From the Early Middle Ages until the end of the Renaissance, books known as “mirrors for princes” were very popular. In this type of book, the author speaks directly to a sovereign and gives him advice about his rule and his behavior. Mirrors for princes were often written when a young and inexperienced ruler came into power. This manuscript contains part of the mirror for princes that was written by Jacob van Maerlant (1230/1240-c. 1288). He probably wrote it for the then twelve-year-old Floris V, Count of Holland (1254-1296). Van Maerlant not only gives political and moral advice but also instructions for health, hygiene, and information about natural science.
This manuscript also contains three parts of another famous work by Van Maerlant: De Rijmbijbel (the Bible in Rhyme, see also LTK 168). This Bible was based on Petrus Comestors’ Historica scholastica. The manuscript contains both medieval and early modern parts. The modern parts, one and three (fols. 1 - 3, fols. 7 - 20), are written on paper1, while parts two and four, written between 1300 and 1325 (fol. 4, fols. 21 - 26), were copied on parchment.2
- This manuscript consists of several parts that where bound together on a later date. How do the parts differ from each other? Look for example at the material that was used, the type of script, the decorations and the addition of reading aids.
- Manuscripts were used by a variety of readers, including scholars, students, members of religious houses (monks, nuns), courtiers, and individuals with a professional background (notaries, physicians, merchants, etc.). Observe the material features of this manuscript and speculate what background the reader of this book will have had. Focus on either the first reader (for whom it was first produced) or a later one, for example based on later annotations to the text. What material features support your speculative claim?
- Lieftinck, G. I. (1948). Codices Manuscripti V: codicum in finibus belgarum ante annum 1550 conscriptorum qui in bibliotheca universitatis asservantur (Vol. 1). Brill.