Revelationes Coelestes, “Heavenly Revelations”, the Revelations of St Bridget. The first printed edition. Printed in Lübeck in 1492 by Bartholomeus Ghotan for Vadstena Convent.
This book is a folio and runs to 422 pages. 800 copies of it were printed on paper, 16 on parchment. This particular copy is paper and is printed in black. The text is in two columns and profusely illustrated. Several initials contain scenes from the history of St Bridget’s Revelations. There are also 14 pages of woodcuts. This copy is not coloured.
The first picture spread shows, on the left, a frontal portrait of St Bridget, kneeling at prayer in front of her chair with an open book. Above her, in architectural tracery, we see the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. At the very top, angels radiate downwards, framing Christ, shown as the King of Heaven, and Mary. The opposite page has a picture that is mainly similar, but with St Bridget facing left and, to the right, a picture of Petrus (Peter) of Alvastra, dressed in a monastic habit, noting down and fair-copying St Bridget’s Revelations. The next page has the same picture, but with Petrus replaced by Magister Mathias (Master Matthew), who, stern of mien, is writing down what is probably the prologue to the Revelations. He is wearing what we are to understand is costly apparel, with headgear befitting a canon and Doctor of Theology at Linköping Cathedral.
The full pages go on to illustrate St Bridget’s Revelations, including secular rulers, soldiers, churchmen and the devout at prayer. We are shown St Bridget handing over the Revelations we see her, seated on a throne under God and all the saints of Heaven, presenting the Revelations to secular rulers and churchmen. In the same picture we also see people burning in the jaws of hell and trapped in the maw of a monster. The contents also include a full-page depiction of Christ Crucified together with Mary the Virgin and St John the Divine.
Vadstena Convent commissioned this book in 1491 from the printer Bartholomeus Ghotan, who at that time was working in Lübeck. It contains the Revelations, the canonisation of St Bridget and its confirmation, an apology for her Revelations and a Bridgettine prayer.
St Bridget wrote down her almost 700 Revelations mostly in Old Swedish. They addressed everything from meditations on the state of mankind to Swedish domestic politics and church affairs in Rome. Her confessors translated the Revelations into Latin, mostly under her direction. There were several different versions of the Revelations of St Bridget in the 14th and 15th centuries. Ghotan’s edition, published in 1492, was the first printed version and set the pattern for succeeding editions of St Bridget’s Revelations.