This manuscript contains a vocabulary from the fifteenth century. Its structure is very clear: all words are written down in alphabetical order and divided into three parts. Part one describes nouns (fol. 1r - fol. 229v), part two covers verbs (fols. 229v - 273r) and part three covers adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions and interjections (fols. 273r - 279r). This made it very easy for people to look up the meaning of a certain word. The empty spaces in the text were originally reserved for illumination but were never filled in.
Some of the word explanations are in medieval Dutch or German. This makes sense because the manuscript belonged to the sisters of the Convent of St. Catharine in Heusden (see pasted fragment on flyleaves), whose knowledge of Dutch/German must have been profound. After the Reformation reached the city of Heusden the manuscript ended up with the local Protestant church.
Though the scribe didn’t include any type of decoration, such as colored initials, he did write each first letter of a described word in capital, in order to make the them stand out. The manuscript still has a medieval leather binding1 (from c. 1500) with blind tooled decorations of the four Evangelists, the Lamb of God, the head of Christ, and a man with a hat and various flowers. On the binding is written: “Vocabularius”.
- Manuscripts were made from parchment, paper or a combination of these two materials. The quality of these materials varied considerably. What material was used in this manuscript and how can you tell?
- Medieval page design entails a wide range of components. The main text is an important part, of course, but so are marginal space, commentaries, reading aids, chapter titles, etc. Everything included on the page was given a specific location and a feature was usually included for a good reason. Make an inventory of the components included in this manuscript’s page design and speculate why the scribe opted for this specific design: why did he or she included these specific elements? If your design is plain, why would this be; if it is complex, what may the rationale have been?
- Gumbert, J. P. (2009). Illustrated Inventory of Medieval Manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Verloren.
- Margry, P. J. (1986). Het Katharijneconvent te Heusden. Een onderzoek naar het boekenbezit en boekengebruik van een tertiarissenklooster in de late middeleeuwen. Ons Geestelijk Erf, 60.