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Bible Historiale by Guyart des Moulins, 1314-1315

Identifier: MS 19


This manuscript is the earliest dated copy of the Bible Historiale of Guyart Desmoulins. It is a French translation of the Historia Scholastica of Petrus Comestor (which was originally in Latin), combined with the first full translation of the vulgate Bible into French. Guyart Desmoulins originally translated this in circa 1295. Because the Bible Historiale is in the vernacular, it made both the Bible itself and also the Historia Scholastica, itself meant to explain and contextualize the bible, more accessible to lay people.


Prologue: starts f.1. It is introduced (rubric) with, "Ci commence la bible hystoriaus ou les histoires escolastres. Cest li prohemes de celui qui mist cest livre de latin en francois". It beings, "Pource que li dyables qui chascun jour empeche...". It is followed by a list of books as they appear in the Historia Scholastica (introduced with, "Ci apres sont li livre hystorial de la Bible qui en cest livre sont translate et tout par hystoires les escolastres" and ending with "Cest livre est apele la bible hystoriaus ou hystoire li escolastre". It is then followed by a list of the books of Genesis (f.1 verso).

Dedicatory letter of Petrus Comestor to Archbishop of Sens: starts f. 2. It is introducted (rubric) with "Cest une lettre que li maistres en hystoires...envoia...a l'arcevesque de Sens". The letter begins, "A honourable home et pere et son chier seigneur Guillaume...". On f.2 verso there is a rubric that reads, "Ci doit en savoir que jai translate les livres hystoriaus de la bible selone le texte de la laide de la bencoite vierge marie. Amen..." and then "Cest lie prohemes du maistre en hystoires. De la creacion du ciel empiree et des quatre elemens a de la premiere confusion du monde selone la bible".

Genesis: starts f.3.

Exodus: starts f.33 verso.

Leviticus: starts f.53 verso.

Numbers: starts f.61 verso.

Deuteronomy: starts f.76 verso.

Joshua: starts f.89 verso.

Judges: starts f.95 verso.

Micheas: starts f.102 verso.

Ruth: starts f.102 verso.

1 Kings: starts f.106.

2 Kings: starts f.118.

3 Kings: starts f.128 verso.

4 Kings: starts f.145 verso.

Job: starts f.163 verso.

Tobias: starts f.164 verso.

History of Jeremiah: starts f.168 verso.

Judith: starts f.180.

Esther: starts f.188 verso.

Proverbs: starts f. 197 verso.

Ecclesiastes: starts f.209.

Cantica: starts f.212.

Sapientia: starts f.214.

Ecclesiasticus: starts f.220 verso.

Isaiah: starts f.238 verso.

Jeremiah: starts f.259 verso.

Lamentations: starts f.281.

Baruch: starts f.283.

Letter of Jeremiah: starts f.285 verso.

Ezekiel: starts f.286 verso.

Daniel: starts f.305.

Hosea: starts f.314.

Joel: starts f.317.

Amos: starts f.318 verso.

Obadiah: starts f.321.

Jonah: starts f.321 verso.

Michah: starts f.322.

Nahum: starts f.324.

Habakkuk: starts f.325.

Zephaniah: starts f.326.

Haggai: starts f.327.

Zechariah: starts f.328.

Malachi: starts f.331 verso.

1 Maccabees: starts f.333.

2 Maccabees: starts f.346 verso.

Matthew: starts f.356 verso.

Mark: starts f.373.

Luke: starts f.384 verso.

John: starts f.403 verso.

Romans: starts f.417.

1 Corinthians: starts f.423.

2 Corinthians: starts f.428 verso.

Galatians: starts f.432.

Ephesians: starts f.434.

Philippians: starts f.435 verso.

Colossians: starts f.437.

1 Thessalonians: starts f.438.

2 Thessalonians: starts f.439 verso.

1 Timothy: starts f.440.

2 Timothy: starts f.441 verso.

1 Titus: starts f.443.

2 Titus: starts f.443 verso.

Hebrews: starts f.444 verso.

