Religion and Devotion
BPL 2231 (Netherlands, 1450-1500): Dirc van Herxen, Die materie van den sonden (On the topic of sins), parchment, 146 fols., 250 x 177 mm, 2 cols., 40 lines.

Each Sunday and holy day the religious community of the Brethren of the Common Life held instructional conversations with pious laypeople about various religious subjects. They used texts called collatieboeken when searching for inspiration for these conversations or collationes. Dirc van Herxen (1381-1457), one of the forefathers of the Modern Devotion movement and a famous scribe and illuminator, composed two collatieboeken. Van Herxen wrote about subjects such as death, the last judgment, heaven, hell, sin and confession. Material (inspiration) for his collatieboeken came from the Bible, patristic writings, and his own publications, and included a table of contents so that the Brethren of the Common Life could easily look up the various subjects (see fol. 3v).

The only collatieboeken of Dirc van Herxen that has survived fully intact is held by the University Library of Utrecht (UB 3 L 6). This manuscript from Leiden (BPL 2231) is comprised of the second half of the first book of collationes, containing Die Materie van den Sonden (On the Topic of Sins). It belonged to the Convent of the Virgin in Gaesdonck (the Netherlands) in the fifteenth century (see fol. 3v, as well as BPL 2482 and BPL 2483).

The manuscript has very few decorations and the parchment is damaged on several leaves. Different methods to correct passages of the text1 have been used, however, the readers did not leave many annotations explaining their corrective choices.

(Gumbert, 2009, p. 120) (van Beek, 2009) (Deschamps, 2009, p. nr.90)


  1. Mistakes are made in a split-second. Even scribes who carefully copied their text, a few words at the time, would ultimately make mistakes. Can you give three examples in this manuscript where a part of the text was corrected? Note how the mistakes were corrected.
  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.
  2. van Beek, L. (2009). Leken trekken tot Gods Woord : Dirc van Herxen (1381-1457) en zijn Eerste Collatieboek. Verloren.
  3. Deschamps, J. (2009). Middelnederlandse handschriften uit Europese en Amerikaanse bibliotheken : tentoonstelling ter gelegenheid van het honderdjarig bestaan van de Koninklijke Zuidnederlandse Maatschappij voor Taal- en Letterkunde en Geschiedenis, Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek Albert I, 24 okt.-24 dec. 1970 : catalogus. Brill.