A Nostalgic Filter: A University of Pittsburgh Exhibition

Toledo Bible

New York, Morgan Library and Museum, MS M. 240

Produced in Paris for King Louis IX of France, perhaps as a gift from his mother Queen Blanche of Castile, this enormous three-volume Bible pairs each verse with a commentary and illustrates each text in an accompanying roundel. The final folio features full-page portrayals of Blanche speaking as her son listens, both seated in a register above a tonsured cleric who instructs a professional artist. The visual and didactic parallels reflect the purpose and the making of the book; circles on the unfinished page connect the labor of theologians and illuminators to the manuscript itself, made to delight and instruct the young king.

The manuscript arrived in the cathedral of Toledo, Spain in the Middle Ages, perhaps sent as a gift from Louis to his cousin the bishop. The final eight folios, including the leaf with the four seated figures, were detached in the sixteenth century and trimmed at an unknown date, finally entering the collection of J. Pierpont Morgan in 1906. The facsimile edition reunites the Morgan quire with the rest of the manuscript but maintains the present condition of its cut pages, making the disparity visible while allowing the final folio to be seen as if returned to its original context.

To the best of our knowledge, the full Toledo Bible has yet to be digitized and made available online.  The Morgan quire, however, may be viewed online at the website of the Morgan Library & Museum.

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