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The Rare Book and Special Collections Division receives queries about many aspects of the Giant Bible of Mainz, and we have attempted to answer some of the most frequently asked questions here.
Q: Was all of the Giant Bible of Mainz handwritten?
A: Yes. The Giant Bible of Mainz was created by a single scribe, who copied the entire bible by hand. According to the colophon on the last leaf, the scribe began his work on April 4, 1452 and finished on July 9, 1453.
Q: How large is the Giant Bible of Mainz?
A: The bound volumes are 590 x 420 mm. The leaves measure 576 x 405 mm. The first volume has 244 leaves of parchment. The second volume has 215 leaves of parchment. The binding is made of beveled wooden boards covered with white pigskin.
Q: How was the Giant Bible of Mainz used?
A: Due to its impressive size, large format bibles like the Giant Bible of Mainz were created to be used in ceremonial or liturgical settings where the volumes could be physically supported by lectionaries. The Giant Bible of Mainz was not an every-day study Bible, but a spectacle that was intended to be seen and recognized as important. Parchment was expensive, but the scribe for the Giant Bible of Mainz left a lot of space for illuminations, and gold leaf was used liberally through out both volumes. The expense would have been considerable. Potentially because the Giant Bible of Mainz was left incomplete, the manuscript remains in pristine condition, which had lead scholars to suggest that if the manuscript was used, previous custodians did so sparingly.
Q: In what Language was the Giant Bible written?
A: The Giant Bible of Mainz is written in Latin.
Q: What version of the Bible was used to create the Giant Bible of Mainz?
A: The Giant Bible of Mainz is a Latin Vulgate Bible. The order of the books is similar to other continental Bibles from this period in history, but the quantity of prologues that are included in the Giant Bible is perhaps a little less common. For more information on the specific order of the books in the Giant Bible of Mainz, see list available beginning on page 41 of the catalog Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript Books in the Library of Congress Vol. I. External
Q: Whose coat-of-arms is painted into the inhabited border surrounding the text of the prologue?
A: For many years, the intended referent for the heraldic shields at the opening of the Giant Bible of Mainz remained lost to history. However, in 2021, historian John Jefferson identified the shield on the right (heraldic left) as belonging to Rudolf of Rüdesheim, and the shield on the left (heraldic right) with the three white buckets as belonging to Abbot Emmerich Nauta of Winkel, who was the abbot of Johannisberg Monastery, which is less than 20 miles from the city of Mainz, when the scribe began working on the Giant Bible of Mainz. This discovery localizes the early patronage of the Giant Bible of Mainz to within a few miles of the city of Mainz, Germany.
Q: The Giant Bible of Mainz has two volumes. How are the volumes divided?
A: The first volume ends with the last chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes.The second volume begins with a preface to the Book of Isaiah