The Brandenburger Evangeliary, the most cherished treasure in the Brandenburg Cathedral archive, has been protected from damage for the last eight hundred years. A new facsimile edition by Quaternio Verlag Luzern allows art enthusiasts to finally enjoy its splendor.
On Christmas Day, 1120, the itinerant preacher Norbert of Xanten assembled thirteen disciples in a valley in north-eastern France known as Prémontré. His followers, who practiced asceticism in huts made of clay and wood, became the first members of the Premonstratensian Order. In a few years the Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré grew enough for Pope Honorius II to approve its constitution.
Although Saint Norbert passed away less than fifteen years later, his order, which still counts around 1300 members worldwide, contributed to inspiring the development of Christian art and culture. In 1210, a stunning Romanesque illuminated manuscript was made in Magdeburg for the Brandenburg Premonstratensian Cathedral Abbey, where it remained for the last eight centuries.
In 2020, to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the foundation of the Premonstratensian Order, the Swiss publishing house Quaternio Verlag Luzern gave new life to this jewel of German Romanesque book painting by producing a high-quality facsimile that art scholars and enthusiasts will be able to freely access for the first time in history.
The rich full-page miniatures and Italianate historiated initials, which inspired spiritual contemplation for centuries, have found their way out of the imposing church that kept them safe for so long.
But who are the the heroes behind this fascinating transition?
Quaternio Verlag’s success lies in a close-knit team of professionals led by Gunter Tampe, whom we were happy to interview a few years back. Gunter works side-by-side with Karl Perstling, who spent the last two decades roaming the world in search for the perfect conditions to turn renowned, historical documents into almost-identical replicas. Avoiding to hamper even one millimeter of the original manuscript is just one of the thousand challenges he faces every day.
What is in the toolbox of a master of photography, printer, and graphic designer who works for a renowned facsimile publishing house?
To forge a facsimile of the Brandenburg Evangeliary, Karl used the same instruments as always: a multi-shot camera, washi (traditional Japanese paper), a “vacuum cleaner“, and laser beam. The “vacuum cleaner” keeps the folios in place, the laser beam ensures that they hold the right position, and the Japanese paper protects the parchment from the aspiration system, while also assuring that the images of the next folios do not filter through.
Thanks to Karl, Gunter, and to the rest of Quaternio Verlag staff, you might soon be holding in your hands a facsimile of the Brandenburger Evangeliar. If only Saint Norbert knew that 21st-century technology and craftsmanship is allowing his legacy to go down in history!
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