Religion and Devotion
LTK 318 (Gouda, Netherlands, 1476): Sermoenen (Sermons), paper, 275 fols., c.285 x 205 mm, 2 cols., 34-37 lines.

Fol. 173v of this manuscripts contains the inscription “This book was written for Claes van Dorssen and his wife Yde”. When Claes died, in 1477, his wife Yde donated the manuscript to the Convent of Mariënsterre in Gouda (Netherlands), with the stipulation that is should never leave the convent for more than three days, not even after her death. The manuscript contains sermons, a text about the life and suffering of Christ and a poem about death. The graveyard of the convent exhibited an open grave which was visited daily, and the entrance of the church contained a coffin that one had to pass each time one entered, leading us to believe that Death was an important subject for this convent. We learn from the first flyleaf at the end of this manuscript that Yde’s wish was not honored, was it contains a note saying that in the 16^th^ century the manuscript belonged to one Arnoldus Vianen. By then the Convent of Mariënsterre had been abolished, explaining the transfer of ownership.

In the first part of this manuscript someone used a pencil to trace the watermarks1 on the paper (see fols. 7v, 35v, and 66v). Watermarks were produced by attaching an emblem made of brass-wire to the screen of a paper mold. In order to make it possible to identify the maker or place of origin, each papermaker used a signature watermark design, much like a logo. This manuscript contains a few rubrics and simple colored initials, but otherwise has very little decoration.

(Lieftinck, 1948, pp. 144-145) (Lemaire, 1973, p. nr.19)


  1. 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.
  2. Even though they were often planned to remain empty, the margins of the page contain all sorts of information. Scribes added corrections or additional text, but more often it is readers who scribbled signs, words or even entire sentences in the margins. Focus on the margins of this manuscript and make a rough inventory of the marginal additions. What do they tell you about how the book was used, or who the reader was? Are there any that are obviously from the scribe?


  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. Lemaire, C. (Ed.). (1973). De vijfhonderdste verjaring van de boekdrukkunst in de Nederlanden : catalogus. Koninklijke Bibliotheek Albert I.