The Morgan Bible (The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, Ms M. 638) is a medieval picture Bible of 46 folios. It is also called the Morgan Bible of Louis IX, the Book of Kings, the Crusader Bible, and the Maciejowski Bible. 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 beautiful 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).
The Morgan Bible is a masterpiece of Gothic art. It testifies impressively to how persons make sense of words and images. Historical recreationists find in it valuable evidence about medieval clothing, weapons, and armor.
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).
- Hourihane, Colum (ed.), Between the Word and the Picture, Princeton Index of Christian Art, Princeton, 2005
- Cockerell, Sydney C. and John Plummer (1969), Old Testament miniatures: a medieval picture book with 283 paintings from Creation to the story of David (New York: G. Braziller) [contains reproductions of all paintings in the Morgan Bible.]
- Noel, William and Daniel Weiss, eds. (2002), The Book of Kings: Art, War, and the Morgan Library’s Medieval Picture Bible (Baltimore: Walters Art Museum). [catalog of recent exhibition]
- Jafari Mazhab, Mohsen: Ketab Moqaddse San Looyi dar Esfahan [Saint Louis`s Bible in Isfahan]" in Ketab Mah Tarikh va Joghrafia, no 13, Tehran: nov. 1998 [in Persian]
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