Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
David J. Wallace
This dissertation celebrates the portable one-volume Latin Vulgate bibles produced on an unprecedented scale during the 13th century, particularly between 1230 and 1280, emphasizing their particular significance within the contexts of medieval book production and medieval bible use. The profound changes that these bibles implemented to the physical appearance and format of the Bible (as compact and portable copies of the complete biblical text), generated great innovations in the function and use of the Bible, and were directly responsible for the 13th-century portable bible’s extraordinary success and enduring popularity, in its own time and in ours, and thus their privileged place in the history of the Bible and the broader histories of medieval manuscripts and the Book.
I begin by positioning these bibles within contemporary trends of bible production, use and users at the time of their emergence in the early 13th century, comparing and contrasting their respective sizes, formats, texts, scripts, layouts and decoration, before proceeding, in my second chapter to examine the strategies of compression and miniaturization – including the use of thinner parchment, the miniaturization of their writing and the compression of the graphic unit of their mise-en-page - that made it possible to produce the whole Bible in Portable Book Format.
In my third chapter I turn to study how and why the 13th-century portable bible functioned as an independent searchable reference tool, and how these factors made these books invaluable for use for study and preaching, in addition to inviting liturgical use. Chapter 4 locates the portable bible within the early professional book trade, considers the production and early ownership of ‘luxury’ copies and offers a study of the costs involved in the ‘bespoke’ production of portable bibles (in the 13th century) and a survey of recorded prices of sale and purchase for which copies changed hands on the second hand book market (through the 16th century).
In my fifth and final chapter I investigate the position of 13th-century portable bibles in late medieval libraries and book collections focusing on the late medieval use of pandect bibles in two Benedictine communities, those at Durham Cathedral and at St. Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury, concluding with a discussion of the places and pusrposes of these books in other religious institutions, illustrated through an extensive survey of medieval catalogues, inventories, wills and booklists.
Devine, Alexander Leo, "A Portable Feast: The Production and Use of the Thirteenth-Century Portable Bible 1200-1500" (2016). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 1684.