THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Medieval manuscripts blog

16 July 2015

Another Apocalypse Manuscript Digitised

The British Library has a great collection of Apocalypse manuscripts and we have featured them in a number of recent blogposts. At the end of this post, we provide a list of the best-known Apocalypse manuscripts that have been digitised in recent years. The most recent Apocalypse to be digitised is the rather lesser-known but finely-executed Additional MS 35166, an Apocalypse in Latin with commentary by Berengaudus and a life of St John the Divine, whose visions are recorded in the Book of Revelation.

Add_ms_35166_f009v
The earthquake at the opening of the Sixth Seal. Additional MS 35166, f. 9v (detail), England, S.E. (?London), 2nd half of the 13th century

The top half of every recto and verso of the 38 folios (there are a number of leaves missing, from Revelation 10:7 to 16:8) has a miniature, and underneath is a brief passage from the Apocalypse written in black ink, followed by Berengaudus’ commentary in red ink.

Add_ms_35166_f007v
The Second Seal: the Red Horse. Additional MS 35166, f. 7v (detail), England, S.E. (?London), 2nd half of the 13th century

The exquisite tinted drawings faithfully portray John's vivid descriptions of his visions. The illuminator has incorporated John into the majority of scenes, which lends a sense of immediacy to the images: the reader witnesses the horror and awe of the Apocalypse alongside him.

Preceding and following the Apocalypse are scenes from the Life of St John. His death at the hands of the Emperor Domitian in a cauldron of boiling oil is depicted here:

Add_ms_35166_f001v
John in a cauldron of oil, Additional MS 35166, f. 1v (detail), England, S.E. (?London), 2nd half of the 13th century

The stories from the life of John are from the New Testament Apocrypha and include the tale of a young man who is presented to a bishop by John and becomes his cup-bearer. The young man, riding a white horse, joins a band of robbers and they kill and steal. John is told this by the bishop and rides out to bring the young man back to the bishop.

Add_ms_35166_f035r
The young man and robbers stealing and murdering, Additional MS 35166, f. 35r (detail), England, S.E. (?London), 2nd half of the 13th century

This Apocalypse manuscript may have belonged to a religious guild known as the Kalendars, as it is inscribed, ‘Liber Domus Kalendarum’ on the first folio.  The Kalendars were religious guilds of the Middle Ages, composed of clergy and laity, known to have existed in Bristol, Exeter and Winchester in the 12th century.  They met on or around Kalends (the first day of the month), hence the name ‘Kalendars’.

For comparison, here are some images of the opening of the Sixth Seal and the earthquake (Rev. 6:11-15) in several other Apocalypse manuscripts held by the British Library, to give you a sense of the differing styles of illumination:

The Queen Mary Apocalypse

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John watching the earthquake, with ruins and fallen stars, and the dead in holes, Royal MS 19 B XV, f 11v (detail), England S. E. (London), or East Anglia, 1st quarter of the 14th century

The Yates Thompson Apocalypse

Yates_thompson_ms_10_f011r
The earthquake at the opening of the Sixth Seal: six heads in holes in the ground with a river in the foreground and the sun and moon, Yates Thompson MS 10, f. 11r (detail), France (Paris), 1370-1390

The Silos Apocalypse

Add_ms_11695_f108r
The opening of the Sixth Seal: Christ enthroned above the dark sun and red moon; below, falling stars and the earthquake, Additional MS 11695, f. 108r, Spain, 1091-1109

The Welles Apocalypse

Royal_ms_15_d_ii_f131r
The opening of the Sixth Seal; the earthquake. At the top, a darkened sun and moon and stars falling from the sky. In the centre, a king, a master and other men hiding in caves. To the right, a building collapsing. To the left, St John is witnessing the scene. Royal MS 15 D II, f 131r (detail), England, c 1310

The Abingdon Apocalypse

Add_ms_42555_f016v
The Sixth Seal: St John looking up at a cloud containing the sun and moon; on the right the ruins of a town and men and women in holes in the ground, with fragments of objects falling from the sky. Add MS 42555, f 16v (detail), England, 3rd quarter of the 13th century


- Chantry Westwell

 

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