Product of a Netherlandish nun’s convent, this hybrid manuscript is written on paper and includes a noteworthy sequence of hand-colored engravings pasted onto parchment and tipped into the text at appropriate junctures. Prefaced by Jerome’s famous Epistle to Eustochium, the manuscript contains a large number of texts in the vernacular specifically intended to promote female piety. Representing the work of four important engravers of the period, the prints include both some unrecorded examples and some rare impressions.
1. Made at or for use in Sint-Hieronymusdal in St.-Trond, now Liege, in the mid-sixteenth century. A number of Dutch-language prayer books from St. Trond contain engravings by the same printmakers represented in this manuscript (including the Monogrammist S. Allaert Claesz, Jacob Binck, Israhel van Meckenem, etc.), many now in the University Library in Liege (see Sint-Truiden,1986, nos. 30-34). The juxtaposition of these prints with texts concerning or attributed to St. Jerome suggests an origin in St. Trond. In the sixteenth century, two nuns, a Sister Franssoes Backy, and a sister Gritchen van der Ellen, inscribed the manuscript on the inside of the front cover.
2. In July 1546, an anonymous scribe, presumably the confessor of the monastery, added the text on ff. 272r-273v and wrote the colophon on f. 273v: “Bide toch voer den gheenen die dit screef/ Want hij sonder twijfel arm van duechden bleef/ Dij is bekent sijnen naeme/ Bidt toch dat hij gode sij bequaeme; m.ccccc.xlvi. In Julio; Godt sij gheloest Ihesus Maria Catharijna.”
3. Bound in 1601 for I. F. Bacx, name stamped on the binding, whose death on St. Martins day  November 1602 is recorded on f. 273v.
4. J. R. Ritman, Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, Amsterdam, MS 82, purchased from Hartung and Karl, Munich, Auction 55, 3-6 November 1987, lot 11.
The prints appear on unfoliated tipped-in leaves, numbered consecutively through the manuscript, as follow:
1, between ff. 43-44, Jacob Binck (c. 1500-69), Christ and the Woman at the Well (100 x 74 mm.), Christ addressing the woman who is drawing a bucket up from the well, with a group of apostles in the background, set in a landscape, lightly colored (see Hollstein, German Engravings, p. 22, no. 24);
2, between ff. 66-67, Monogrammist S (Alexander van Brugsal, d. c. 1554), Saints Stephen and Laurence (109 x 84 mm.), the two saints holding their attributes standing under a decorative arch, the martyrdom of St. Laurence in a roundel above, with a border of flowers, fuit and foliage on three sides, lightly colored (Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish Engravings, XIII, p. 201, no. 369);
3, between ff. 67 and 68, Israhel van Meckenem (c. 1440/4-1503), Saint Francis (125 x 71 mm.), the saint holding a crucifix and displaying the stigmata, lightly colored (Hollstein, German Engravings, XXIV, p. 134, no. 33611, XXIVA, p. 138);
4, between ff. 68-69, Allaert Claesz (c. 1500-26), Saint Catherine, a bust of the saint in profile, in a fashionable head-dress, holding a sword, with a border of flowers, fruit and foliage on three sides, lightly colored (Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish Engravings, IV, p. 127, no. 101);
5, between ff. 71-72, Anonymous (Cologne?) Master, The Crucifixion (116 x 80 mm.), Christ on the Cross, with the fainting Virgin, Saint John and Mary Magdalene, set in a landscape, strongly colored (unrecorded?);
6, between ff. 79-80, Monogrammist S, The Garden of Gethsemane (116 x 82 mm.), Christ kneeling before an angel holding the cross, the foreground the sleeping disciples, to the right Judas entering with soldiers; above in a roundel the Taking of Christ, all enclosed in a sculpted Renaissance arch, with “Memento Me Domine” across the base, strongly colored (unrecorded?);
7, between ff. 87-88, Monogrammist S, The Flagellation (110 x 85 mm.), Christ bound to a pillar surrounded by tormentors; above in a roundel the Mocking of Christ, all enclosed in a sculpted Renaissance arch, with “Miserere Me Deus” across the base, strongly colored (unrecorded?);
8, between ff. 94-95 (verso), Monogrammist S, The Mocking of Christ (110 x 85 mm.), Christ surrounded by tormentors; above in a roundel the Ecce Homo. In a sculpted Renaissance are, with “Ave Benigne Ihesu” across the base; strongly colored (Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish Engravings, XIII, p. 147, no. 187).