Acts of the Apostles: starts f.449.

James: starts f.463.

1 Peter: starts f.464 verso.

Simon: starts f.466.

1 John: starts f.467.

2 John: starts f.468 verso.

3 John: starts f.469.

Jude: starts f.469.

Apocalypse: starts f.470. This was added later, but by the same hand. An inscription reads, Ci fini la bible en francois et lapocalypse Saint Jehan ensemble.


Well and uniformly written, in brownish ink, by one scribe throughout. There are marginal notes (in the same hand) throughout. The Apocalype is added soon after, in the same hand as the rest of the mansucript. At the end of the Catholic Epistles there is an inscription by the scribe, Ci fenist la bible en francois qui fu finee lan mccc et quatorze, l'apocalipse se ensuiant. Explicit expliceat ludere scriptor eat. ("This is the Bible in French, which was finished in 1314, the Apocalypse follows. It ends, let it end, let the scribe go and play"). At the end of the Apocalypse, Ci fini la bible en francois et lapocalypse Saint Jehan ensemble. Explicit ("Here ends the Bible in French and the Apocalypse of John with it. It ends.")


The chapters have two-line, the Capitula one-line, initials of finely burnished gold with red and blue penwork, inset. These have a very pleasing effect, especially in the Capitula, where they are combined with line-endings in blue, lake, and gold. Book initials are decorative of the usual type, not particularly good. They are combined with line and leaf borders. The book is profusely illustrated with rectangular miniatures on backgrounds of blue or lake chequer, plain burnished gold, or of the two types combined, framed in bands of gold and colour edged with black. The figures and faces are characteristically French. The general effect is good, but the workmanship is disappointing at the beginning, though it improves notably later on. All the gold work in the book is good, although several miniatures early in the manuscript have been overpainted in plain gold.

