Rare Books Feature : Apocalypse 1313

The second guest post by practicum student Andrew Moore. Andrew Moore is from Saskatchewan, but decided to move 4000 Kilometers away to become a Librarian. An Alumnus of the University of Saskatchewan (B.A 2011), and a current MLIS Candidate (2016) at Dalhousie University, his interests include cooking, reading and history


Figure 1- Recto 86. Demons herd naked and terrified sinners into the mouth of hell, depicted here as the mouth of a ravenous beast.

There are some who might argue that because the art in medieval books lacks perspective and that the text is difficult to read, that they are uninteresting. Nothing could be further from the truth! Many medieval manuscripts are full of art that is fantastical, gruesome and occasionally, downright strange. There are few (if any) modern books that use artwork to depict demons menacing and stuffing sinners into the mouth of hell, and fewer still that depict a crowd of men being trampled by the

Figure 2- Recto 75. A smaller illustration perched atop the main illustration.

Beast with seven heads and crowns (of Biblical infamy). And as far as this writer is aware, there exists no modern book that was created specifically for crowned royalty that was also given absurdest illustrations of a hand with a lion’s foot and tail, balancing a chalice, perching atop the full-page illustration (depicted below).

The University Archives and Special Collections have a special treat for lovers of the strange, apocalyptic and unusual, as well as for those fond of medieval art and illustration. The UASC has acquired a rare, beautifully crafted and 100% faithful reproduction of L’Apocalypse 1313, a medieval Apocalypse Manuscript originally owned by the infamous Isabella “The She-Wolf” of France, Queen to Edward II of England.

The manuscript is a recent addition to University Archives and Special Collection’s Rare Book Collection.

So, What the Heck is an Apocalypse Manuscript?

Figure 4- Recto 3. St. John of Patmos receives the divine revelation that will lead to the eponymous book.

The simple answer is that it is a manuscript that provides both imaginative imagery and commentary on the text and ideas found in the Biblical book of Revelations.

The somewhat longer and more complicated answer lies at the roots of medieval Christianity; books such as L’Apocalypse 1313 are a part of a larger tradition of Biblical exegesis (critical interpretations or explanations of text). Books such as L’Apocalypse 1313 strove to allow their readers to both understand the sometimes difficult theological ground of the Book of Revelations, and to allow the reader to conduct religious meditation on these mysteries.

Figure 5- Recto 87. Sinners being tormented by demons in a variety of gruesomely creative ways.



The genre of Apocalypse manuscripts is one with a fairly long life; examples of the genre appear in Spain, Italy, France, England and Germany. Nor are exegetical manuscripts limited to a particular time-frame; while the genre was most popular in the 12th Century, examples of the genre appear in both early and high medieval Spain, and examples appear in the Low Countries and Germany as late as the 15th Century. Because the Genre of Apocalypse Manuscripts is so broad in both geography and time, a given manuscript can be placed into different ‘families’ that best represent the specific style. The original manuscript and the reproduction of L’Apocalypse 1313 available in Special Collections are examples of the Gothic Anglo-French Apocalypses, which were created in the 13th and 14th Centuries.

Figure 6- Recto 26. A useful example of Exegetical metaphor; Satan was frequently depicted as a ravening wolf in medieval artwork. He is seen here, pursuing a lamb which personifies the Church.
Figure 7- Recto 26. The Beast with seven heads and seven crowns depicted trampling people.

Apocalypse Manuscripts such as this represent an important cultural and religious facet of medieval European life, as well as being beautiful, strange artistic works in their own right. The trip to view the original L’Apocalypse in the National Library of France might be beyond the means of many local lovers of rare books and medieval art/manuscripts; fortunately, the trip to view the reproduction is far simpler, and the staff at UASC would be pleased to let those interested discover it for themselves.

About the Manuscript

Because the reproduction of the original L’Apocalypse 1313 is a faithful one, a description of one manuscript also describes the other.

