Facsimile edition by Quaternio Verlag Luzern (Switzerland), 2012.
Since 1575 the Parker Library at the renowned Corpus Christi College in Cambridge has been home to the most lavishly ornamented English Apocalypse manuscript of the fourteenth century. Measuring 37 × 26 centimetres and containing 72 pages, the manuscript features a dense series of no less than 121 large miniatures in brilliant colours and sparkling gold and silver. Most of the glowing gold surfaces are decorated with delicate chasing. Fascinating images of dramatic events are depicted on imaginatively patterned backgrounds. 280 blue initials with red flourishing and 59 golden initials ornament the Anglo-Norman French and Latin texts.
“Apocalypse” commonly refers to the Book of Revelation of Saint John, the last book of the New Testament. St John, exiled by Emperor Domitian (51–96 AD) to the Greek island of Patmos, experienced his vision of the end of the world and the Day of Judgment, followed by the dawn of the Kingdom of God, and he wrote it all down in a strongly metaphorical language.
The powerful eloquence and symbolism of this text, composed toward the end of the first century, has always fascinated and inspired western civilization. During the Middle Ages the Apocalypse was one of the most frequently commented books, and its various interpretations exercised considerable influence over the entire concept of western history.
The majority of the book consists of 60 folios with 106 miniatures depicting the Revelation of St John. St Paul’s Apocalypse, with fourteen miniatures, takes up the next eight leaves. For the first time ever, the impressive cycle of pictures of the Visions of Hell ascribed to St Paul is available in this facsimile edition of the Corpus Apocalypse. Lastly, a full-page, ceremonial miniature begins the transcript of the Coronation Order.
After the death of Henry de Cobham in 1339 the Corpus Apocalypse passed into the hands of Juliana de Leybourn, who made a bequest of the manuscript to the Benedictine abbey of St. Augustine in Canterbury in 1367. The abbey was dissolved in 1538, and during the unsettled period of the Reformation the passionate book and manuscript collector Matthew Parker (1504–1575) acquired and rescued hundreds of manuscripts.
Parker was Master of Corpus Christi College in Cambridge for nine years, and later the vice chancellor of Cambridge University. In 1559 Elizabeth I created him Archbishop of Canterbury, ecclesiastical head of the Church of England. In the year before his death he made a will leaving his collection of 480 manuscripts to his old college, forming the basis for what is now the famous Parker Library.