Four Illuminated Manuscripts
The most beautiful copies of the Sachsenspiegel are the four illuminated manuscripts held in Heidelberg, Oldenburg, Dresden and Wolfenbüttel, which were produced between 1295 and 1371. Although each of these codices is quite distinct, they all share a characteristic and unique combination of image and text. The content of each page is arranged into separate columns for image and text, which enhance and clarify each other, and which are linked by decorated initials.
The Heidelberg Illluminated Manuscript:
This is the oldest, but also least complete of the codices, with 310 image sequences on 30 (of the original 92) pages. It originated around 1300 in Upper Saxony. As part of Heidelberg’s Bibliotheca Palatina, it was taken to the Vatican, but returned to Heidelberg in 1816.
The Oldenburg Illuminated Manuscript:
This manuscript contains the most complete text. It was commissioned in 1336 and illustrated by a monk from the Rastede monastery near Oldenburg. Only a few of the 578 image sequences on the 136 pages were painted in. This manuscript was acquired in 1991 with the support of the Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung, and is housed at the State Library of Oldenburg.
The Dresden Illuminated Manuscript:
Dresden’s manuscript originated between 1295 and 1363 in the area of Meißen. Its 924 image sequences on 92 pages are not only the most extensive remaining scenes, but are considered to be the most artistically valuable. This manuscript has been in the Dresden library since the time of Prince Augustus, Elector of Saxony (1553-1586).
The Wolfenbüttel Illuminated Manuscript:
More recent than and highly influenced by the Dresden manuscript, this codex originated between 1348 and 1371, and contains 776 image sequences on 86 pages. It was acquired for the Wolfenbüttel Library in 1651 by Duke Augustus of Brunswick-Lüneburg, the godchild of Dresden’s elector prince.