From a text from the Vivarium di Cassiodoro, the Abbot Ceolfrith of the monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow in Northumbria (North-west England) had three copies made, of which the Amiatina Bible (ms. Laur. Amiat.1) is the only one to have survived intact. The codex, written between the end of the seventh and beginning of the eighth century by at least 7 or 8 copyists, has huge dimensions, consisting of 1029 membranaceous papers, measuring 540 x 335 mm and weighing just on 50 kilograms. Its extraordinary interest derives not only from its external feature, but also from the fact of being the most ancient and complete copy of the Bible in its Latin version.
Taken to Rome as a gift for Pope Gregory II in 716, in an unspecified era but in all likelihood before the beginning of the eleventh century, for unknown reasons the codex finished up in the Monastery of San Salvatore on Mount Amiata where it remained for at least seven centuries, except for a short time in Rome where it was collated by the Commission in charge of the Sistine edition of the Bible (1590).
Stored in the relics cabinet of the Amiata Monastery, the codex did not escape confiscation by Grand Duke Leopold in 1782: two years later it was assigned to the Laurenzian Library where the Medici and the Lorraines kept the greatest concentration of the most important book collections of the western culture in their possession.
The impressive structure of the codex, its venerable age, the value of the great miniatures (extremely famous the one depicting Esdra copying the Sacred Scriptures) has called for a strict preservation of the codex that is still in excellent condition today. Those same features however, have made it difficult to consult, exhibit and carry out faithful reproductions of the manuscript.
Only the evolution of the techniques and the shared initiative taken by various public and private subjects have made it possible to offer a series of “copies” of the Bible in order to satisfy the various demands for knowledge. After being taken apart, the codex was reproduced on slides that have served the purpose of creating a full-size facsimile which was donated to the Abbey of San Salvatorewhere it is stored in the museum, as well as several smaller-sized copies today on sale, and a CD-Rom that allows for making wide-scale searches, from the simplest to the most complex.
During the reproduction stage, carried out at the Medicea Laurenzian Library, scholars from various disciplines and different countries, were able to easily study the original, analysing in-depth the codological, liturgical, musicological and decorative features. Sophisticated colour analyses of the miniatures have also been carried out.
Thanks to the collaboration of various professionals, from librarians to restorers, from biologists to chemists, an investigation was conducted in an institutional context, the results of which have contributed to the knowledge of the codex, especially as regards the quaestious vexata of the order of the first volume.
For the first papers of the codex, it was considered appropriate to adopt a different sequence to the one previously known, but which corresponded to the one that was known for the longest period of time and before the binding operations carried out prior to 1784, the year in which the codex was described in great detail by the Laurenzian librarian Angelo Maria Bandini. This succession is also precisely repeated in the smaller-sized copy.
The complete Bible
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Characteristics of the copy:
- Full-colour print care of the Stamperia Digitale – Florence
- 199 strictly limited copies individually authenticated by a notary public.
- Fedrigoni paper, Marina Conchiglia type, 90 g.
- Sheet size 22.2 cm. x 32 cm.
- Finished book size 33.5 cm. x 24 cm. x 15.5 cm.
- Hand-binding carried out in the Workshop of Alessandra Masi – Florence.
- Carried out by concession of the Ministry of the Heritage and Cultural Activities.
- Reproductions made with any other means are strictly prohibited.