Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Codex 2533

The Chronicle of the Crusades Facsimile Edition

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The Chronicle of the Crusades is a superb example of Northern Renaissance illumination from the area between France and the Netherlands. Also known as Chroniques de Jerusalem abrégéés, it was written and illuminated around the second half of the 15th century. With its 11 large miniatures, 47 smaller miniatures, 98 medallions, and initials, this codex is attributed to the Girart Master and represents a masterpiece of Flemish book illustration.

The Story of the First Crusade

The manuscript tells the story of the First Crusade and the conquest of Jerusalem, focusing on the three crusader states, namely the kingdom of Jerusalem, the principality of Antioch, and the county of Edessa. The structure of the text is peculiar as it represents a complex parallel narrative recounted in four adjacent columns: the left one narrates the story of the county of Edessa, the two middle ones tell the main events and the genealogy of the kings of Jerusalem, and the right one focuses on the principality of Antioch.

Flemish Book Painting at Its Best

Much of the information on the story is contained in the iconographic apparatus in the form of captions and inscriptions in medallions. The decorative bands include gold and silver details, stylized foliage, gleaming gold-leaf ornamentation, flowers, and blue, red, and green fruits.

Full-page miniatures include rulers' portraits, ceremonies, and the scenes of the Crusade; smaller miniatures depict landscapes and portraits with superbly painted facial features.

Mastery of Detailed Landscapes and Perspective

The landscapes contain magnificent details, as in fol. 3r. where a large, horizontal miniature extends over four columns of text, depicting the start of the Crusades in 1096. The artist illustrated a lively scene taking place in a bay flanked by towering cliffs on one side and flat land on the other.

In the foreground, a ship lies at anchor while two commanders are conversing and two other figures, including the crusader Godfrey of Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine (ca. 1060-1100), are already on board. Far off in the background are a city and more ships that are sailing towards the shore.

This miniature is an example of the sophisticated use of atmospheric perspective by the artist. Unfortunately, the identity of the artist remains unknown, although scholars have attributed the work to the Girart Master, to Jean Dreux, and to Philippe Mazerolles. The scribe of the work is thought to have belonged to the workshop of David Aubert.

A Superb Example of Gothic Cursiva Formata

The script of the Chronicle of the Crusades is a magnificent example of Burgundian Bastard. The shaft of letter d is lengthened and convex; the text features the Rücken -g or g with a back, with two vertical strokes making the upper lobe cross the upper horizontal stroke.

Life of the Manuscript

The codex, whose patron was Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, was kept at the Court of the Dukes of Burgundy until at least 1487. In 1517 it appeared in the records of Emperor Charles V of Germany and I of Spain. In 1619 it was mentioned in the inventory of Matthias, the third son of Maximilian II. On 20th December 1752, it was transferred from the Imperial Treasury of Vienna to the Court Library, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, where it has been kept ever since.

We have 3 facsimiles of the manuscript "The Chronicle of the Crusades":

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Manuscript book description compiled by the publisher.

#1 Les Chroniques de Jérusalem

Valencia: Scriptorium, 2017

  • Commentary (English, Spanish)
  • Limited Edition: 290 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, The Chronicle of the Crusades: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.

The facsimile edition is printed on real parchment.

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#2 Les Chroniques de Jerusalem Abregées

Munich: Idion Verlag, 1980

  • Commentary (German) by Sáez, Carlos
  • Limited Edition: 950 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, The Chronicle of the Crusades: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.

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#3 Les Chroniques de Jherusalem Abrégées

Madrid: Club Bibliófilo Versol, 2004

  • Limited Edition: 575 Copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, The Chronicle of the Crusades: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.

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