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Appearance of the Codex Gigas

The Codex Gigas weighs 75 kg and has 310 parchment leaves, probably made of calfskin.

Record-breaking manuscript size

The leaves are 89 cm high and 49 cm wide, which probably makes the Codex Gigas the world's largest preserved medieval manuscript. The leaves originally measured about 90 x 50 cm – a centimetre or so has been lost in both dimensions due to re-trimming of the manuscript. The leaves are numbered with ink in the middle of each recto page (right page). This was probably done in the 17th century, perhaps after the manuscript's arrival in Sweden.

White leather bindning

The manuscript is bound in one volume, with thick wooden boards and a covering of tawed (white) leather. The boards are decorated with blind stamps, of which the most prominent is a crown. None of these stamps has been found elsewhere.

Ornate fittings

Both boards also have metal fittings – four corner fittings and a centre fitting. The corner fittings are adorned with two griffins each. Each fitting has a raised button that the book was meant to rest on. There are two additional fittings on the back. These fittings have a raised part with a hole that may have been used to chain the Codex Gigas to a piece of furniture.

Close-up of one of the cornes of a white book with metal ornaments.

Corner fitting with griffins.

The current binding

In 1819, the manuscript was furnished with its current binding by a bookbinder in Stockholm by the name of Samuel Sandman. He received a total of 78 riksdaler for materials and labour. For comparison, a cow cost 45 riksdaler at the time. The wooden boards are probably from the original binding, which was made shortly after the manuscript’s completion in the early 13th century.

In spite of its size, the book has actually been used. The margins contain several notes with the Latin word “Nota” penned by different people.
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