as medieval drama. Readers interested in medieval history, art history, religion, and manuscript studies will welcome this volume.


'..a valuable contribution to the history of Christian iconography and Western art'. Cathedral News, 'Approachable, clearly designed, and with good reproductions…(a) convenient starting point for anyone approaching the Biblia Pauperum for the first time, as well as being a stimulating resource for specialists' Print Quarterly. 'The standard of the editorial work and commentaries is high, and the author's expertise in a wide range of medieval literature…stands her in good stead, especially in the disscussion of the typological background' Print Quarterly. '…an indispensible resource for an understanding of religious art and biblical typology…Highly recommended for graduate libraries' American Library Association. '…immensely learned and beautifully produced…Whether we come to the book to study the history of printing, to enjoy the art, or to trace the biblical interpretations, this is a treasure of great worth' The Expository Times.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Biblia Pauperum: Name and nature; The manuscript ancestors and the format; The texts; Typology; Typology in this book: the thought-pattern of the page; The purpose of the original book; The purpose of this edition; The facsimile; Woodcuts; Schreiber's editions and some editorial difficulties; Transcript; Translation; The blockbook context; The designer and his designs; The influence of the forty page blockbook Biblia Pauperum on art and literature; Biblia Pauperum: a facsimile with translation and commentary; Transcription of Latin text; Bibliography; Appendices: A: Extant impressions of Schreiber Edition 1; B: The Prophets' hats.

About the Author

Avril Henry is Emeritus Professor of English Mediaeval Studies at the University of Exeter, UK.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General