Religion and Devotion
BPL 2856 (Den Bosch, Netherlands, 1450-1500): Psalterium (Psalter), parchment, 228 fols., 223 x 152 mm, 1 col., 21 lines.

Much like physicians of the day, many convents during the Middle Ages recommended its members participate in bloodletting at specific times each year. Monks and nuns often performed this practice themselves, without the help of a doctor. People believed that bloodletting could help against various ailments and could encourage spiritual asceticism. Considering this, it is not so surprising that this fifteenth century Psalter contains a table for favorable bloodletting times and locations (see fols. 7r - 12v). Additionally, it contains a calendar to calculate the dates of Easter, the Book of Psalms from the Bible, and a description of the translation of St. Catharina. The texts are written in both Dutch and Latin.

The pen-flourished initials1 of this manuscript (see fol. 14) are typical for the Convent of Mariënwater in Rosmalen (Netherlands), which is illustrated by the flowing pen strokes that curl into the margin. The Convent of Mariënwater was the first convent of the Bridgettine Order in the Low Countries. In fol. 141v we can read that the manuscript once belonged to Marghrieta Peters Lamerts, prioress of Mariënwater, and that it remained in use in the convent until the end of the eighteenth century. There are annotations included from this period. By then, however, the convent was no longer situated in Rosmalen but had moved to Uden.

(Gumbert, 2009, p. 236) (Koldeweij & Middelkoop, 1990, p. nr.85) (Korteweg, 1992, p. nr.153)


  1. Medieval scribes recognized that readers may need some help finding their way throughout the book or within the texts they contained. Over time, a number of tools were invented to this end. What type of reading-aids can you find in this manuscript? Give three examples.
  2. Most manuscripts lack miniatures and the colorful decoration that medieval books are so well known for. The reason for this absence is usually pragmatic: there was no need for such decorative elements or the reader lacked the financial means for them. However, many medieval books contain some color, however little or rudimentary. Make an inventory of all colors present in this manuscript, from the main text (what color is it, does its color vary or is it constant?) and the chapter titles, to any other colorful element the book may have. What other colors than that of the main text are present and what purpose do they serve? In other words, why were other colors than the regular brown or black ink of the main text added to the manuscript?


  1. Gumbert, J. P. (2009). Illustrated Inventory of Medieval Manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Verloren.
  2. Koldeweij, A. M., & Middelkoop, N. (Eds.). (1990). In Buscoducis 1450 1629: Kunst uit de Bourgondische tijd te ’s-Hertogenbosch: De cultuur van late middeleeuwen en renaissance (Vol. 1). Schwartz-SDU.
  3. Korteweg, A. S. (Ed.). (1992). Kriezels, aubergines en takkenbossen. Randversiering in Noordnederlandse handschriften uit de vijftiende eeuw. Walburg Pers.