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Art & Architecture Collections

Illuminated Manuscript and other Facsimiles

Significant works of art in codex form are sometimes reproduced, wholly and painstakingly, in a type of art book called a facsimile. Medieval illuminated manuscripts are most often the subjects of facsimiles.

Recently-produced facsimiles, published in very limited editions, are so skillfully made, so true to the originals, that it is sometimes hard to identify them at first glance as copies. The rich leather bindings have been fashioned to mimic the originals as closely as possible, sometimes even to the point of including metal clasps and mounted imitation jewels. The pages are replicas of the originals, as clear and as close to the colors and lines used by the medieval illuminators and calligraphers as photographic reproductions can be. Even the worm holes and other damage to the pages of the original manuscripts are reproduced in the facsimiles.

It has only been within the last thirty years or so that modern book-making technology has been able to produce facsimiles as good as these. They have been extremely useful to scholars of medieval studies because they make the unique, carefully guarded manuscripts, usually locked away in European libraries, museums, or cathedral treasuries, accessible to American art history graduate students. Although art historians are generally taught that there is no substitute for a close examinination of the original art work that one is studying, it is excusable in some cases to rely on a well-made reproduction.

Two of the finest and most heavily used of the Stanford Art & Architecture Library's collection of illuminated manuscript facsimiles are those of the Douce Apocalypse (Bodleian Library; Douce 180) and the Utrecht Psalter (Utrecht, Bibliotheek der Rijksuniversiteit; MS 32/484), landmark works in the history of medieval painting and book production. Our facsimiles were produced in 1981 and 1982 respectively by Akademische Druck und Verlagsanstalt, the Austrian firm that is one of the premier publishers of illuminated manuscript facsimiles. The Douce Apocalypse, which is in the collection of the Bodleian Library at Oxford Univesity, illustrates the Book of Revelation with 97 illuminations, which were probably painted between 1250 and 1275. Our facsimile faithfully reproduces the clarity, delicacy, and muted colors of the original illuminations. The Utrecht Psalter (owned by the University of Utrecht) is a ninth-century manuscript from northern France in which the psalms are illustrated with 166 vibrant pen drawings that give the appearance of having been executed with great speed and lightness.

In addition to medieval illuminated manuscripts, artists' sketch books of the 19th century and illuminated manuscripts of Middle American indigenous peoples are categories of codex that have occasionally been the subject of facsimile production.

Selected Facsimiles in the Stanford University Libraries Collections:

Medieval European

Middle American

Nineteenth-century European


More on Facsimiles at Stanford.

For additional information on manuscript facsimiles at Stanford University Libraries, visit the pages for John Rawlings, Curator for Medieval Studies, especially the section devoted to Manuscripts .


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Alex Ross
Tel: (415) 725-1037
Fax: (415) 725-0140
email: alexr@leland.stanford.edu