The Codex Gigas (English: Giant Book) is the largest extant medieval manuscript in the world. It is thought to have been created in the early 13th century in the Benedictine monastery of Podlažice in Bohemia (modern Czech Republic).
During the Thirty Years’ War in 1648, the entire collection was stolen by the Swedish army as plunder and now it is preserved at the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm. It is also known as the Devil’s Bible because of a large illustration of the devil on the inside and the legend surrounding its creation.
The Codex Gigas was once considered the eighth wonder of the world.
The codex is contained in a wooden folder, covered with leather and ornamented with metal. At 92 cm (36.2in.) tall, 50 cm (19.7in.) wide and 22 cm (8.6in.) thick it is the largest known medieval manuscript. It initially contained 320 vellum sheets, though eight of these were subsequently removed.
It is unknown who removed the pages or for what purpose but it seems likely that they contained the monastic rules of the Benedictines. The codex weighs nearly 75 kg (165 lbs.) and the vellum is composed of calf skin (or donkey according to some sources) from 160 animals.
In terms of physical value, when the book was last moved, it was insured for over £ 15 million against theft and damage.
According to legend the scribe was a monk who broke his monastic vows and was sentenced to be walled up alive. In order to forbear this harsh penalty he promised to create in one single night a book to glorify the monastery forever, including all human knowledge.
Near midnight he became sure that he could not complete this task alone, so he made a special prayer, not addressed to God but to the fallen archangel Satan, asking him to help him finish the book in exchange for his soul. The devil completed the manuscript and the monk added the devil’s picture out of gratitude for his aid.
One of the mysteries of this book has been who wrote it. It seems impossible that one man could have written the entire manuscript alone. However, recent investigations by a team of scholars sponsored by the National Geographic supports the belief that it was the work of one man
It is also speculated that the inscription of various exorcism spells is the monk trying to exorcise the devil out by himself. (Similar to monks who sinned, and were punished by having them write out the Bible by hand, as it was believed that God’s goodness would be transferred to them by doing that.)
Despite this legend, the codex was not forbidden by the Inquisition, and was studied by many scholars.
The book is written in Latin and contains a full version of both the Old and New Testaments (Excluding the Book of Acts and Revelation).
The book also contains a copy of the “Antiquities of the Jews” and “The Jewish Wars” – originally written by Flavius Josephus in around 93AD – and is a slightly amended version of the Hebrew Bible Books.
There is a copy of the “Chronicle of Bohemia” written by the Cosmas of Prague, who was a Bohemian Priest who lived between 1045BC and 1125BC.
Along with these texts were lists of people and dates, a calendar and inserts by various owners of the book.
Along-side the bible, is a transcript of Isodore of Seville’e encyclopaedia “Etymologiae”– a summary of universal knowledge which contained some ground-breaking (but not widely accepted) information – including his idea that the world was a round, rather than a flat disc.
Wikipedia: Codex Gigas
Suite 101: The Codex Gigas