The desire for a closer connection with God drew increasingly more lay people to the religious life towards the end of the Middle Ages. The first part of this manuscript contains one of the most popular meditation texts directed at lay people of the Middle Ages: Henry Suso’s Das Büchlein der ewigen Weisheit (The Little Book of Eternal Wisdom). This book, an adaptation of the Passion of Jesus, is divided into one hundred meditations that were designed to engender compassion with the suffering of Christ. Suso’s adaptation differs from the adaptation of the Passion written by Jacob van Maerlant (see BPL 1800). Suso, for example, leaves out things he regarded as common knowledge, such as the Crucifixion. The second part of this manuscript consists of a litany, psalms, and prayers.
The two parts of this manuscript were bound together in the sixteenth century. Around that time the manuscript belonged the Convent of St. Bernard in Antwerp, Belgium (see the note of administrator Livinius de Smedt at fol. 1r). The manuscript is beautifully decorated with painted initials. Fol. 14r contains a historiated initial1 of two angels who cover Christ with a blanket. In the lower margin the scribe has added catchwords (the first word of the new quire) which made it easier for the binder to put the quires in the right order. In the second part of the manuscript, the catchwords are almost cut off in the binding process.
- While the medieval book was made out of sheets, it is the quire that is the object's building block. A quire is a small package of folded sheets usually made from bifolia. To create a bifolium, a sheet is folded in half (each half is called a 'folium', which consists of two 'pages', i.e. the front and back of the folium). How many bifolia were used in each quire of this manuscript? Clue: take a look at the catchwords in the lower margins.
- 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?
- Gumbert, J. P. (2009). Illustrated Inventory of Medieval Manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Verloren.
- van Aelst, J. (2007). Middelnederlandse bewerkingen van het passieverhaal. Van informatiebron tot meditatietekst. In A. den Hollander (Ed.), Middelnederlandse bijbelvertalingen. Verloren.