600 years ago, demand grew in Europe for the Holy Scriptures in the people’s native tongue. The Bible was available almost exclusively in the Latin translation of St Jerome of Dalmatia from around 400 AD – the so-called Vulgate. This Vulgate Bible found various translators. Reformation movements in England under John Wycliffe and in Bohemia under Jan Hus put the spotlight on the Holy Scripture. New translations in English and Czech were the result.
There were also several translations of the Bible into German, for example this manuscript from Regensburg with pictures from the private collection of Duke Louis VII of Bayern. It is a New Testament translated into middle Bavarian and was produced in around 1430.
This reproduction of this valuable book from the Middle Ages clearly shows the handiwork of the book artists. The Bible is written and illustrated by hand. Four different artists worked on the book. Louis of Bayern unfortunately died during the illustrative work and the Bible remained unfinished. One hundred years later, one of his heirs uncovered the valuable book: Count Palatine Ottheinrich of Heidelberg. He had the missing representations completed by a renowned painter of the new Renaissance style, Mathis Gerung. In 1530, the Bible was finally completed after 100 years. The manuscript is known as the Ottheinrich Bible. Over the years, it was divided into eight volumes. A rescue purchase in 2008 brought all eight volumes from all over Europe together again in the possession of the Bavarian State Library. Since the Bibelhaus Erlebnis Museum was able to participate in buying back the Bible, this facsimile was produced in the context of an exhibition and gives an impression of the original book from the Middle Ages. The originals sit in Munich.
This Bible in German was the private copy for a prince! Books were scarce commodities. This only changed with the new process of book printing introduced by Johannes Gutenberg in around 1450.