Bible of Borso d'Este

Mss. Lat. 422 e Lat.423 - Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)

Alternate Titles:

Bibbia di Borso d'Este, Bibel des Borso d’Este

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Alternate Titles

Bibbia di Borso d'Este
Bibel des Borso d’Este

Extent / Format

2 volumes - 1,208 pages / 37.5 x 26.5 cm


Borso d'Este (1413 - 1471), Duke of Modena and Reggio Emilia

Artist / School

Taddeo Crivelli( 1425 - before 1479)
Franco de Rossi
Giorgio D'Alemagna
Marco di Giovanni dell'Avogaro
Girolamo da Cremona and others


Numerous scenic miniatures, historiated initials, border friezes, architectural border motifs, heraldic rectangular fields and medallions

Former owners

Senator Giovanni Traccani

Short description

The Bible of Borso d’Este was made between 1455 and 1461 by the most gifted Renaissance artists of Italy at the court of the Count of Este in Ferrara. It represents a highpoint of Italian illumination and combines the realistic painting of the Renaissance with fanciful Gothic stylistic elements in a unique way. Each page of the manuscript is illuminated with impressive diversity.

Facsimile editions available


Bible of Borso d'Este

Italy was a stronghold of art and science during the time period of the Renaissance. The innovative painting, architecture, sculpture, as well as the literature and philosophy of Italy influenced artists and scholars from all lands. The whole world oriented itself on the culture of Italy. An artistic center of Italy found itself at the court of Margrave Borso d’Este von Modena, Ferrara, and Reggio. In the Ferrara painting school, some of the most talented painters and illustrators of the Renaissance learned their craft. Numerous impressive illuminated manuscripts originated from here. Among them is numbered the breathtaking Bible of Borso d’Este. The two-part work, encompassing over 1,200 pages, is adorned with delightful miniatures and marginal depictions on each page.

The Book Craft of the Renaissance

Margrave Borso d’Este was a well-read and highly-educated man. He remained unmarried and had no heirs. His life was his duchy, which was dedicated to art and religion. The count commissioned numerous Latin and Greek manuscripts **, which were made by famous book artists such as **Taddeo Crivelli, Franco dei Russi, Guglielmo Giraldi, and Girolamo de’ Corradi. These very same four outstanding artists, as well as additional staff from their art studios, produced the two-volume bible for the count. The miniaturists painted each sheet of the book double-sided and oriented themselves on the new rules of perspective from Tuscany and on the realism of Flemish art.

An Inconceivable Variety of Design

The hand-written text of the Renaissance bible is decorated with countless initials and embellished letters in luminous colors and with shimmering applications of gold leaf. Numerous full-page miniatures of surprising realism visualize the events reflected in the text and enthrall every beholder. Especially noteworthy are the marginal embellishments of each page, which show an unbelievable variety of motifs from mythology, the animal kingdom, and heraldry. In this codex, the masterful illuminators managed to merge the new visual language of the Renaissance with the fantasy and elegance of the late Gothic. The bible represents the absolute highpoint of Italian Renaissance illumination.

The History of the Codex

As an overall work, the Bible of Borso d’Este represents an exceptional gallery of Renaissance painting, whose splendor was reached by no other contemporary monument. During the confusion of the First World War, the famous and globally sought-after masterpiece came into the possession of the last Austrian Empress Zita von Hapsburg, who wanted to sell it in America. Through the great Italian industrialist Giovanni Treccani, the document was able to be acquired for Italy through a sacrificial action. Today the splendid codex is found in the Bibilioteca Estense Universitaria in Modena.

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