Figure 8- Recto 165 & 166.These pages are an example of the reproduction’s attention to detail. The original L’Apocalypse has had parts of Recto 165 torn away, which is exactingly shown here.


L’Apocalypse 1313 is a small volume; including the bindings, it measures only 23.7 centimetres high, 16.7 centimetres wide and about 6 centimetres thick on average. The book is bound using wooden boards and six ribs. T he ribs, head and tail all have gold fillet adorning them, though this decoration appears to have been added in more historically recent times. The volume consists of 167 folios and two unnumbered leaves.

Given the volumes physical size and its patron, it was likely intended to be a non-ceremonial book; that is, it is small enough to be used and carried on a regular basis. This notion of usability is supported by the genre of the volume; exegetical works such as L’Apocalypse were intended to guide readers in contemplative meditation on the allegories of the Book of Revelations.

Figure 9- Verso 19. The writing in the margins and centre spacing between the main text columns is unusual for this volume.



While Chadewe Colins (discussed below) may have been the primary force behind the work, he is not the only one. The reproduction of the manuscript is accompanied by an excellent, detailed commentary by Moleiro, who identifies five separate scribal hands that took part in the production of the text to the original manuscript.

Even if the modern reader is not given to religious meditation, looking at the reproduction of L’Apocalypse available in Special Collections is still greatly worthwhile, both for the fantastical and often gruesome medieval conception of the end of the world, and to appreciate the tremendous planning and preparation that must have gone into creating such a functional work of art.

About the Author

Figure 10- Regrettably, no artistic depiction of Chadewe Colins is extant.

The scribe to whom the writing of L’Apocalypse 1313 is attributed identifies himself as one Chadewe Colins. Regrettably, as with many people involved in literary pursuits in the Medieval Period, not much more is known about the man. It is probable that he was a man of some degree of learning and artistic skill; the inscription where he identifies himself as the writer of the book also indicates he was the one who illuminated the manuscript.

Moleiro identifies five scribal hands that had a part in the production of the manuscript. Which of these was Colins is unknown, and any information on the identities of the other four scribes is likewise unknown.

About the Patron

Figure 11- Isabella “The She-Wolf” of France, as depicted in medieval art.

According to an inscription in the text, the Manuscript was made for Isabella of France (b.1295- d.1358), the wife and Queen of Edward II (b.1284-d.1327) and the mother of the future Edward III. Isabella was the daughter of King Philip IV “The Fair” of France (b.1268-d.1314), and was one of the most colourful and interesting figures of Late Medieval England.

Isabella was probably literate, and she was certainly cultured. Aside from L’Apocalypse 1313, her collection of books which survived to the modern day include seven other religious texts, eight volumes of romances, a collection of Arthurian legends, and the ‘Isabella Psalter’ (which also contained a bestiary).

Sent to England at the age of 12 to be a child bride to Edward II, her marriage was generally seen to be an unhappy one. She was much dissatisfied with the life at the English court, which was, to her a significant step downward from the vibrant cultural scene in Paris. Additionally, Edward II was a man who tended to be easily swayed by what both Isabella and the great magnates of England saw as bad councillors. Edward consequently ignored his wife, and invested great power in these advisers, first Piers Gaveston, and later Hugh Despenser the Younger.

This proclivity of Edwards to favour what his largest vassals saw as unworthy individuals led inevitably to conflict. English Barons who had long hated Gaveston, captured and executed him in 1312, and it was Isabella who managed to intercede between the King and his Barons, and thus preserve peace.

