Religion and Devotion
LTK 237 (Netherlands, 1400-1550): Gebeden en Meditatiën (Prayer book), paper and parchment, 189 fols., 138 x 95 mm, 1 col., various lines.

In the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period, it was a common practice to bind several manuscripts together. Such books are called “composite manuscripts”, as opposed to manuscripts that consist of a single unit with multiple texts, which is sometimes called a miscellany. LTK 237 book is a collection of various texts that were bound together at a later stage. Curiously, it not only contains two manuscripts but also four printed texts. The devotional collection created by the binder contains prayers to the Virgin, Pater Nosters, spiritual exercises about the Passion of Christ, and other types of devotional education.

Even though parts 2, 3, 5, and 6 are printed texts, their lay-out, script, and decorations look similar to that of a manuscript. The printers included decorated initials by either printing them (see fols. 70r, 84r, and 159r) or leaving a blank space for the illuminator or reader to fill in (see for example fol. 167r). The person who drew the initial on fol. 167r probably also colored the letters of the other printed texts and contributed to the illustrations of part two and three. The first leaf of the fourth part, which consists of fols. 93-158, is heavily stained and shows that this text has circulated independently from the other parts for quite a while, probably without a (proper) cover.

(Lieftinck, 1948, pp. 50-54) (Sherwood-Smith & Stoop, 2003, pp. 28-29)


  1. 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.
  2. 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?


  1. Lieftinck, G. I. (1948). Codices Manuscripti V: codicum in finibus belgarum ante annum 1550 conscriptorum qui in bibliotheca universitatis asservantur (Vol. 1). Brill.
  2. Sherwood-Smith, M., & Stoop, P. (2003). epertorium van Middelnederlandse preken in handschriften tot en met 1550 (Vol. 2). Peeters.