The largest book in the world, Codex Gigas, is not only special by nature of its size. Its contents and creation are intertwined with the occult and the divine, the everyday and the ephemeral.
It receives its name, Gigas, from the Latin word for giant. It literally means giant book. This is understandable, as it is, when opened, 3 feet in height by 3 feet in length. Two people are required to lift it and it seems its leather has been made from more than 160 animal hides.
The legends say that the Codex Gigas is the result of a pact with Satan himself, which is why it carries its other name – The Devil’s Bible. Historians agree that it was mostly likely created in the early 12th century in a monastery in Podlazice in Bohemia, now present day Czech Republic.
Story goes that it was written over the course of one single night by a monk who was supposed to be executed the very next day. This monk immersed himself into the occult and the demonic. The punishment for this transgression was for him to be walled up alive.
This monk used his last night on Earth to make a pact with the lord of the flies, Beelzebub. He offered his soul for the chance to finish his masterpiece.
Many occult stories followed this book, but one thing was present in every legend: He who has the Codex in his possession will be cursed and surely tragedy and catastrophe will follow.
The Codex was freed when the monastery it was housed in was forced to sell it, to save itself from financial ruin. It ended up in another monastery, in Prague, but as before, it ruined its newest owner. Later, it landed into the hand of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf. Rudolf, who was obsessed with occult tomes, couldn’t wait to get his hands on the Devil’s Bible. He shortly descended into a life of madness and paranoia, and was dethroned and ultimately banished. The codex once again changed owners, having been acquired by the Swedish army in 1648.
The Giant Book held all the books of the Latin Vulgate Bible and five other texts. What is strange is that the Old and New Testaments are ordered in an unorthodox, different way. The five other texts are found between the religious ones. There are medical works attributed to Hippocrates, Seville’s Encyclopedia Etymologiae, as well as Flavius Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews.
Another thing the Codex contains are a wide variety of smaller texts and footnotes, all of whom contain various formulas and occult incantations. There are also several notes on how to perform an exorcism, ways of shielding ones soul from the devil, as well as remedies for mysterious illnesses. The illustrations found represent the Heavenly city and the Pearly Gates, but perhaps what really catches ones eye is the full-page illustration of the Devil.
While the legends attached to the Devils Bible are fascinating and provide great campfire stories, book experts believe its origins are much more mundane. They claim that book was made by one monk, handwritten and illustrated over the course of 25-30 years. Seeing as the handwriting is the same and consistent throughout the book may have supported the myth of it being written in one single night.
The origins may be unclear and mysterious, but it still fascinates anyone who comes in contact with it. Anyone can see it now, as it is on public display at the National Library in Stockholm.