The Martinice Bible

The digital version of the Martinice Bible (shelf mark 1TB 3) was digitized for the Memoria Mundi Series Bohemica Project by Albertina Icome Beroun Ltd. and can be accessed at

Experts consider this manuscript to be one of the best and most interesting copies of the bible of Czech origin from the first half of the 15th century, in terms of both its graphic and textual work. the text is in Latin, written in two columns of 51 lines on 434 sheets of parchment, featuring 55 calligraphic and 108 illuminated initials. Five of these are figural.

The search for the previous owners of this Latin bible begins directly with one of these initials depicting Master John Huss. the scene incorporates the figure of a man with a book in his hand, walking away from the burning pyre and looking back at it. This could be the man who commissioned the manuscript, believed to be Petr of Mladoňovice, a direct pupil of Huss, who attended the Council of Constance and penned the “Report on the Trial and Sentencing of Master J. Huss in Constance”.

Assuming that Petr of Mladoňovice, otherwise a parish priest at St. Michael’s in Prague from 1439, was in fact the first owner of this manuscript, then the bible probably remained at St. Michael’s parish even after his death. In 1627, Ferdinand II gave this parish to the Order of the Servites, who started to build a monastery at White Mountain. However, construction work was never completed and they remained at St. Michael’s, selling the buildings at White Mountain in 1673 to Maximilian Valentin of Martinice. This man was already in possession of the Prague manuscript of the Richenthal Chronicle, describing the Council of Constance. It is therefore possible that he obtained the Latin bible depicting the burning of Huss from the Servites for the Martinice family library.

Some time in the early 19th century, the Martinice family library was moved to Smečno, and “our” bible probably travelled there with it. It was from these owners that the bible gained its popular epithet of “Martinice”. the bible is documented to have been in the property of landowner J. Filip from Smečno in 1924, and it appeared as the “Hussite Bible” in a Zink auction catalogue in 1926. In 1967, the bible was once again up for sale – it was purchased from an antiquarian bookshop by the Main Library CSAS (today the Academy of Sciences Library) and became the most precious book in its historical book collection, administered by the Department of Historical Bibliography.

From September 2005 to January 2006 the bible was on display at the Metropolitan Museum in New York as part of the prestigious exhibition Prague, the Crown of Bohemia 1347–1437. From February to May 2006 the exhibition was given at Prague Castle as Charles IV – Emperor by the Grace of God. Prior to being loaned out, the bible was fully digitalized and the painter/restorer David Frank created facsimiles of eight of its pages by hand, including the initial depicting the burning of Huss, while restorer Mrs Jarmila Franková produced a bound book for the facsimiles and repaired some modern-day damage and insensitive alterations to the binding of the original bible.

In 2006, from 27.3 – 14.4, the Academy of Sciences Library held an exhibition entitled “The Martinice Bible and its Journey from the 15th to the 21st Century: the Story of One Exhibit from the Exhibition Charles IV – Emperor by the Grace of God. the Restoration Work of Jarmila and David Frank. the exhibition also remained in storage for possible loan on 20 laminated posters in A2 format.

All photo documentation and explanatory texts from the exhibition are archived on CD-ROM:

Baďurová, Anežka – Hartmanová, Dagmar et al.
the Martinice Bible and its Journey from the 15th to the 21st Century. the Restoration Work of Jarmila and David Frank – exhibition held from 27. 3 –14. 4 2006 by the CR Academy of Sciences Library, Prague, 2006. Order »