Illuminated manuscript

$140 $

'The Garden of Eden'
Illumination from The Salzburg Missal,
by Berthold Furtmeyr.
Frame: 12 in x 16 in.

More details

An exceptional manuscript (1478 - 1490s)

The day after his birth in 1756, Mozart was baptised in the Baroque cathedral in Salzburg, Austria. Dedicated to Saint Rupert and Saint Vergilius, Salzburg Cathedral has been rebuilt several times from when it was first constructed in the Romanesque style in 774. During the 15th century, three consecutive archbishops commissioned the Missal that exists to this day, a religious manuscript on parchment in five volumes comprising twenty-two liturgical texts in Latin, for religious ceremonies. Regarded among experts as a monumental and significant work, the object boasts large dimensions (37.7 x 27.5 cm) and 680 richly inscribed, decorated and illuminated pages.

Prince-Archbishop Bernhard von Rohr (1421-1487), who was a bibliophile and fervent defender of the arts, commissioned work on the manuscript to begin around 1478. Production continued under the leadership of Archbishop Johann Beckenschlager (1428-1489) between 1482 and 1489, and then under Count Friederich Graf von Schaunberg until 1494.

Illumination of the Garden of Eden

Ulrich Schreier began work on the third volume - he was a magnificent illuminator who worked on manuscripts realised for the Benedictine monastery of Admont, which became part of the Salzburg University Library. However, soon afterwards Berthold Furtmeyr took over the decoration of the volumes with his splendid jeweled miniatures. A famous painter of the German Renaissance, he is attributed to have produced no fewer than fourteen religious and astronomical manuscripts. Furtmeyr worked in Regensburg (located in Bavaria on the banks of the Danube, a hundred kilometers from Munich), a medieval city that specialised in illumination.

The Missal was the property of the library of Salzburg Cathedral until 1801, when the book was seized by the French and taken to Paris, one object among many confiscated during various military conflicts between France and Germany. Since 1815, the manuscript once again crossed the Rhine and is now preserved in Munich*.

The Garden of Eden - The Tree of Death and Life

This illumination is one of the most famous within the manuscript. The central image is surrounded by four medallions, interwoven with arabesques of gilded branches, red flowers and soft green foliage, an ode to the eternal cycle of life. The painted landscapes are idyllic, filled with nature and abundance, in contrast to the colour of the sky and hills in the distance.

At the centre of the image is the Tree of Knowledge. A crucifix and a skull hang from its branches, symbols of faith, spirituality, and the interconnection of life and death, Good and Evil. Eve, naked, proffers forbidden fruit to the kneeling men; while the Virgin, robed in blue, is attempting to deliver humanity from evil. The serpent wrapped around the tree trunk offers Eve an apple, no doubt a warning to men to be vigilant. Adam appears defeated, slumped passively and verging on desolation.

Religious and illuminated manuscript from the 15th century

The banner in Adam’s hand reads Serpens vicit Adam, vetidam* sibi suggeret escam - ‘Seduced by the serpent, Adam eats the forbidden fruit’.

The banner which appears to the left of the Virgin, held by the figure in a pink toga, reads: Ecce panis angelorum, factus cibus viatorum, or ‘Behold the bread of angels, made the food of pilgrims’.

The banner which appears to the right of Eve, rising from the skeleton’s collar bone, reads: Mors est malis, vita bonis, vide, or ‘Death to the wicked, life to the good’.

In the upper medallions, two figures, one of which is wearing a crown, each display a coat of arms and bear a banner. The banner on the left reads: Panem angelorum manducavit homo, or ‘Man ate the bread of the angels’. The banner on the right reads: Melius est modicum iusto super divitias, or ‘Better is a little to the just than great riches’.

Medieval manuscript of a biblic image

The medallions at the bottom show three scenes of shepherd life, probably representing an allegory of labour. Three further banners unfold above the heads of the figures. The left reads: Quid honorabilius quam mea bene regere, or ‘What is more honourable than good guidance’. The right reads: Die hac nocte [meas] preservabo et custodiam, ‘Preserve and keep me on this night’.

