Norfolk’s Holkham Hall possesses one of Britain’s great country-house libraries. In 1816 Thomas William Coke, renowned agricultural reformer, acquired one of the jewels in Holkham’s crown - its Bible Picture Book. A Catholic priest is said to have brought it from the Continent, where it may have been taken during the Reformation. It is now British Library, Additional MS 47682, purchased with invaluable assistance from the National Art Collections Fund, the Pilgrim Trust and the Friends of the National Libraries.
The Holkham Bible offers a unique insight into the mind of a Londoner at a time when the great towns of Europe were in the ascendancy and people were relinquishing ancient feudal ties to the land in search of new opportunity. Detailed ‘excavation’ of the way in which the manuscript was made reveals that it began life not as a book at all, but as a booklet of designs perhaps for an embroidered altarpiece or vestments, its style resembling textile opus anglicanum (‘English work’).
The original project comprised the Passion of Christ, but the artist conceived a plan to supplement this to form a pictorial triptych in book form, for which accompanying text was then devised. The series of miracles was extended, Genesis and Apocalypse cycles were added on either side and the prefatory miniatures depicting the artist at work and Fortune’s Wheel were moved to their current position at the start of the book.
This eBookTreasures facsimile edition contains the complete manuscript along with text commentary on all pages.