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The illuminated Bible

Illuminated books of the Bible existed during all the history of Christianity. Bible texts on parchment rolls and codes already contained pictured miniatures. With the invention of book printing this tradition started to develop most actively.

The earliest printed illuminated Bibles were decorated with pictures made with the use of wooden cliché – xylography. Biblia Leopolity (Biblia to iest Xięgi Stharego y Novego Zakonu… Krákow, 1561) is an example of such an edition. This is the first translation of the Bible into the Polish language (translator Jan Nicz from Lvov – “Leopolita”) with numerous engravings which was published by N. Szarffenberg, the known printer from Krakow.

Gradually xylography had given way to better prints from copper plates – the etching. Artists of the ХVII-XVIII centuries devoted their best creations to the Bible story plots. The Bible with engravings by eminent Swiss artist sand engraver M. Merian (Merian M. Biblia. Durch Mattheus Merian von Basel. [Franckfurt], 1627) is a glaring example of the Bible design of the early XVII century.

In the XVIII century the Netherlands became the center of printing of engraved biblical albums. The collection printed by P. de Hondt (Taferelen der voornaamste geschiedenissen van het oude en nieuwe testament, en andere boeken, bij de heilige schrift gevoegt, door de vermaarde kunstenaars Hoet, Houtbraken, en Picart getekent, en van de beste meesters in koper gesneden, en met beschrijvingen uitgebreid. V. 2. Graavenhaage: Pieter de Hondt, 1728) with illustration of Dutch artists and engravers G. Hoet and J. Houbraken and also French master of etching B. Picart, is among the most beautiful Dutch Bibles.

The Golden Bible of Classics… (Biblia złota klasyków… Wiedeń, [1898]) translated into Polish includes 126 splendid chromolithographs by classical masters. The book is bound in the unique editor’s leather cover with stamping and gilding, brass overlays and a fastener.

The exposition section also includes the first edition of the Roman Missal translated into the Belarusian language (Рымскі Імшал для дыяцэзій на Беларусі… Мінск, 2004). This book is also the first translation of the Missal third edition into national languages. It was presented as a gift from Cardinal Kazimir Sviontak, Archbishop and Metropolitan of Minsk and Mogilev. A donation letter enclosed features the Cardinal’s personal signature. The facsimile edition of the Slutsk Gospel 1582 (The Holy Gospel. Slutsk, 1582. Minsk , 2009) with the foreword and signature of Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus Filaret is also on display.

The exhibition will run till 2 February, 2015.