Liberal Arts and Education
BPL 1765 (Netherlands?, 1400-1450): Loquagium rhetoricae (Rhetorical works), paper, 9 fols., 278 x 203 mm, 2 cols., c.65 lines.

Books printed before January 1st, 1501 are called incunabula. The word is derived from the Latin and means “swaddling clothes” or “cradle” - jokingly referring to the earliest stages of book printing, when the practice was still in development. During those early stages, the lay-out of printed books and manuscripts looked very similar. This is visible in this book, which contains two printed texts and one manuscript from the fifteenth century.

The printer left small blank spaces in the text so that an illuminator could add decorated initials, like what was common practice in the production of manuscripts. Both printed parts of this book contain pen-flourished initials in the script style of Haarlem (the Netherlands). The illuminator has also added red marks next to the headings of the first part (see for example fol. 3r), probably as a reference to rubrics.1 Although the manuscript part of this book contains empty spaces it is not decorated. This means that this part was still separate from the two printed books when they texts were illuminated. This book was owned by the priest Petrus Johan, from Haarlem. We know this because each individual part contains his elaborate signature and a note stating its ownership.

(Gumbert, 2009, p. 110)


  1. Users often modified the manuscript post-production, bringing it even more in tune with their needs. How did the readers of this manuscript interact with the texts? Clue: take a look at the margins and the flyleaves.
  2. Some books were heavily used, while others were not. Observe the presence or absence of wear-and-tear and damage in this book and try to assess how heavily it was used. What are your main reasons for saying so? If there are traces of use, can these be related to a specific kind of use, such as education or religious rituals?


  1. Gumbert, J. P. (2009). Illustrated Inventory of Medieval Manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Verloren.