This changed by 1326. The new royal favourite, Hugh Despenser the younger was also much despised by the great magnates of England, but also by the Queen. In 1326, she led an army from France alongside expatriate Englishman Roger Mortimer (1287-1330), who was also the queen’s lover. Together, they invaded England to get rid of Despenser for good. Despenser was captured by mid-November of that year, tried, and then executed gruesomely by being hanged, drawn and quartered. Edward II was forced to abdicate by his victorious wife and nobility in favour of his son, and died by September of the next year.

pic12 pic13
Figure 12- Recto 16 and Verso 17.  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Recto 16 depicts the Horsemen of Conquest and War. Verso 17 depicts the Horsemen of  Famine and Death. Also depicted are St. John of Patmos (At right, with a scroll), and symbolic versions of the Apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

All was not well in the land, though. Isabella and Mortimer ruled England as regents for the young Edward III, but their profligate spending and an unpopular treaty with the Scottish quickly led to them becoming unpopular in their turn. In September 1330, Edward III led a coup against his own mother and her lover; Mortimer was executed and Isabella was imprisoned.

Isabella did not stay imprisoned for long. In order to preserve her reputation and potential claims on the French Crown, Queen Isabella was allowed to retire from public life, given an annual salary of £3,000 and went to live quietly in the countryside. She lived in this manner until 1358.


Chadewe Colins (n.d). In Benezeit Dictionary of Artists. Oxford Art Online. Retrieved from


Hilton, L. (2008). Queens Consort. London, U.K: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Isabella (1295-1358)’ (2004). In the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved April 27th, 2015

from http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/14484?docPos=5

Klein, P.K. (1992). Introduction: The apocalypse in medieval art. In R.K. Emmerson and Bernard McGinn

(Eds.), The apocalypse in the middle ages. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press

McGinn, B. (1992). Introduction: John’s apocalypse and the apocalyptic mentality. In R.K. Emmerson

and Bernard McGinn (Eds.), The apocalypse in the middle ages. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press

Plukowski, A. (2003). Apocalyptic Monsters. In B. Bildhauer and R. Mills (Eds.), The Monstrous Middle

Ages. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Weir, A. (2005). Queen Isabella. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Rare Books Feature: London, A Pilgrimage

Over the course of the month of April, UASC had an opportunity to work with Andrew Moore of Dalhousie University. He was heavily involved in setting up this year’s University Authors exhibit in the link, and has also agreed to be our first guest author on What’s That, UASC?. Andrew Moore is from Saskatchewan, but decided to move 4000 Kilometers away to become a Librarian. An Alumnus of the University of Saskatchewan (B.A 2011), and a current MLIS Candidate (2016) at Dalhousie University, his interests include cooking, reading and history


The University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections has a great number of fascinating physical artefacts, historical notes and documents, and rare books. One item of particular interest for both students of social history and rare book enthusiasts is London, A Pilgrimage. Written by William Blanchard Jerrold and with illustrations by the acclaimed illustrator and artist Gustave Doré, it is a sterling example of the emotive, grotesque and sometimes fantastical artwork and text that Victorian audiences were capable of producing, and delighted in consuming.

About the Author

1Despite going by the name of Blanchard Jerrold on the cover of London, the author’s full name was William Blanchard Jerrold (1826-1884). The son of successful Journalist Douglas Jerrold, and godson of poet Samuel Laman Blanchard, for whom he was named, William was educated in both England and France.

Though Jerrold aspired to be an artist, this dream was derailed when he developed difficulties with his eyesight. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a journalist; upon his father’s death in 1857 he replaced him as the editor of the newspaper Lloyd’s Weekly. While at Lloyd’s he maintained the liberal political stance of the paper; when the American Civil War broke out, he wrote several articles in favour of the north which were popular enough to be reprinted and circulated in the Continental US.

He published numerous articles over the course of his journalistic career, as well as a number of books. In between times he was also a playwright. Four of his plays were produced and staged in London; the most popular of these, Cool as a Cucumber, played at the Lyceum in 1851.

About the Illustrator

2Gustave Louis Auguste Doré (1832-1883) was born in Strasbourg, France, the second of three children. Doré was something of a prodigy, publishing his first lithographic album at age 15. In spite of his great talent, Doré received minimal formal artistic training, something that would dog his artistic ambitions all his life.

