The Devil’s Bible, the world’s biggest manuscript now on display in Prague, has an eventful 800-year-long history, accompanied by legends highlighting its emergence and alleged miraculous powers, and it is also unique as a book that only few Czech experts have ever been able to look at.
The illuminated Devil’s Bible (Codex Gigas) is of Czech origin but it has been kept by Swedes since the 17th-century.
“For the last time it was enquired into by [Czech early 19th century priest and scientist] Josef Dobrovsky, who actually re-discovered it in Sweden,” Czech National Library expert Miroslava Hejnova, who assisted at the rare book’s transport to Prague, has told CTK.
The Swedes took the Devil’s Bible away from Bohemia as part of their war loot at the end of the Thirty Years’ War. The first one to try to buy it out was Antonin Jan Nostic, the Austrian Empire’s ambassador to Sweden, in 1685-90. He gained back 133 sheets.
Dobrovsky visited Sweden in 1792 to examine the local works of Bohemian origin. He uncovered the Devil’s Bible and other Czech manuscripts in the Royal Library in Stockholm.
Another two Czech researchers examined the Devil’s Bible in Stockholm in the mid-19th century.
The Devil’s Bible comprises 14 texts. Apart from the Old Testament it is also the Penitential – a manual for priests featuring the list of sins and ways of penance.
Elsewhere the manuscript offers formulas to do away with diseases or to uncover and catch a thief.
The text copying the early 12th century Kosmas chronicle is widely viewed as the most valuable.
All texts in the Devil’s Bible are well readable. All were probably written by a single person, who must have worked on them for up to 20 years.
The monumental book’s value is beyond any speculations as its putting on sale is unthinkable. It can be only compared with other rare medieval manuscripts in the Czech Republic, which, nevertheless, are smaller, less illuminated and less popular.
Their value is estimated at tens and hundreds of millions of crowns. The most valuable of them is probably the Vysehrad Code, the late 11th century manuscript whose value is estimated at up to one billion crowns, experts say.
in The Prague Daily Monitor