When she was just eleven years old, Alijt Baernaertsdochter entered the Convent of Mariënpoel in Oegstgeest, the Netherlands, which belonged to the order of St. Augustine. In 1528, when Alijt was 42 years old, she either purchased this prayer book or received it as a gift. In addition to daily prayers, prayer books like this also contained devotional exercises for specific times of the day or the year. Since nuns and laypeople were not always able to read Latin, prayer books were often written in the regional common language. This prayer book encourages contemplation on various subjects depending on the day of the week. For example, on Sundays Alijt would have contemplated eternal joy and happiness in heaven. On Mondays, however, Alijt was urged to contemplate death which would, according to this exercise (see fols. 1v - 8v), help her to refrain from sin. Following the daily meditations (from fol. 52v and beyond) this book contains prayers for various other occasions.
We know that the scribe who copied this prayer book was named Aernt Janszoon, from the city of Oudewater, because in fol. 91v he wrote “Bidt voer broeder aernt jans soen van oudewater om goods willen” (Please pray for friar Aernt Janszoon of Oudewater for God’s sake).1 In contrast to a highly decorated book of hours, this manuscript is simply and sparsely decorated. Each exercise starts with a pen-flourished initial, but otherwise only the first page (see fol. 2r) has elaborate decoration. The scribe has added so-called cadels, extensions of the ascending and descending strokes of the letters, on the first letter of the first line of every page.
- Before a scribe could begin to fill the quires with text, the layout of the page needed to be designed and prepared. What instruments did the scribe of this manuscript use to prepare the pages?
- 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.
- Bouwman, A., & van der Vlist, E. (2008). Van schrijven naar drukken. Het Leidse boek van begin tot Beleg. In A. Bouwman (Ed.), Stad van boeken : handschrift en druk in Leiden, 1260-2000. Primavera Pers.