Updated version, augmented and corrected, January 2016: 43 new manuscripts and numerous fresh data and references have been added since the previous update (almost 350 new items since December 2010). Please check particularly the more and more numerous references to digitised manuscripts or online information. With warm thanks to Anne-Margreet As-Vijvers, Thomas Falmagne, Mitch Fraas, Peter Kidd, Elizabeth Morrison, Max Schmitz, and Helen Wüstefeld for their precious suggestions.

A corpus of manuscripts illustrated in the Netherlands (1400-1550)

This online publication presents a corpus of more than 3,800 later medieval manuscripts illustrated in the Low Countries, compiled, maintained and updated in an electronic database (Microsoft Access) in 1997-2012. Manuscripts were included on the basis of three criteria:

  • Manuscripts produced between 1400 and 1550.
  • Manuscripts originating in the Netherlands / Low Countries (roughly present-day Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and the French region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais).
  • Illustrated manuscripts (containing at least one miniature or historiated initial).

The corpus was compiled to serve as a tool for the research that was published in the book:

  • Hanno Wijsman, Luxury Bound. Illustrated Manuscript Production and Noble and Princely Book Ownership in the Burgundian Netherlands (1400-1550) , Turnhout, Brepols, 2010 (Burgundica, XVI). [On the corpus see especially the pages 15-36 and 571-574].

The first aim of publishing the database on-line is to allow the reader to verify the data as used in the book. I also hope, however, that it might proof useful to anyone studying aspects of late-medieval Netherlandish manuscripts and their ownership. It has bee possible to include direct links to online images and detailed descriptions for more than 1,200 manuscripts.

Although it provides data about more than 3,800 manuscripts, this corpus is certainly not exhaustive. Many libraries and private collections around the world contain as yet undiscovered treasures. The database has been constructed partly on the basis of actual examination of the manuscripts and partly on the basis of secondary information derived from catalogues and studies. It is our intention to update this corpus insofar as possible. All comments and suggestions are welcome .

The language of the data base is English. Therefore one should, for example, use English forms of geographical : Antwerp, Bruges, The Hague, Brussels, etc. However, in order to remain closer to the habits of the other online databases of the IRHT, since July 2012 the place names in the shelf marks of manuscripts are presented in their original form (Brugge, Genève, Firenze, Wien, instead of Bruges, Geneva, Florence, Vienna). The only exception is the use of Brussels for Bruxelles / Brussel.

Other long-term projects will give more, and more thorough, information about the same manuscripts, most notably the Byvanck Database (a database of illuminated manuscripts now kept in the Netherlands and of Northern Netherlandish manuscripts abroad, made in nineteen-eighties and nineteen-nineties under the direction of Anne Korteweg ; hopefully its data will be made available on-line in the near future), the data assembled by Illuminare - Centre for the Study of Medieval Art at the K.U. Leuven (Illuminare will hopefully soon make available on-line the data assembled in the Collection Flanders project, describing all illuminated manuscripts kept in nowadays Flanders) and many projects in the various relevant libraries (See also the project, already available on-line, Medieval Manuscripts in Dutch Collections).

Sources for the data in the corpus

The constitution of the database during the period 1997-2012 has been mainly done with :

  • the photo collections of the Royal Library of Belgium (Brussels), the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA, Brussels), the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris), Illuminare – Centre for the Study of Medieval Art (K.U. Leuven), Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes (IRHT-CNRS, Paris-Orleans), Bulletin de la Société Française de Reproductions de Manuscrits à Peintures, Paris 1911-1938, Bibliotheca Neerlandica Manuscripta (Leiden).
  • library catalogues, exhibition catalogues, sales catalogues (Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Drouot, Kraus, Heribert Tenschert, Jörn Günther, Les Enluminures), facsimile editions, monographs, and other scientific publications as available in the open shelves of the manuscript departments of the Royal Library of Belgium (Brussels) and Leiden University Library.
  • the personal examination in many European libraries of some 400 manuscripts and many microfilms of manuscripts in the corpus, as well as many others that turned out not to meet the criteria for inclusion in the corpus.

For more details, see: Hanno Wijsman, Luxury Bound. Illustrated Manuscript Production and Noble and Princely Book Ownership in the Burgundian Netherlands (1400-1550), (Burgundica, XVI), Turnhout (Brepols), 2010, p. 571-574.

Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek, Thott 540, f. 13. Histoire d’Alexandre, Quintus Curtius Rufus (French translation by Vasco da Lucena). Manuscript (440 × 350 mm) illuminated in the fourteen-seventies by the Master of the Chroniques d’Angleterre for Anthony of Burgundy, the Great Bastard (d. 1504); later owned by his grandson Adolphe of Burgundy (d.1540). Frontispiece miniature of the presentation of the book by the translator to Charles the Bold. The prominent courtier wearing the collar of the Golden Fleece is probably Anthony of Burgundy (invested with the Golden Fleece in 1456). His arms in the lower margin are not encircled by the same collar, however. In the right margin are his badge (the barbican) and motto ‘Nul ne s’y frotte, ainsi le veul’.

Jena, Thüringer Universitäts und Landesbibliothek, El fol 85, f. 13v. De consolatione philosophiae, Boethius (French translation attributed to Jean de Meun). Manuscript (375 × 270 mm) copied by David Aubert in Ghent in 1476 for Margaret of York (d. 1503). In the early sixteenth century it was owned by Hendrik III van Nassau (d. 1538), who gave it to John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony in 1537/1538. Preserved in a contemporary binding of stamped brown leather over wooden boards provided with copper bosses, corner pieces, strap plates, a title-slip in a copper frame and a chain attachment. Frontispiece (and only) miniature by the Master of the Moral Treatises showing David Aubert offering the book to Margaret of York, surrounded by a refined Ghent border.