The religious movement called Devotio moderna (Modern Devotion) took root in the Low Countries in the late fourteenth century. The movement, which called for religious reform, had a major following amongst both the laity and the clergy. The founder of the Devotio moderna was teacher and theologian Geert Groote. Groote wrote and preached in both Latin and Dutch. Towards the end of his life he started translating important religious texts into Dutch. Many lay people wanted to read these texts but were not able to because they could not read Latin. This manuscript contains Groote’s translation of the book of hours, a resource for private devotion. His translation was so popular that it is found in nearly all Dutch copies of the book of hours.
An owner from the eighteenth century has added a table of contents1 to the first flyleaf. The manuscript begins with a calendar of the bishopric of Utrecht (p. 1), followed by prayers and hymns (p. 25), and lastly, the hours (pp. 123 - 474). The manuscript is decorated with pen-flourished initials in green, red and blue. The leaves are dark with staining, probably due to water damage.
- When the quires were filled with text, the rubrics were in place, and the scribe had corrected his work, it was time for the finishing touches. Many medieval books contain some kind of decoration in addition to the written words. What kind of decoration can you find in this manuscript? Give three examples.
- Some manuscripts were made for institutional use, for example for a monastery, a nunnery, or a school. Others were made for one specific reader, who may even have made the book for him- or herself. While it is not easy to deduce whether the scribe made the manuscript for a community or a specific individual (or even for personal use), material features can sometimes provide clues to this end. Study this manuscript in search for such clues. Look for ownership inscriptions (often in the front or back of the book), the number of different individuals who added information into the margins (the script may help you here), and the number of entries added by these individuals. If you had to speculate, for what scenario would you opt and why: community or individual use?
- Lieftinck, G. I. (1948). Codices Manuscripti V: codicum in finibus belgarum ante annum 1550 conscriptorum qui in bibliotheca universitatis asservantur (Vol. 1). Brill.
- Grote, G., & van Wijk, N. (1940). Het getijdenboek van Geert Grote. Brill.