2008-05-29

The Devil's Bible returns

After being on display for six months at the National Library in Prague, the Devil's Bible has returned to the National Library of Sweden.

Lars Björk
Preservation Coordinator Lars Björk. Photo by Ulf Huett

Some 62 000 visitors viewed the exhibition of the medieval manuscript, which is considered a national treasure in the Czech Republic. This is a large number of visitors, given that the book was only shown to ten people at a time, with each group viewing the book for ten minutes.

The Devil's Bible has held a prominent place in the Bohemian consciousness ever since the Middle Ages, and has continued to enjoy that status in the Czech Republic ever since the Swedes took the book as spoils of war in 1649, says Lars Björk, who is the preservation coordinator at the National Library and supervised the exhibit project.

A difficult trip

The Devil's Bible measures 90 x 50 centimeters and weighs roughly 75 kilos (165 pounds), making it difficult to handle in a number of respects.

The planning work involved in shipping and displaying the book was incredibly extensive, says Lars Björk. The security requirements were also extremely strict, because the Devil's Bible is not only extremely valuable, but also a sensitive object. The opening of the exhibition was preceded by a year's worth of preparations. The book was shipped under the watchful eyes of the Swedish police and the Czech military. A Czech military aircraft was used for the actual air shipment. A customized high-security display case was also built specially for the exhibition.

It's nice to get away, but there's no place like home

The Devil's Bible is a medieval manuscript written on parchment, and it is extremely sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity.

It came through the shipment and exhibition processes unaffected, says Lars Björk, but it will be a while before the book leaves the National Library again. This marks the third time that the Devil's Bible has been away from the library since its came to the building in 1878. The Devil's Bible has previously been exhibited in the USA and Germany.

Kept in the storage facility

The Devil's Bible is currently being stored in the library's storage facility, and is not on public display as it had been previously. It will remain in storage pending a decision on the renovation of the National Library's display facilities.

Contact person: Sara Bengtzon, e-mail: firstname.lastname@kb.se

Related information

Codex Gigas website

National Library