* Ms Clm 15708-15712, Bavarian State Library, Munich.

** According to the Bavarian Library, there are some small errors made by the painter: here, he has written vetidam instead of vetitam.

Sources :




- Codices Illustres. Les plus beaux manuscrits enluminés du monde 400 à 1600, de Ingo F. Walther et Norbert Wolf, éditions Taschen (Paris, 2014).

- Une histoire des manuscrits enluminés de Christopher de Hamel, éditions Phaidon (Paris, 2001).

Wood frame, madein France.

The document is displayed in a 12 in x 16 in frame.

Each frame is hand-assembled in our workshops in Cambremer.

The New York Yimes logo

Mrs Dalloway: Thanks to a new reproduction of the only full draft of Mrs. Dalloway, handwritten in three notebooks and initially titled “The Hours,” we now know that the story she completed — about a day in the life of a London housewife planning a dinner party — was a far cry from the one she’d set out to write (...)

The Guardian Logo

The Grapes of Wrath: The handwritten manuscript of John Steinbeck’s masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath, complete with the swearwords excised from the published novel and revealing the urgency with which the author wrote, is to be published for the first time. There are scarcely any crossings-out or rewrites in the manuscript, although the original shows how publisher Viking Press edited out Steinbeck’s dozen uses of the word “fuck”, in an attempt to make the novel less controversial. (...)

Jane Eyre: This is a book for passionate people who are willing to discover Jane Eyre and Charlotte Brontë's work in a new way. Brontë's prose is clear, with only occasional modifications. She sometimes strikes out words, proposes others, circles a sentence she doesn't like and replaces it with another carefully crafted option. (...)

The observer logo

The Jungle Book: Some 173 sheets bearing Kipling’s elegant handwriting, and about a dozen drawings in black ink, offer insights into his creative process. The drawings were not published because they are unfinished, essentially works in progress. (...)

The Lost World: SP Books has published a new edition of The Lost World, Conan Doyle’s 1912 landmark adventure story. It reproduces Conan Doyle’s original manuscript for the first time, and includes a foreword by Jon Lellenberg: "It was very exciting to see, page by page, the creation of Conan Doyle’s story. To see the mind of the man as he wrote it". Among Conan Doyle’s archive, Lellenberg made an extraordinary discovery – a stash of photographs of the writer and his friends dressed as characters from the novel, with Conan Doyle taking the part of its combustible hero, Professor Challenger. (...)

The Chicago Tribune Logo

Frankenstein: There is understandably a burst of activity surrounding the book’s 200th anniversary. The original, 1818 edition has been reissued, as paperback by Penguin Classics. There’s a beautifully illustrated hardcover, “The New Annotated Frankenstein” (Liveright) and a spectacular limited edition luxury facsimile by SP Books of the original manuscript in Shelley's own handwriting based on her notebooks. (...)

the washington post logo

The Great Gatsby: But what if you require a big sumptuous volume to place under the tree? You won’t find anything more breathtaking than SP Books ’s facsimile of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s handwritten manuscript of The Great Gatsby, showing the deletions, emendations and reworked passages that eventually produced an American masterpiece (...)

Fine Books Magazine logo

Oliver Twist: In the first ever facsimile edition of the manuscript SP Books celebrates this iconic tale, revealing largely unseen edits that shed new light on the narrative of the story and on Dickens’s personality. Heavy lines blocking out text are intermixed with painterly arabesque annotations, while some characters' names are changed, including Oliver’s aunt Rose who was originally called Emily. The manuscript also provides insight into how Dickens censored his text, evident in the repeated attempts to curb his tendency towards over-emphasis and the use of violent language, particularly in moderating Bill Sikes’s brutality to Nancy. (...)

lit hub logo

Peter Pan: It is the manuscript of the latter, one of the jewels of the Berg Collection in the New York Public Library, which is reproduced here for the first time. Peter’s adventures in Neverland, described in Barrie’s small neat handwriting, are brought to life by the evocative color plates with which the artist Gwynedd Hudson decorated one of the last editions to be published in Barrie’s lifetime. (...)