List of illuminations

  1. Fol. 1. Prologue. Diapered gold ground. Guiart des Moulins writing at desk.
  2. Fol. 2. Letter to Archbishop of Sens. Lake chequer ground. Writer seated at desk on the left, white monk, kneeling, presents the letter to the Archbishop of Sens, who stands at the right, attended by three white monks.
  3. Fol. 3. Genesis. Gold ground. Creation of fishes.
  4. Fol. 3 verso. Genesis. Blue chequer ground. Creation of animals. Creator all gold - a vague, indefinite figure.
  5. Fol. 4 verso. Genesis. Gold ground. Creation of Adam. Adam kneels, hands clasped in supplication, trees behind.
  6. Fol. 5 verso. Genesis. The Fall. Adam and Eve on either side the Tree of Knowledge, in which is coiled the serpent. Eve has the apple in her hand.
  7. Fol. 7. Genesis. The expulsion. Burnished gold ground. The angel with the sword stands between two trees. Adam and Eve go forth to the right.
  8. Fol. 7. Genesis. Birth of Abel. Blue chequer ground. Eve, in curtained bed, hold Abel in her arms; Adam, at foot of bed, holds Cain by the hand.
  9. Fol. 7 verso. Genesis. Conviction of Cain. Lake chequer ground. Nimbed figure of God, face and figure dimly seen, hand stretched out towards Cain, who is slaying Abel under a tree on the right.
  10. Fol. 9 verso. Genesis. Gold ground. Noah sending forth the dove from the ark, which is depicted like an upturned boat. The heads of his wife and tow children are seen through a window in the roof, and a man is trying to clamber up the side.
  11. Fol. 13. Genesis. Lake chequer ground. Abraham and Sarah before Pharaoh.
  12. Fol. 19 verso. Genesis. Blue chequer ground. Birth of Esau and Jacob. Rebecca in bed, two attendants holding the children.
  13. Fol. 21 verso. Genesis. Red chequer ground. Jacob's dream. He lies asleep with stone for pillow, four angels flying up and down the ladder above him. Half-length Deity in cloud above holding the orb.
  14. Fol. 25 verso. Genesis. Gold ground. Joseph sold into slavery. Joseph naked in the pit, Reuben bargaining with two merchants, the brothers departing.
  15. Fol. 33 verso. Exodus. Gold ground. The crossing of the Red Sea. Pharaoh and his host in mail drowning in the waters in the left. Moses, horned, divides the sea with his rod, and the Israelites follow him unarmed on the right.
  16. Fol. 53 verso. Leviticus. Gold ground. Moses bows himself before the burning bush. No appearance of Deity.
  17. Fol. 62. Numbers. Blue chequer ground. Moses, with the tables of the Law, addressed by Deity - great, indistinct gold figure.
  18. Fol. 77. Deuteronomy. Blue chequer ground. Moses, as above, addresses a crowd of seated Israelites.
  19. Fol. 89 verso. Joshua. Red chequer ground. Joshua, on one side Jordan, looking up to angel with scroll above.
  20. Fol. 96. Judges. Blue chequer ground. A battle of mailed infantry.
  21. Fol. 103. Gold ground. Gold idol on pedestal on the right, young man in white kneels before it (the Levite), Micah and his mother behind. He receives from her the shekels of silver.
  22. Fol. 104 verso. Ruth. Red chequer ground. Naomi holding her two sons by the hand.
  23. Fol. 106 verso. 1 Kings. Gold ground. Elkanah and his two wives with Peninah's children going up to Shiloh.
  24. Fol. 118 verso. 2 Kings. Gold ground. David crowned, seated, three attendants with him, all in attitudes of grief. To him the Amalekite, kneeling, offers the crown with the news of Saul's death, and is about to be slain as he kneels.
  25. Fol. 129. 3 Kings. Gold ground. Abishag kneels before David.
  26. Fol. 145 verso. 4 Kings. Gold ground. Elijah, seating on the hill-top, answers one of Ahaziah's captains. Fire from heaven descends upon his followers, who lie prostrate upon the ground to the left.
  27. Fol. 163 verso. Job. Red chequer ground. Job and his three friends.
  28. Fol. 164 verso. Tobit. Red ground with stars. Under a triple Gothic arch Tobit prostrate before a white-draped altar.
  29. Fol. 169. History of Jeremiah. Crowned king centre. On the left, a young man in red cloak with ermine. On the right, four Jews apparently speaking of him to the king.
  30. Fol. 180. Judith. Gold ground. Judith beheading Holofernes.
  31. Fol. 185. Cambyses to Nehemiah. Red chequer ground. King sits centre with sceptre and is crowned by four men, two on either side.
  32. Fol. 188 verso. Esther. Gold ground. Queen Vashti sits at a feast with seven other women.
  33. Fol. 194. Ochum. Gold ground. King Ochum with four followers before the temple.
  34. Fol. 197 verso. Proverbs. Blue chequer ground. Solomon teaching Rehoboam.
  35. Fol. 209. Ecclesiastes. Red chequer ground. Solomon, young, seated at desk reading.
  36. Fol. 212. Cantica. Blue chequer ground. Virgin and Child enthroned.
  37. Fol. 214. Sapientia. Gold ground. Solomon seated as above, but with sword, addresses a crowd.
  38. Fol. 220 verso. Ecclesiasticus. Gold ground. Solomon crowned, seated, reads to youth sitting at his feet.
  39. Fol. 238. Isaiah. Gold ground. Isaiah pointing to Jerusalem as he speaks.
  40. Fol. 259 verso. Jeremiah. Blue diaper ground. Jeremiah before the gate of a city, red cloud above.
  41. Fol. 281. Lamentations. Gold ground. Jeremiah as above, four persons behind the battlements mourning.
  42. Fol. 283. Baruch. Gold ground. King with sword pointing to three figures standing at the gate of a city, one, the prophet, hands bound, being taken either to or from the city.
  43. Fol. 285 verso. Letter of Jeremiah. Gold ground. Prophet, pointing to city, addressed a crowd of listeners.