9, between ff. 97-98, Allaert Claesz, Saint Apollonia (120-85 mm.), the saint holding an open book and a tooth in a pair of tongs, flanked by two female saints, standing under a Renaissance arch, with above in a roundel the martyrdom of Apollonia; monogram in lower foreground, with a frame of birds, fruit and flowers on three sides, colored (Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish Engravings, IV, p. 125, no. 94).
10, between ff. 101-02, Monogrammist S, Christ before Pilate (110 x 80 mm.), Pilate washing his hands; above in a roundel the Carrying of the Cross.; in a sculpted Renaissance arch with “Memento me Domine” across the base; strongly colored (unrecorded?).
11, between 111-12 (verso), Monogrammist S, The Preparation for the Crucifixion (110 x 81 mm.), Christ seated surrounded by mockers; above in a roundel the Nailing to the Cross; in a sculpted Renaissance arch, with “Ave Benigne Ihesu” across the base, strongly colored (unrecorded?).
12, between 133-34, Monogrammist S, The Entombment (114 x 84 mm.), Christ laid into the tomb by the Virgin, St. John, et al.; above in a roundel the Resurrection; in a sculpted Renaissance arch with “Sicut Lilium inter Spinas” across the base, strongly colored (unrecorded?);
13, between ff. 139-40 (verso), Allaert Claesz (?),The Last Supper (113 x 75 mm.), Christ and the apostles seated around a table, Christ embracing Saint John; above in a roundel Moses instituting the Passover; in a classical arch, lightly colored (possibly Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish Engravings, IV, p. 110, no. 35).
14, between ff. 182-83 (verso), Monogrammist S, Mary Magdalene (114 x 80 mm.), the naked saint is lifted into heaven by angels to receive communion from Christ’s own hand, watched by a man kneeling in a landscape below; above in a roundel the Magdalene arriving in a rudderless ship at Marseilles, and in the same image preaching the Gospel to crowds. According to French tradition of her legend, after preaching through Provence, she retired to a cave in the mountain and lived as a penitent hermit for thirty years. Her closthes rotted off her body, but her long hair served to clothe her, and although she had nothing to eat or drink, the heavenly communion which she received at each of the seven canonical hours was enough to sustain her. In a border of scrolling acanthus, lightly colored. Probably from the same series as Saint Catherine (Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish Engravings, XIII, p. 209, no. 398);
15, between ff. 194-95 (verso), Jakob Binck, The Virgin and Child (100 x 70 mm.), the Virgin of Humility, seated on a cushion on the ground, holding the child wrapped in swadddling cloths, monogram in lower right, strongly colored (Hollstein, German Engravings, IV, p. 37, no. 55);
16, between ff. 206-07 (verso), After Monogrammist S, Death (117 x 80 mm.), a cadaver with an open belly, lying before a tomb on which rest three skulls (after Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish Engravings, XIII, p. 222, no. 456);
17, between ff. 222-23, Anonymous Netherlandish Master, c. 1530, The Fountain of Life (115-81 mm.), King David kneeling before an elaborate fountain, at the top of which is the Crucifixion; on either side Saints Mary Magdalene and Mary of Egypt; in the manner of Monogrammist S or Allaert Claesz.