Doré was a prolific Illustrator, creating thousands of Illustrations over his lifetime. Many of his earlier Illustrations were comedic caricatures, though Doré was also a tremendous illustrator of serious literary works; illustrations by Doré adorn 19th Century printings of authors such as Dante Alighieri, Miguel Cervantes, Honoré de Balzac, William Shakespeare, Victor Hugo and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as many others.

Despite many of Dorés contemporaries characterizing him as a personality that filled whatever room he entered into, other aspects of Dorés life were not as successful as his prodigious, productive and commercially successful illustrating career; despite being widely circulated in both England and France, his attempts at gaining recognition in other, more critically serious art-forms such as painting or sculpture were generally panned by the French critics. While he was both commercially successful and tremendously popular in England (To the point that he had a museum in London dedicated to his work that remained open well into the early 20th Century), the artistic recognition that he craved was never given to him in his native France during his own lifetime.

Further, Doré was unlucky in the arena of love; despite being romantically interested in several women over his lifetime, Doré remained a perpetual bachelor. Biographers of Doré, as well as some of his contemporaries attribute this to the exceedingly close relationship that Doré had to his mother, who doted upon him, and may have actively thwarted his attempts at romance.

History of the Book

The story behind the physical text of London, A Pilgrimage begins in 1855, when Jerrold and Doré met and became friends. Jerrold had the idea to make a book similar in form to the earlier 19th Century work The Microcosm of London: Or, London in Miniature By Rudolph Ackermann. Jerrold broached the matter with Doré, who at length signed a five year contract, which stipulated that Doré and Jerrold would spend three months a year exploring the metropolis together; Doré would provide the illustrations, and Jerrold would provide accompanying text. For his services, Doré received the incredible sum of £10,000 per year.

Thus contracted, the two began their exploration of London together, exploring garden parties of the well-to-do, the bustling streets of London and industrial gas-works such as those at Lambeth. In their travels they covered much of the city, even infamous neighbourhoods such as Whitechapel (former home of Jack the Ripper). While often travelling alone, in dangerous neighbourhoods the pair was able to call upon the police force, which provided plainclothes detectives to protect the two, and keep them out of trouble.

By 1872, the pair had completed the book, which was published in four parts, and later collected into a single volume. The book was immensely popular, reprinted numerous times, and a great commercial success for the pair.

Despite its financial successes, London’s critical legacy is far more mixed. Modern critics tend to focus on the fact that Jerrold’s text is uneven and bland, and that Dorés illustrations tend towards the fantastical instead of the realistic. Critics of the day said much the same, though they also accused Doré of outright fabrication of details and scenes, and suggested that both Doré and Jerrold were so focused on the most extreme examples of poverty and wealth in London that they failed to represent the middle class, and show an unrepresentative sample of what London really looked like at the time.

These criticisms come, at least in part, from Doré s artistic method. Doré disliked doing work outside of his studio, and so much of the artistic work in London began as a brief sketch, which was then returned to the studio and completed there some hours later. Doré relied on the power of his prodigious memory to retain the details; while his memory was tremendous, it was by no means perfect.

Due to the commercial success of the collaboration between Doré and Jerrold, the two were in the early stages of planning a sister volume to London, which would have focused on the city of Paris. This collaboration never materialized, due to the death of Doré in 1883, at the age of 51.





British Library (2014). London illustrations by Gustave Doré. The British Library. Retrieved from


Kerr, D. (2004). Doré, (Louis Auguste) Gustave (1832–1883). Oxford Dictionary of National Bibliography.

Retrieved from http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/67162

Richardson, J. (1980). Gustave Doré- A biography. Cassell:London

Slater, M. (2004). Jerrold, (William) Blanchard (1826-1884). Oxford Dictionary of National Bibliography.

Retrieved from http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/14790.