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» Format and funcyion. The Bible
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- Format and function: the Bible
The Bible, which contains the sacred texts of the Jewish and Christian tradition, is the quintessential ‘book’ and offers a perfect example of the interaction between format and function in a manuscript codex.
Biblical texts could be read for liturgical purposes in a community setting or for devotional purposes in private; they could also be studied individually or in the classroom. Each of these functions corresponds to a specific format: larger sizes for books to be displayed to the faithful or used in public functions, and smaller, more manageable formats for manuscripts intended for prayer and individual consultation.
The two items shown here—an enormous Bible from Florence Cathedral and a small portable one that has traditionally been linked with Marco Polo (1254-1324) or a traveller who went to China in the 13th-14th century—are extremely different in both size and function.
In the first case (no. 35) the Bible is a monumental tome that once belonged to a religious community. It is presented as an instrument of propaganda reflecting the impetus towards moral renewal promoted by the Church between the mid-11th and mid-12th centuries. Uncoincidentally, this book model originated in Rome.
In the second case (no. 36) the manuscript on display is a typical ‘pocket’ Bible, a model devised at the University of Paris in the early 13th century to meet the needs of teachers, students and preachers for personal copies of the scriptures to consult, peruse and carry about handily.
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