Cambridge, Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, MS 20

Corpus Apocalypse Facsimile Edition

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The Corpus Christi Apocalypse is a lavishly illuminated manuscript containing the Book of Revelation. It is preserved in the Parker Library since 1757. The codex was made in England between 1335 and 1339 for Henry de Cobham, dignitary at the English court. It is illuminated with more than 121 miniatures embellished with gold and silver and interspersed throughout the text. In a manner typical of the English manuscripts of this period, red and blue flourished initials mark important sections of the text.

The Corpus Christi Apocalypse: A Unique Compilation of the Book of Revelation, St. Paul Descending into Hell, and the Order of Coronation

The manuscript in the Parker Library presents an unusual collection of texts. Along with the text of the Revelation, the codex also contains the uncommon text of the descent of St. Paul to hell, written in Anglo-Norman verse and Latin prose.

The manuscript ends with the transcription of the English Order of Coronation used at the coronation of Edward II. The manuscript is bilingual, including parts in Latin and Anglo-Norman French. The latter is an Old French dialect that was spoken by the English aristocracy since William the conqueror arrived in England in 1066.

The use of the spoken language demonstrates that the owner had a particular interest in understanding the content of the manuscript. Each miniature is explained by the Latin passage in the Bible. The Latin text of the Book of Revelation appears in parallel with the Anglo-Norman French version in verses. Finally, an explanatory prose commentary, also written in Anglo-Norman French, clarifies both versions.

Commissioning the Corpus Christi Apocalypse

It is highly probable that the Cobham family commissioned this outstanding manuscript. The features of Henry, first Lord of Cobham, have been identified in the miniature of the Last Supper. The transcription of the English Coronation Order in the codex is particularly significant because Henry Cobham participated to the coronation of Edward II in 1308.

The frontispiece to the section containing the Order of Coronation is remarkable because it shows the practice of crowning a king along with the clerics and noblemen witnessing the event. King Edward holding both orb and scepter sits in the chair traditionally used for the coronation in Westminster Abbey.

The Lavish Illuminations of the Corpus Christi Apocalypse

An extensive cycle of illuminations decorates the book, interrupting the text with strip images ranging in size from a third of the ruled area to the full-page. The Book of Revelation has inspired many illuminators in their representations of the end of the world in miniatures. The number of illuminations included in this exemplar is extraordinary: the figures elegantly move in the typical Gothic style, standing before blue or red background.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Corpus Apocalypse": Die Corpus-Christi-Apokalypse facsimile edition, published by Quaternio Verlag Luzern, 2012

Die Corpus-Christi-Apokalypse

Luzern: Quaternio Verlag Luzern, 2012

  • Commentary (English, German) by Morgan, N.J.; Klein, P.K.; De Hamel, C.; Burrows, D.
  • Limited Edition: 680 copies
  • This facsimile is complete (full-size color reproduction of the whole original document).

Faithful facsimile edition of the most richly ornamented Apocalypse of the fourteenth century, MS 20 from Corpus Christi College in Cambridge; the facsimile edition is limited worldwide to 680 hand-numbered copies. Absolutely faithful reproductions of the 121 large-format miniatures form a series of illustrations that evenly decorate the 144 pages measuring approximately 37 × 26 cm; also included are 280 blue initials with red flourishing, and 59 gold initials. In combination with an intense minium red, numerous sections of silver, which still retain their glow, and brilliant gold surfaces, most of them ornamented with delicate chasing, create a luminous vision out of the Revelation of St John from the Corpus Christi College. The accompanying commentary volume has been entrusted to four internationally renowned specialists in manuscript illumination and the Apocalypse theme: Nigel J. Morgan, Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, provides an introduction to the tradition of fourteenth-century English Apocalypses and describes the images of the Visions of St Paul of the punishments in Hell. Peter K. Klein, of Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen, discusses the iconography of the manuscript and describes all of the miniatures in the Apocalypse of St John. Christopher de Hamel, Donnelley Fellow Librarian at the Parker Library, sheds some light on the codicology and provenance of the manuscript, and devotes attention to the Coronation Order. Daron Burrows, of the University of Manchester, transcribes and translates the Anglo-Norman French texts into English.


Light-coloured, leather binding. Apocalypse and commentary volume come in a protective case made of acrylic glass for better presentation

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