In a library in Stockholm Sweden sits the Codex Gigas (literally, “Giant Book”), the world’s largest extant medieval illuminated manuscript in the world. Created in the thirteenth century in a place that is now part of the Czech Republic, the book contains the entirety of both the Old and New Testaments, as well as a selection of other popular medieval reference books. It is thirty-six inches long, twenty inches wide, eight inches thick and weighs seventy-eight pounds. It has three hundred and ten pages of vellum, made of donkey or calfskin, and a variety of massive, full color illuminations. Due to one of these illustrations, a full-page drawing of the devil, as well as the wild legend surrounding its creation, it is sometimes called The Devil’s Bible.
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According to a legend that emerged around this book at the time of its creation, the codex is a work by a single monk, created in a single night. The man was threatened to be walled up alive for breaking his monastic vows. To obtain leniency, he promised to create a work in a single night that would glorify al of human knowledge. In order to get it done, he made a deal with Lucifer, and repaid him by putting in a full color illumination of the devil within the pages of the book itself. Though studies of the book indicate that it was indeed made by a single scribe, folks in the know estimate that the writing alone, not including calligraphy or illumination, should have taken over twenty years to complete.
The Codex Gigas has changed hands many times in its history. Once, during a fire in the Swedish Royal palace, the book was thrown out a window to safety, where it fell on and injured a bystander.
But it did survive.