FNS project

Title of the project

A book typology at the time of the ecclesiastical reform in Switzerland during the 11th century: the Atlantic Bible of Geneva and the Atlantic Bible of Sion.

Research project financed by the Fond national suisse de la recherche scientifique
Project Director: Prof. Michel Grandjean
Researcher: Nadia Togni


Two of the earliest existing Atlantic Bibles have been conserved in Switzerland since their origin. These are the Geneva Bible (Geneva, BGE, lat. 1) and the Sion Bible (Sion, Archives de la cathédrale, 15).
The Independent Faculty of Protestant Theology and the Faculty of Letters of the University of Geneva have set up a research project involving these two Atlantic Bibles. This project, expected to extend over a period of three years, has obtained the financial support of the Fond national suisse de la recherche scientifique.
Because of their age and their textual recension, the Atlantic Bibles of Geneva and Sion are extremely important and significant examples of the typology of Atlantic Bibles. They are rightly considered to be among the first tangible products revealing the desire of the reformers to define a new book typology, able to meet the requirements for promoting the ecclesiastical reform of the 11th century.
The research project of the University of Geneva will involve a complete study of the physical, textual and historical aspects of the two manuscripts; it is hoped that all the aspects relating to the production, utilization and historical value of this book typology will thus be revealed.
With regard to the Atlantic Bible of Sion, despite its age and importance, researchers have heretofore merely limited themselves to a mention of its existence. Within the framework of the project of the University of Geneva, this Bible will be, for the first time, the focus of a physical analysis and a complete and detailed description.


Physical analysis

The physical description of the two manuscripts will involve the analysis of all aspects relating to the production of the book; it will take into account the most recent methods of codicology, including those of quantitative codicology.
The paleographic analysis will identify the morphological characteristics specific to the writing of the various copyists who participated in the transcription of the biblical text. A statistical analysis of the dimensional data relating to the writing of each copyist is used so as to identify and define the criteria and the modalities of distribution of the copying work adopted in the scriptorium.
Finally, the description of the decorations includes a list of all the initials, together with their measurements, in absolute values (millimetres) and in relative values (lines of writing). Further, the ornamental motifs which decorate the initials, the colours used and their various combinations will also be analysed.


Textual analysis

The historians of the Vulgate have long recognized the specific nature of the work of revision and correction of the biblical text carried out by those responsible for the Geneva Bible, so much so that this Bible may be considered as the earliest attempt at an edition of the Vulgate in the milieu of the ecclesiastical reform of the 11th century.
The philological analysis of the text of the Geneva Bible is concerned with the editorial criteria adopted: choice and order of the biblical books, division into chapters, presence of prefaces and of associated texts. The problems concerning the choice of text, namely the identification and analysis of the various textual traditions circulating in Rome during the 11th century and used as textual sources, will also be examined.


Historical analysis

The commission for and the donation of the Atlantic Bibles to the cathedrals of Geneva and Sion by bishops Frederic (1031-1073) and Ermenfroi (1055-1082) respectively are part of the reform project of the clergy and the reorganization of the diocese. These two bishops, while being vigilant executors of the imperial policy in the kingdom of Burgundy, were also actively engaged in furthering the ecclesiastical reform. Archival research in Geneva and Sion will make it possible to define precisely the role played by these two important but little-known prelates of Burgundy in the relations between the empire and the Roman Catholic Church.

The research on the Atlantic Bibles in Switzerland represents the first stage of a general study project concerned with the production of this book typology, beginning with the earliest examples: the Bibles of Geneva and Sion and, at a later stage, the Bible of Admont (Admont, Stiftsbibliothek, C-D), the Bible of San Daniele del Friuli (San Daniele del Friuli, Biblioteca Guarneriana, I-II), and the Hirsau Bible (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 13001).

The protocol of observation and analysis being developed for the two Swiss manuscripts is also indispensable for the implementation of this later stage. Finally, the attention focused on the Atlantic Bibles in Switzerland aims at increasing the value of an important part of the manuscript heritage of this country by attracting to it the attention and interest of specialists who devote themselves to the study of the 11th century and, in general, to the study of the Middle Ages.