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  • Les Bibles atlantiques. Le manuscrit biblique à l'époque de la réforme de l'église du XIe siècle ed. by Nadia Togni
  • Barbara Crostini (bio)
Les Bibles atlantiques. Le manuscrit biblique à l'époque de la réforme de l'église du XIe siècle. Ed. by Nadia Togni. (Millennio medievale, 110; Strumenti e studi, n.s. 42.) Florence: SISMEL–Edizioni del Galluzzo. 2016. xxxi + 578 pp. + 32 colour plates. £77. isbn 978 88 8450 528 6.

This large volume arising from the international colloquium of the same title held at the University of Geneva in February 2010 comprises twenty-five essays besides a presentation by its editor, Nadia Togni, and two further essays by way of introduction (by Michel Grandjean) and conclusion (by Pierre-Maurice Bogaert OSB). To each essay, written in French or Italian, is appended a bibliography and an English abstract; black-and-white illustrations follow the articles, while colour plates are printed at the end of the volume. The topics are clustered into four main sections (palaeography and codicology; art history; textual traditions; and monastic and ecclesiastical contexts) with some further contributions regarding giant Bibles north of the Alps (Falmagne) and individual descriptions (six 'notices complémentaires'), as well as an updated inventory of the known 'Atlantic' codices. When set beside the exhibition catalogue Le Bibbie Atlantiche (Milan, 2000), the present list adds two manuscript Bibles to make a total of ninety-nine extant codices and contributes a further ten groups of fragments from which nineteen further original exemplars now only partially and fortuitously preserved can be inferred. Four detailed indexes provide useful cross-references for the users of this rich volume. All contributions are of the highest scholarly standard and focus on or usefully expand the topic by taking the reader from detailed examinations to panoramic overviews of the contexts in which the Bibles were produced and read.

In approaching this field of study the non-initiated could benefit from starting at the end. In his conclusion, Bogaert presents a definition of the 'Atlantic Bible' (a terminology, as also discussed in the introduction, in common use since the early twentieth century and alluding to the giant Atlas, rather than his ocean) together with a synthesis of previous scholarship on the Bibles and a sketch of the issues at stake in their interpretation. The corpus is defined by similarity in size (over 500 mm) and decoration, particularly of the ornamented initials, as well as by uniformity in the order of biblical books and of their paratexts; the dating of the codices, between the mid-eleventh and the mid-twelfth centuries, is necessarily approximate because of the absence of colophons; and the provenance of the manufacture of these giant Bibles is Italian. Despite the detailed and painstaking studies of hands and decorative styles, the exact whereabouts of the ateliers where these special codices were made is unknown. The question of how far these types of book were exported beyond the centre of the Italian peninsula for the practical purpose of being used around the choir lectern, or rather were adopted or donated for ideological reasons as signs of belonging to the universal, reformed Church as it emerged in the second half of the eleventh century, remains a point of debate in several contributions to this volume. Although by its title the book aligns itself with a closer appreciation of a connection between reform and an 'extra-large size' edition of the Bible, vigorously expressed in Guy Lobrichon's paper, it also gives space to counter-arguments and more cautious, if not downright sceptical, voices.

New evidence strengthens the connection with Umbria: Togni's discovery and presentation of two further Bibles from the Monastery of San Pietro at Perugia provides material for tracing the spread of this type of book through the action of [End Page 79] reform-minded monks, abbots, and high prelates: she stresses the personal input that these ecclesiastics had in favouring the acquisition of Atlantic Bibles for key institutions. Giustino Farnedi's historical retrospective on the monastery of San Pietro itself presents a suggestive picture of the monastery's subsequent self-perception as closely tied to the...


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