Bibles

Takamiya MS 104: Bible (Proverbs to Apocalypse)

Takamiya MS 104. Bible, Proverbs to Apocalypse. England, thirteenth century.

Medieval Bibles, like some modern ones, included prologues to introduce readers to each book of Scripture. On the left here, for instance, is the first page of the Book of Habacuc, part of the Old Testament, as shown in the top margin.

The sizeable flourished initial “O” on the left-hand page marks the beginning of the first chapter of the book. In the margins, red and blue roman numerals mark the beginning of each of its three sections. The third and final chapter also receives a decorative initial, perhaps because it takes the form of an oft-quoted prayer. 

Although not divided into the verses familiar to its modern students, the medieval Bible provided readers some aid in navigating Scripture. For example, since much of Habacuc’s prophecy is a dialogue between the prophet and God, the scribe of Takamiya MS 104 uses decorative initials to indicate each change in speaker. The verses are not numbered, however, and the medieval chapter divisions are not always an exact match for the book’s modern organization. For example, while the number of chapters in the Book of Habacuc has remained the same, the medieval Book of Joel had three chapters while the modern version has four.