Bible from St Paul, Reims (?). c. 870

Rom, Abbazia di San Paolo fuori le mura, fol. 8v

Our miniature page illustrates the beginning of the Old Testament with the title from the first book of Moses. In the Vulgate Bible the first five books of Moses are named according to their content, so the first book is called Genesis, while in the Hebrew text each book is named after its first word at the beginning – so the heading to Genesis reads: Bresith, ‘in the beginning’ (…God created the heaven and the earth). Our impressive initial page of the Bible of St Paul cites both titles: INCIPIT LIBER BRESIT ID EST GENESEOS – ‘here begins the book of Bresith that is Genesis’. The golden letters on a purple background are carefully graduated in size. Golden tendrils with small, coloured ornaments play around the letters and build a carpet-like design. The lattice work in the upper cups of the IN is a reminiscent of the ornamentation in Irish book-painting while the engraving-like patterns of the shaft segments remind us of the highly cultivated art of Germanic goldsmiths’ work of the time.