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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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141 news items


Wed, 21 Jan 2015 01:24:28 -0800

So war im Mittelalter die „Biblia pauperum“, die „Armenbibel“, weit verbreitet, in der biblische Geschichte in einer Art kommentiertem Comicstrip erzählt wurden. Hier wurde das Bild als Verstärker oder Ergänzung für das Wort genutzt. Doch „Bilder ...
News Rimini
Wed, 07 Jan 2015 02:05:59 -0800

La Biblia Pauperum era un modo di supplire alle difficoltà che si frapponevano tra l'uomo del popolo (il “povero”) e la lettura diretta dei testi sacri, come l'analfabetismo diffuso e il costo proibitivo dei libri, è anche il titolo di una raccolta di ...


Fri, 16 Jan 2015 04:17:18 -0800

Od najdawniejszych czasów historię przedstawiano w postaci obrazów. Przykładowo w średniowieczu była to Biblia Pauperum, czyli Biblia Ubogich. W tamtym czasie ludzie w zdecydowanej większości nie umieli pisać, dlatego w kościołach malowano sceny ...


Fri, 02 Jan 2015 15:37:30 -0800

... ist mir ein Leben lang nachgegangen." Und die Bibel blieb Quelle seines Wirkens. Köder vergleicht sich mit einem kleinen Propheten, "der halt nicht sprechen kann, sondern malen kann". Vielleicht sei das, was er mache, "ja eine moderne biblia ...

Wiadomosci 24

Wiadomosci 24
Sat, 10 Jan 2015 12:49:51 -0800

W średniowieczu pojawiła się Biblia pauperum, której by głosić historie biblijne wystarczał wyłącznie obraz. W tym czasie zaistniała książka w znanej nam do dziś formie, która wiązała tekst z jego ilustracją zamykając całość na prostokątnych kartkach ...


Sun, 11 Jan 2015 02:07:30 -0800

Imamo je u srednjem vijeku u crkvama kao "biblia pauperum", slikovne prikaze biblijskih događaja za nepismeni dio populacije. Kasnije se uličnom umjetnošću koriste autori fresaka postavljenih na pročelja kuća, osobito u Veneciji. Do masovnijeg i šireg ...


Mon, 29 Sep 2014 22:06:36 -0700

They became known as the Biblia Pauperum, or Poor Man's Bible. As the champion and embodiment of the Christian ideal, St. George has been claimed by many states and kingdoms as their patron. He was the saint invoked by soldiers, a symbol of manly ...

Slate Magazine

Slate Magazine
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 06:45:02 -0700

Apocalypse in a Biblia Pauperum illuminated at Erfurt around the time of the Great Famine of An illustration of the apocalypse in a Biblia Pauperum from around the time of the European famine of 1315–1317. Death ("Mors") rides a lion whose long tail ...

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