Morgan Bible

"The Israelites are repulsed from Hai" (fol. 10r)

The Morgan Bible (The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, Ms M. 638), also called the Crusader Bible or Maciejowski Bible, is a medieval picture Bible of 46 folios. This book has long been thought to have been created under the direction of Louis IX of France in the mid-1240s, but Allison Stones, after indications of others such as François Avril, has argued that it was most likely illuminated in the northern counties of France, ca. 1250 (cf most recently Allison Stones, "Questions of style and provenance in the Morgan Bible", in Between the Word and the Picture, Princeton, 2005). Originally it probably contained only paintings, organized in a consistent visual rhythm from page to page. Within 100 years, the book acquired marginal inscriptions in Latin describing the scenes illustrated. Cardinal Bernard Maciejowski, Bishop of Kraków, had the book given as a gift to Abbas I (Shah of Persia) in 1608. Abbas ordered inscriptions in Persian to be added, mostly translating the Latin ones already there. Later, perhaps in the eighteenth century, inscriptions were added in Judeo-Persian. Thus the book consists of paintings of events from Hebrew scripture, set in the scenery and customs of thirteenth-century France, depicted from a Christian perspective, and surrounded by text in three scripts and five languages (Latin, Persian, Arabic, Judeo-Persian, and Hebrew).

Forty three folios are kept in The Pierpont Morgan Library. Two folios are kept in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (MS nouv. acq. lat. 2294). A single folio is kept in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (MS 16).


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