  44. Fol. 286 verso. Ezekiel. Red chequer ground. Ezekiel centre, six listeners, three on either side, a cloud above.
  45. Fol. 305 verso. Daniel. Ground half-burnished gold, half-red chequer. Nebuchadnezzar crowned, in bed, a gigantic image of gold, silver, iron, and clay stands at the foot.
  46. Fol. 314. Hosea. In two parts. On the right, gold ground, Hosea seated looks up towards angel; On the left, blue chequer ground, Gomer in bed. The winged angel is finely drawn here and in the other pictures in the Minor Prophets.
  47. Fol. 317. Joel. Red chequer ground. Five seated men listening to winged angel, with scroll, speaking out of a cloud.
  48. Fol. 318 verso. Amos. Gold ground. Fire from cloud consumes city.
  49. Fol. 321. Obadiah. Blue chequer ground. Prophet with book looks up to angel in cloud above.
  50. Fol. 321 verso. Jonah. Gold ground. Boat with sail, whale rising in front of it, Jonah half length in its jaws.
  51. Fol. 322. Micah. Gold ground. Prophet with book before city, angel with scroll 'les terres et les' in cloud.
  52. Fol. 324. Nahum. Blue chequer ground. Judgment. Christ, cross-numbed, showing the five wounds, throned on clouds. Virgin and Saint John on either side, winged angel with orb on the left, another with cross on the right. Below in initial on gold ground the dead rise from their graves.
  53. Fol. 325. Habukkuk. Blue chequer ground. Prophet looks up to dim, half-length nimbed figure of Deity in cloud.
  54. Fol. 326. Zephaniah. Red chequer and blue starred ground. Heaven and hell. Above a ring of cloud under starry sky are seen eight blessed spirits, five of them crowned, an angel on either side. Below, the damned, in flaming jaws of a huge monster, a devil at either side. The angel on the right casts one down to the devil, who seizes him.
  55. Fol. 327. Haggai. Gold ground. Three seated men, two with book, look up to winged angel in cloud.
  56. Fol. 328. Zechariah. Gold ground. Prophet stands prophesying, a city on either side, looking up to an angel above.
  57. Fol. 331 verso. Malachi. Blue chequer ground. Prophet with book, half-length figure of Deity dimly seen above.
  58. Fol. 333. 1 Maccabees. Gold ground. Battle of cavalry, all blue and buff. A fine miniature.
  59. Fol. 347. 2 Maccabees. Blue chequer ground. Group of eight Jews on the left, one presenting a letter to kneeling messenger.
  60. Fol. 356 verso. Matthew. Blue chequer ground. Adoration of the Magi.
  61. Fol. 373. Mark. Red chequer ground. The baptism in Jordan.
  62. Fol 384 verso. Luke. Gold ground. The evangelist writing at desk, nimbed head of lion withs cross, 'Marcus'.
  63. Fol. 403 verso. John. Red chequer ground. Similar to above, but in right corner a head of an eagle with scroll.
  64. Fol. 417. Romans. Gold ground. Apostle nimbed, seated at desk reads from book to five listeners on the right.
  65. Fol. 423. 1 Corinthians. Gold ground. Apostle writing, otherwise similar to fol. 417.
  66. Fol. 428 verso. 2 Corinthians. Blue chequer ground. Apostle writing, Timothy behind him, five listeners. Here title is wrong, it read 'Aus Timotheus'.
  67. Fol. 432. Galatians. Gold ground. Apostle seated writing at red desk, four nimbed men seated round him, one reading.
  68. Fol. 434. Ephesians. Blue chequer ground. Apostle seating writing at red desk, city of Ephesus in front of him.
  69. Fol. 435 verso. Philippians. Blue chequer ground. Apostle as in 69, Timothy in front of him with book (rubric wrong).
  70. Fol. 437. Colossians. Gold ground. Apostle writing at desk, Timothy beside him with book, city in front.
  71. Fol. 438. 1 Thessalonians. Apostle and Timothy writing, Silvanus sitting beside them.
  72. Fol. 439 verso. 2 Thessalonians. Gold ground. Apostle and Timothy write at desks facing right and left, Silvanus behind with book.
  73. Fol. 440. 1 Timothy. Red chequer ground. Apostle writing, Timothy facing him on the left.
  74. Fol. 441 verso. 2 Timothy. Red chequer ground. Apostle, standing by desk, hands a letter to kneeling messenger (rubric wrong).
  75. Fol. 443. Titus. Two sections. Red and blue chequer grounds. Apostle seating writing, without desk, messenger presents letter. In the other section Titus stands facing them (rubric wrong, reads 'ad hebreos').
  76. Fol. 443 verso. 2 Titus. Again with wrong rubric. Blue chequer ground. Apostle, standing by desk, giving letter to messenger. The last chapter of this is the Epistle to Philemon without an ornamental initial or miniature.
  77. Fol. 444 verso. Hebrews. Gold ground. Apostle writing, four listeners.
  78. Fol. 449. Act. Red chequer ground. Luke, seating at desk on the left, pointing to a book, Theophilus before him on the right.
  79. Fol. 463. James. Blue chequer ground. Saint James hands letter to messenger.
  80. Fol. 464 verso. 1 Peter. Gold ground. Apostle writing, city in front.
  81. Fol. 466. 2 Peter. Gold ground. Apostle writing, six listeners.
  82. Fol. 467. 1 John. Gold ground, similar to fol. 466.
  83. Fol. 468 verso. 2 John. Blue chequer. Apostle with scroll addresses a crowd seated in front of him.
  84. Fol. 469. 3 John. Blue chequer. Apostle seated hands letter to kneeling messenger.
  85. Fol. 469. Jude. Gold ground. Saint Jude with scroll, 'Judas serf' speaks to crowd of listeners.
  86. Fol. 470. Apocalypse. Red chequer ground. Apostle kneels before Christ, who hold in His hand seven stars, and has a gold girdle about His waist and two swords behind His head. Round about are seven golden candlesticks.