Engravings by four artists are included in this hybrid manuscript. The most famous of these and the earliest is Israhel van Meckenem (fl. Bochold, c. 1457; d. c. 1465-70). As an engraver, he is often identified with the Master of the Berlin Passion named after a passion cycle of nine engravings, of which seven were glued in a manuscript from the Lower Rhine, written in the convent of the Sisters of the Common Life at Arnheim. He contributed the beautiful Saint Francis (no. 3). The other three artists are roughly contemporary with the manuscript. Jakob Binck (born Cologne, c. 1500; d. Konigsberg, c. 1569) is a German painter, engraver and designer active in Denmark and Sweden. Especially striking is his Virgin and Child (no. 15). Allaert Claesz. (fl. Utrecht (?), c. 1520-26), also known as the Monogrammist AC, is distinguished by the jewel-like quality of his work, the precious detail, and his elaborate ornamental style; several of the plates prefacing the suffrages are by him (nos. 4 and 9). Although over 200 plates are attributed to him, extant impressions are rare. The last artist, known as the Master S, because he usually signed his engravings with the monogram S, headed an active workshop in the southern Netherlands, where he mass-produced prints often for insertion into manuscripts as is the case here. He is possibly identical with the Antwerp goldsmith Alexander van Brugsal (died before 1545). The Passion sequence is attributed to him (nos. 6-8, 10-12).
Most of the engravings are carefully placed next to texts that they illustrate and accordingly oriented to the recto or the verso: Saint Laurence appears next to a prayer to the saint, as does Saint Francis; The Crucifixion next to a prayer on the crucified Christ; the skulls at the opening of Chapter 7 on death; and so forth.
Recent excellent studies on the practice of inserting prints in manuscripts stop short of the sixteenth century (e.g., Areford, Schuppisser,Weekes). Nevertheless, a coherent group of sixteenth-century manuscripts made at and for St.-Trond and now housed in Liege (see Sint-Truiden, 1986, nos. 30-34), one with as many as 98 inserted engravings, confirms the persistence of this practice and deserves further study in comparison with the present copy.
Areford, David. "In the Viewer's Hands: The Reception of the Printed Image in Late Medieval Europe, c. 1400 - c. 1500," PhD. Thesis, Northwestern University, 2002.
Landau, David and Peter Parshall, The Renaissance Print 1470-1550, London and New Haven, 1994, pp. 64-5 and 91.
Sint-Truiden, Provinciaal Museum voor Religieuze Kunst. Handscriften uit de abdij van Sint-Truiden (exhibition catalogue), Leuven, Uitgeerij Peeters,1986.
Hollstein, F.W.H. Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings, and Woodcuts, ca. 1450-1700. Amsterdam: M. Hertzberger, 1949-.
Hollstein, F.W.H. German Engravings, Etchings and Woodcuts, ca. 1400-1700. Amsterdam: M. Hertzberger, 1954-.
Indestege, L. (ed.). Een diets gebedenboek uit het begin der zestiende eeuw,herkomstig uit het voormalig klooster Sint-Hieronymusdal te Sint-Truiden, Ghent, 1961 (Kon. Vl. Ac.).
Schuppisser, Fritz Oskar, “Copper Engraving of the ‘Mass Production’ Illstrating Netherlandish Prayer Manuscripts, in Masters and Miniatures. Proceedings of the Congress on Medieval Manuscript Illumination in the Northern Netherlands (Utrecht, 10-13 December 1989), ed. Koert van der Horst and Johann-Christian Klamt, (Studies and Facsimiles of Netherlandish Illuminated Manuscripts, 3), Doornspijk, 1991, pp. 389-400.
Weekes, U. “The Master of the Berlin Passion and his Public. The Production and Reception of Engravings and Metalcuts as Inserted Additions in Manuscripts from the Rhineland, c. 1450-1500,” PhD. Thesis, University of London, 2002 (and forthcoming).
St. Jerome Letters and Selected Works (in English)
Letter of Jerome to Eustochium (English translation)