Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Codex Gigas (The Devil's Bible) on Air

Jim West reports on his blog that National Geographic channel will air a program on the ‘Devil’s Bible‘ on Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern time. (Sob, I don't have that channel.)

Some photos, facts and other stuff relating to the codex are available on the National Geographic Channel webpage. (Don't miss to check out the downloadable screensavers and wallpapers, including e.g., a re-creation of a monk at writing calligraphy.)

Among the facts presented:

* The Devil’s Bible is so huge that it requires at least two people to carry it.

* Once considered the eighth wonder of the world, the Codex Gigas stretches three feet long and weighs a hundred and sixty-five pounds.

* It is the only book that places the Old and New Testaments alongside violent, holy incantations.

* The Codex Gigas contains one full page – right opposite the devil portrait – of a towering Heavenly City. Although no people can be seen in the Heavenly City, it is a symbol of hope and salvation, a contrast to the portrait of the devil on the opposing page.

* The Codex Gigas includes mystical medical formulas for anything from treating ailments such as fevers and epilepsy to resolving practical problems such as finding a thief.

* The book's transfer to Prague in 2008 took a year of planning. It was insured for $15.1 million during the transfer.

* The Devil’s Bible has 600 pages, which is 310 parchment leaves, all made from donkey skins.

To this we can add that the codex is deposited in the Royal Library in Stockholm. I wonder why they did not include this information. I think it is our second most valuable book in Sweden (next to Codex Argenteum). Recently, Codex Gigas was on loan to Prague (whence we Swedes once stole it...).

Read more about this codex in our previous report here.

Update: The fact about donkey skins is probably wrong. We commented on this in the previous report in 2007, that a new analysis has shown that it is made of calf skins.


  1. I can't find it on the programme for UK National Geographic.

  2. "The Devil’s Bible has 600 pages, which is 310 parchment leaves, all made from donkey skins."

    I am curious -- are there any other parchment-type MSS (one properly can't call them vellum) that can be identified as having come from donkey skins?

    Even if so, how easily can one determine the animal of origin (barring DNA sampling)? Or might the only real determination be based upon oral tradition?

  3. Maurice, I swallowed that camel to quickly. In the previous posting last year I reported that new analysis had shown that it is calf skin. NGC apparently has it wrong. I have added a note.

  4. Hi,

    I notice on the NG webpage they contend Codex Gigas is the world's largest medieval manuscript. This can be questioned i believe depending on how we define "largest".

    For those of you that keep one eye on Islamic matters and i am quite sure there are a few ;-) , there is a manuscript from Islam's first/second century (c. 700-800 C.E) which exceeds the specifications of Gigas with the exception of height.

    For a sample image see here:{438932df-cf6a-4d02-b71b-a207cd3887ab}|{ffffffff-ffff-ffff-ffff-ffffffffffff}&qsPageNo=22&fdid=&Area=Search&TotalCount=1187&CurrentPos=50&WinID={438932df-cf6a-4d02-b71b-a207cd3887ab}

    Alleged to have have been one of the manuscripts commissioned by Uthman it has the following statistics (Gigas in brackets):

    Size: 57cm x 68cm (89.5 cm x 49 cm)
    Weight: 80Kg (75Kg)
    Pages: 1087 (600)

    Who said Christians and Muslims can't get along... all i've done is said mines is bigger than yours ;-)

    Abu Sulayman

  5. Peter, it seems it was broadcasted last Sunday in UK:

    sorry about that (perhaps there is a reprise?).

  6. Abu Suleyman,
    Can you give us the name of this Quran codex? And btw, the man in the photo is holding it upside down.

  7. It might be worthwhile to mention that every page of Codex Gigas is available to view online, in a wonderful zoom in/out format comparable to the one used to display the Goodspeed Collection at the Univ. of Chicago, at the website of the Kungl Biblioteket in Sweden:

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  8. Jim, thanks. And that link to the Codex Gigas website of the Royal library was also referred to in the older post.

  9. Of greater interest to textual critics should be the readings of the text itself. It has some singular readings (for Latin), particularly in Acts and The Apocalypse, where it departs from the Vulgate. Some interesting readings are:

    - No Johannine Comma in 1 John 5.

    - 'do his commands' in Rev. 22:14, singular for Latin but the Majority reading for Greek.

    - 'with the saints' in Rev. 22:21, a doubly singular reading shared only with Aleph, as followed by Tischendorf (of course), Alford, and Westcott & Hort.