ASHER Rare Books Archives - Rare Book Insider

ASHER Rare Books

  • Showing the single result

book (2)

[Incipit, leaf 1r:] Erat aute(m) pascha et azyma post biduum.Including: [CHANTS AND PRAYERS – LATIN]. [Incipit:] Invocabo nomen tuum domine.[Netherlands, IJssel region, second half of the 15th century]. Small 8vo. With a large decorated initial and red and blue decorated initials in various sizes throughout.Contemporary blind-tooled calf with brass clasps.

[128], [4] ll.This attractive manuscript from the IJssel region in the Netherlands was copied, owned and used by nuns, presumably a Sister of the Common Life. These devout women were part of the Modern Devotion (Devotio Moderna), a new movement in Christianity formed by Geert Groote (1340-1384) in the late 14th century. Its members were men and women who wished to lead a pious life, without making religious vows. Because Groote valued books and reading, copying manuscripts was a large part of the lives of the members of the Devotio Moderna. The Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life were all able to read and write and owned their own manuscripts, often copied by themselves. This manuscript is a good example. Although it was copied by a trained hand, the relatively thick leaves and scarce decoration suggest it was meant for everyday use.This manuscript is part of a genre that was very popular in the 15th century. Ars moriendi works often consist of two related Latin texts written around 1415 and 1450, offering guidance on how to have a good death according to the Christian beliefs of the late Middle Ages. The texts were written in response to the black death and social upheavals of the 15th century, with the earliest versions likely composed in southern Germany. The highly popular Ars moriendi was translated into many western European languages, and was the first in a tradition of guides to death and dying. The underlying idea was that a person’s destiny is determined by the state of the soul when it leaves the body. This state had to be as pure as possible to be granted eternal life, so the Ars Moriendi guided one in that direction. They typically consisted of 6 parts, which included an introduction to the art of dying well, temptations by the devil, questions to the dying person about their faith, a motivation to follow the example of Christ on the cross, instructions to the family of the dying and prayers to help the dying in their final moments.This manuscript is a more loose interpretation of the genre. While it contains many texts and prayers about dying, it only has one part from the typical Ars Moriendi, namely the 8 questions to the dying. In the Middle Ages, these were attributed to Anselm, but they are likely much older. They are often considered the most important part of the death guide and are meant to determine the intensity of someone’s faith. Interestingly, while most of this manuscript is in Latin, the questions were added in Middle Dutch. A possible explanation becomes clear if one considers how these texts were used. According to Lips, some scholars believe that the Ars Moriendi manuscripts were read by the clergy to members of their community who were in their final hours. If that is correct, it would make sense that the questions are in vernacular. It is the only part of the death guide that is interactive, so it is essential that the dying person understands them, which they might not be able to do if they are in Latin.Apart from these questions, the manuscript contains gospels texts about Christ’s death, prayers to Mary, psalms, songs that were sung at a funeral, and popular prayers like the rosary (in Dutch) and a prayer to Christ’s wounded limbs. The focus on the passion of Christ is typical for Ars Moriendi, but the other texts are not. It is likely that the owner adapted the death guide to the needs of their community. Details like the addition of the questions in Dutch suggest that this manuscript was actually used at the death beds of members of the community. It therefore offers and interesting insight into the death rituals of the Sisters of the Common Life. With a short manuscript note on [132]r in a different hand from the other two parts in the manuscript, seemingly a grocery list in German, the majority of the leaves are numbered by a later hand in pencil. The binding has been professionally restored, the leather on the binding has cracked and flacked off (filled in with a dark paint), thus slightly obscuring the clarity of the blind-tooled motifs. Lacking the first flyleaf, hole in the lower margin of leaf [52], leaves [63]-[66] are browned and soiled, other leaves are occasionally (water-) stained in the margins, without afecting the text. Otherwise in good condition.l Cf. Beringer, A. The death of Christ as a focus of the fifteenth-century Artes Moriendi. In: The journal of English and Germanic philology, pp. 497-512, vol. 113 (4), 2014; Lips, E. ,Om alle menschen wel te leren sterven''. Een onderzoek naar het publiek en de receptie van Nederlandstalige Ars moriendi-teksten in de 15e en vroege 16e eeuw. In: Nederlands archief voor kerkgeschiedenis, vol. 66 (2), 1986.