Religion and Devotion
LTK 247 (Purmerend, Netherlands, 1463): Johannes Scutken, Vier evangeliën (Four gospels), paper, 135 fols., 195 x c.135 mm, 2 cols., 31-32 lines.

During the first half of seventeenth century this manuscript was in the possession of Dirck Willemszoon van Emden and Neeltgen Michielsdochter, both from Amsterdam. We know this because Dirck identified himself and his spouse as owners of the book on the first flyleaves at the end of the manuscript. He requested that anyone who found it return it to them. While notes like these are encountered from time to time in medieval manuscripts, this particular one was written in a secret language comprised of symbols. Luckily, Dirck also provided future readers with a key to translate his message. Why he thought it was necessary to use a secret language is unknown.

This manuscript contains the four Gospels, in the Dutch translation by Johan Scutken. His translation was one of the most widespread texts of the Middle Ages (see also LTK 2706). On the last page of the manuscript, the scribe has added a colophon1 in which he writes that he, “Cop Wit Moens” (“Moens, with a white head”), has written this manuscript in Purmerend (Netherlands) in 1463. He also asks the reader to pray for him. In addition to the colored initials and rubrics, this manuscript is decorated with four miniatures of the evangelists.

(Lieftinck, 1948, p. 64) (Biemans, 1984) (Hülsmann, 2004)


  1. Before a scribe could begin to fill the quires with text, the layout of the page needed to be designed and prepared. What instruments did the scribe of this manuscript use to prepare the pages?
  2. Book design was not only influenced by the manner in which the book would be used, but also by its contents. This is not surprising, of course, since contents and use are closely related: you generally use a book because of the texts it contains. Perform a modest online search about the text in this book and assess for what reason or reasons it was commonly used (education, church rituals, reference, professional use, etc.). Now try to relate the contents of the book to the material features it was given. Can you relate the two? Which material features you observe make sense now you know more about the text? Are there any that don’t?


  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. Biemans, J. A. A. M. (1984). Middelnederlandse bijbelhandschriften. Brill.
  3. Hülsmann, M. (2004). Met Prosper Verheyden op pad: Noord-Hollandse boekbanden opnieuw belicht. Lam Gods-paneerstempels versus penwerkdecoratie. In C. Coppens & E.Cockx-Indestege (Eds.), E codicibus impressisque : opstellen over het boek in de Lage Landen voor Elly Cockx-Indestege (Vol. 3). Peeters.