  • Creation: 1314-1315


Language of Materials

French, Old (842-ca.1400)

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to all. The manuscripts can be consulted in the Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Main Library.


3 bound MS volume

Custodial History

The illumination is characteristically French, probably of South France, but there are no marks of local provenance.

On f. 207 there are a few names in a pale brown ink in 16th century hands, Thomas Zowche, Henry Zowche, Helen Zowchc, P [?] Barlowe.

It was presented to the Library by James Sutherland. Merchant of Edinburgh, in 1680.

Previous reference



  • Morey, James H. "Peter Comestor, Biblical Paraphrase, and the Medieval Popular Bible." Speculum 68, no. 1 (1993): 6-35
  • Diamond, J. ‘Manufacture and market in Parisian book illumination’ in Europäische Kunst um 1300, Akten des XXV. Internationalen Kongresses für Kunstgeschichte (1986), p. 103 and fig. 55
  • Alexander, J., ‘Preliminary marginal drawings in medieval MSS.’ In Artistes, artisans et production artistique au Moyen Age, ed. X. Barral I Altet (1986-90), iii. 307-19
  • Millar, E., An Illum. MS of le Somme le Roy (Honoré) Rox. Cl. 1953

Physical Facet

Material: Vellum

Binding: Rebound into three volumes c. 2004. Volume 1: ff.1-158, Volume 2: ff.159-318, Volume 3: ff.319-483.(Old Borland catalogue entry: Modern, stamped leather, 2 brass clasps. Lettered ' La Saincte Bible mcccxiiii MS. Gift of James Sutherland, Merchant of Edinburgh, 1680.')

Collation: 16 (wants 3 and 4), 28-588, 597, 608, 616=483.


39.37 cm x 29.21 cm


Secundo folio: de son nom

Foliation and number of lines to a page: ff. 483, double columns, 45 lines to a page.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
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Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
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