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Not to be confused with Poor Man's Bible.
Three episodes from a block-book Biblia Pauperum illustrating typological correspondences between the Old and New Testaments: Eve and the serpent, the Annunciation, Gideon's miracle

The Biblia pauperum ("Paupers' Bible") was a tradition of picture Bibles beginning probably with Ansgar, and a common printed block-book in the later Middle Ages to visualize the typological correspondences between the Old and New Testaments. Unlike a simple "illustrated Bible", where the pictures are subordinated to the text, these Bibles placed the illustration in the centre, with only a brief text or sometimes no text at all. Words spoken by the figures in the miniatures could be written on scrolls coming out of their mouths. To this extent one might see parallels with modern cartoon strips.

The tradition is a further simplification of the Bible moralisée tradition, which was similar but with more text. Like these, the Biblia pauperum was usually in the local vernacular language, rather than Latin.


Originally Paupers' Bibles took the form of colourful hand-painted illuminated manuscripts on vellum, though in the fifteenth century printed examples with woodcuts took over. The Biblia pauperum was among the commonest works put out in block-book form, mainly in the Netherlands and Germany, where both text and images were done entirely in a single woodcut for each page. The first of many editions printed using movable type was printed in German, in Bamberg in about 1462 by Albrecht Pfister; there were about eighteen incunabulum editions.[1][2] A Biblia pauperum was not intended to be bought by the poor — some manuscripts were opulent and very expensive, although the block-book versions were far cheaper, and probably affordable by parish priests. The simpler versions were however probably used by the clergy as a teaching aid for those who could not read, which included most of the population. The name Biblia pauperum was applied by German scholars in the 1930s.

Each group of images in the Biblia pauperum is dedicated to one event from the Gospels, which is accompanied by two slightly smaller pictures of Old Testament events which prefigure the central one, according to belief of medieval theologians in typology; these parallels are explained in two blocks of text, and each of the three Biblical scene is introduced with a Latin verse. Four Prophets hold scrolls with quotations from their Books, which prefigure the same event from the Gospels. For example, the scene of Longinus spearing Jesus as he hangs on the Cross is accompanied by God bringing forth Eve from the side of Adam, and Moses striking the rock so that water flowed forth, together with prophecies of Zechariah, the Psalms, the Lamentations and Amos.[3]

The earliest manuscripts of the Biblia Pauperum were made in Bavaria and Austria in the 14th century, they have 34–36 groups. Later versions add more scenes, and one of the most detailed versions is the 50-part blockbook version, produced in the Netherlands in the time 1480-1495


The Biblia was rivalled by the Speculum Humanae Salvationis (Mirror of Human Salvation), another very popular compilation of typological pairings, with rather more text than the Biblia. The iconographical programmes of these books are shared with many other forms of medieval art, including stained glass windows and carvings of biblical subjects. Since books are more portable than these, they may well have been important in transmitting new developments in depicting the subjects. Most subjects, such as the Annunciation to the Shepherds, can be seen in a very similar form at different dates, in different media and different countries.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ J. Victor Scholderer (1912). "'Albrecht Pfister of Bamberg' (book review)". The Library. S3-III: 230–6. doi:10.1093/library/s3-iii.10.230. 
  2. ^ ISTC British Library
  3. ^ http://warburg.sas.ac.uk/vpc/VPC_search/record.php?record=34879 Faksimile].

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblia_pauperum — Please support Wikipedia.
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Biblia pauperum kościoła w Klępsku

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157 news items

University of Dayton - News Home

University of Dayton - News Home
Fri, 18 Sep 2015 06:30:00 -0700

A fine-art facsimile of a Biblia Pauperum (Bible of the Poor) — a 40-leaf “blockbook” of 15th-century wood block-printed scriptural scenes. * A Book of Hours manuscript with hand-painted illustrations. * A facsimile of the Book of Kells, an ...


Fri, 22 May 2015 21:00:41 -0700

Medeltidens Biblia pauperum, Bibel för de fattiga, var en sorts Bibelns Det bästa, ett pedagogiskt propagandamedel uppfunnet av en bayersk munk på 1200-talet. Här mosades Gamla testamentet ihop med det Nya, enligt den typologiska bibeltolkningens ...


Sun, 27 Sep 2015 06:52:30 -0700

Werke wie die Biblia pauperum von 1460 etwa, die nach strengen Regeln – Typologie genannt – Motive des Alten und Neuen Testaments verknüpft. Der Titel Biblia pauperum, Bibel der Armen, ist also eher irreführend. Zugänglicher die sogenannten ...

Radio RDN Małopolska

Radio RDN Małopolska
Tue, 22 Sep 2015 14:56:15 -0700

Przez obraz (biblia pauperum) i ikonę, która wróciła do łask. To nie jest tylko zainteresowanie piszących z kręgu kultury chrześcijańskiej. Na pewno jest to przejaw potrzeby doświadczenia Boga ze strony wielu ludzi, którzy gonie spotkali. – dodaje bp A ...


Wed, 23 Sep 2015 21:07:30 -0700

... nur verständlich dem Latein- und Bibelkundigen. Werke wie die Biblia pauperum von 1460 etwa, die nach strengen Regeln – Typologie genannt – Motive des Alten und Neuen Testaments verknüpft, um Heilserwartung und Heilserfüllung nachzuweisen.

Radio Dla Ciebie

Radio Dla Ciebie
Sat, 19 Sep 2015 01:47:43 -0700

Na szczęście czasy te minęły i coraz lepiej zdajemy sobie sprawę, że obraz jest nie tyle ubogim krewnym języka (biblia pauperum), ile raczej innym sposobem doświadczenia i komunikowania” – napisał Sławomir Sikora w publikacji promującej Festiwal ...


Mon, 14 Sep 2015 02:02:31 -0700

Le opere sono caratterizzate da una simbolica narrativa, sviluppata in cicli tematici: i Salmi, la Biblia Pauperum, la Shoah con tele di "Se questo è un uomo" e il mondo fantastico delle fiabe, "Il piccolo principe". Di recente si è dedicato anche all ...


Sun, 13 Sep 2015 01:28:03 -0700

... Giorgio della Costa a Firenze sono costruiti secondo uno schema non più ieratico e frontale, ma tridimensionale, quindi più umano e più tangibile all'occhio del fedele, che, all'epoca, continuava a vedere le pale d'altare e gli affreschi come ...

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