This extraordinary two-volume work--the culmination of decades of research--presents the dazzling array of miniatures that appear in the six extant Byzantine Octateuchs (the first eight books of the Old Testament) and the Vatican Joshua Roll. Each of the 1,552 miniatures in these tenth- to thirteenth-century manuscripts is reproduced at close to actual size on 464 large-format plates. The illustrations are organized by Old Testament episode, so that the various depictions of each biblical scene can be easily studied and compared. An annotated catalogue describes all of the miniatures in each of the Octateuch manuscripts, from the creation of the world to the story of Ruth, and provides a full bibliography of every scene. Three analytical chapters investigate the origin of the iconography of the Octateuchs, the formation and later development of the cycle of the illustrations, and the codicology, history, and style of each of the extant Byzantine manuscripts.
Kurt Weitzmann and Massimo Bernaḅ draw on their many years of study of illustrated biblical texts to demonstrate that the Octateuch miniatures stem from a wide variety of sources--including Christian and Jewish manuscripts and monumental paintings--and that a surprising number of them follow the parallel but more highly colored narratives of Early Christian and Jewish literature, rather than the canonical texts of the Octateuchs themselves. The authors also reveal that these illustrations provide a pictorial commentary on the Scripture that is at times completely independent from the text of the catena and reflects unorthodox interpretations of biblical passages drawn primarily from the intellectual milieu of Early Christian Syria. [via]