Apocalypsis Johannis

alfa.D.5.22 - Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)

Facsimile edition
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$ 478
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Extent / Format

96 pages / 29.0 x 22.0 cm

Around 1460
Artist / School

The style is similar to the german "Bibliae Pauperum" of the same period
Flemish school of the early 1400


48 full-page colourized woodcuts

Short description

The Estense Apocalypse is an illuminated manuscript, which was produced ca. 1460 in either the Netherlands or the German region of the Rhine. It consists of 96 woodcuts, which were all colored by hand. The text of the Apocalypse is variously imbedded in the captivating scenes.

Facsimile editions available


Apocalypsis Johannis

The Book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse, is the last book of the New Testament. The biblical text is a coherent allegorical composition full of significant symbols, which has shaped and fascinated the Christian community for centuries. The present edition of the Apocalypse is found today in the Biblioteca Estense Universitaria in Italy. The precious work contains 48 full-page woodcuts, all of which were colored by hand. What we have here is one of the most beautiful and precious editions worldwide of the popular biblical text.

Symbolic Pictorial Language

The Book of Revelation was originally recorded in the form of a letter, which was written from the perspective of the John the Apostle for the seven Christian congregations of Asia Minor. The document has been subdivided into 22 chapters since the Middle Ages. The biblical text relates the terrifying visions of the end of the world and the Day of Judgement, which appeared to John the Apostle in a dream. The text was recorded in very vivid language and draws on various symbolic color schemes, representations of animals, and combinations of numbers. The code ‘666’, which encodes the name of the Beast, is still a generally known satanic motif. The Estense Apocalypse was made in the style of the Biblia Pauparum. It consists of 96 pictures, which each fill a whole page. The depictions are sometimes comprised of great scenes, sometimes they are divided into two scenes. The Latin text of the book was imbedded into miniatures in various ways, so that it creates the impression of a modern comic book for the reader.

An Harbinger of the Reformation?

What is special about the Estense Apocalypse is clearly its gorgeous illustrations. The outlines of the depictions were completed in outstanding woodcuts. Each individual page was hand-colored in a vivid, splendid variety of colors. The thrilling depictions were in stark contrast to the typical depictions of saints and church dignitaries at that time. No grace, no respect is shown to the clergy, they will be punished for their sins and outrages on the Earth’s last day – just like the rest of humanity. This special characteristic of the illustrations allows them to be interpreted as a harbinger of the Reformation, which convulsed all of Europe shortly after the genesis of the work and completely revolutionized the essence of the church.

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