This manuscript, which contains various religious texts written in Latin, was formerly owned by the Monastery of the Virgin of Bethlehem in Roermond, Netherlands. The monastery belonged to the Carthusians (see fol. 1r), a particularly strict religious order of Western Europe. Although Carthusian monks lived together communally in the monastery, called a “charterhouse”, they spent most of their time in the solitude of their private cells, in contemplative silence. The rule of silence was lifted during spatiamentum, the monks’ weekly walk, and on some Sundays and holy-days. Each day the monks prayed the Liturgy of Hours and meditated on other devotional texts. This manuscript (BPL 1949) was probably used for personal meditation. The library at the Monastery of the Virgin of Bethlehem was the most important library in the Roermond area.
The pages of this manuscript contain rubrics and are decorated with colored initials. Most of the manuscript’s quires contain paper leaves, though some are made from parchment.1 On both fol. 42v and fol. 43r we find a poem with an interesting layout. Instead of writing the rhyming letters at the end of each individual line the scribe has written the rhyming parts only once and connected them to the corresponding sentences with braces. The last sentence of the text has been crossed out with red ink (see fol. 163r).
- 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.
- Producing manuscripts was expensive. Some readers preferred to own expensive books, for example for conspicuous consumption, while others preferred to economize and cut costs wherever possible. Observing such features as materials (parchment, paper, binding), preparation of the page (the care with which the page was designed), and the execution of the letter forms, speculate what the intentions of the first reader will have been: to economize or not?
- Gumbert, J. P. (2009). Illustrated Inventory of Medieval Manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Verloren.
- Pansters, K. (Ed.). (2009). Het geheim van de stilte. De besloten wereld van de Roermondse kartuizers. Waanders.
- Pansters, K. (Ed.). (2014). The Carthusians in the Low Countries. Studies in Monastic History and Heritage. Peeters.