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les Enluminures

[Bible] Lectionary, translation by JOHANNES SCUTKEN

In Dutch, decorated manuscript on paper
The Netherlands, North Brabant?, c. 1480

TM 421

iv + 212 + ii folios, complete (collation i-xvii 12, xviii8 = 212 leaves, with f. 210-212 blank) preceded by 3 paper flyleaves and followed by 1 paper flyleaf; also preceded and followed by a single parchment leaf from Latin theological manuscript of the 9th or 10th century written in littera carolina, which previously functioned in the present manuscript as pastedowns (but they have since been lifted), on paper, written in a hybrid gothic bookhand by three hands in brown ink (first hand, ff. 1-208v; second hand, 208v-209r; third hand, ff. 209r-209v), text on 2 columns, ruled in light brown ink (justification 155 x 89 mm, with a gutter of 8 mm), 28-31 lines, prickings and catchwords still visible, capitals touched in red throughout, 1-, 2-, and 3-line-high initials painted in red, eight 2- and 3-line initials with purple penwork flourishes, nine large opening parti-colored initials in blue and red with red, purple and green calligraphic penwork extending into the margin, exuberant red pen flourishes distributed throughout. Bound in a Dutch late 15th-century blind-stamped binding of calf over wooden boards, back sewn on 4 thongs, paper shelfmark on lower spine, sides divided into frames with roll-produced borders, outer frames formed by rolls with floral, leafy and geometrical designs, second frame bearing the repeated name “Maria,” inner frame made with roll to create repeating rhombuses, each filled with a floral design, 2 brass and leather foreedge clasps now missing but later replaced by a single clasp, also missing, except for a brass catch on the upper board, (Spine joints brittle and weak, upper spine leather bearing a paper title reading “Evangelia et Epistola dominicanum totius anni” has broken off but is preserved inside back cover, back board split along grain, corners a bit worn, 8 folios [f. 1v and 2r, 51v and 52r, 70v and 71r, and 93v and 94 r] slightly damaged from sticking together, f. 42r slightly damaged from an erasure). Dimensions 211 x 143 mm.

In its original binding, this manuscript includes the Johannes Scutken’s Dutch translation of the Bible (mostly the New Testament) arranged in a Lectionary read throughout the liturgical year. Scutken was a leading figure in the “Devotio Moderna,” a reform movement active in the translation of biblical texts. The manuscript was owned and used by a woman who was probably a member of a religious community, perhaps the Sisters of the Common Life. Its text is an early proponent of a more efficient way of indexing and organizing information.


1. Script and linguistic features (Middle Dutch) all confirm the Netherlandish origin for this manuscript, ca. 1480. Of the 126 feast days mentioned in the Sanctoral, nearly all of them were celebrated in the bishopric of Utrecht. A few, however, such as Annoes (St. Anno, Bishop of Cologne 5 December), Ulricksddach (St. Ulric of Augsburg, 4 July), Eliphius (St. Elyfius, martyr, 17 October, who is listed in the calendar of the Hours of Catherine of Cleves but is somewhat uncommon), Euergislus (St. Evergillus, bishop, 24 October, celebrated in Cologne), Kunibertus (St. Cunibert, Bishop of Cologne, 12 November), and Theeben gedenk (commemoration of St. Thebaides, 24 November), are celebrated in the diocese of Cologne and may point to an eastern Netherlandish origin for this manuscript. However, the spelling and dialect are not consistent with such an assignment, and these saints may instead reflect the manuscript’s exemplar rather than its place of production. The manuscript could have been made in North Brabant.

2. The name of a previous owner appears in ink on the recto of upper flyleaf: “Annen van Steenbergen,” likely written in the late fifteenth century but possibly in the early sixteenth. This name is repeated on second flyleaf recto. The script on the two flyleaves differs; that on the first may be the same as the hand that wrote ff. 1-208. Steenbergen is in the western part of North Brabant. Although there are no known convents in Steenbergen, the script and orthography are consistent with production in North Brabant.

3. Contains the stamped ex-libris from the “Colleg. Ignatina. Prov. Germ. S.J.” and “Bibl. Col. Max. Ignat. Valkenb,” apparently the Ignatius College in Valkenburg near Maastricht, which was dissolved in 1942.

4. Private Collection, Europe.


ff. 1-10v, Beginning of the Temporal, with Advent, rubric, Opten yersten sonnendach inder advent ons heren. Een lexe der epistelen sce pauls des heilighen apostels totten; incipit, “Broeders sijt wetende dat nu die ure is ons van den slape op te staen”;

ff. 10v-16v, Nativity readings, rubric, Op kersavent een lexe profeten ysaias;

ff. 16v-29v, Epiphany readings and readings for the following Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, rubric, Op dertienavent een lex uut der epistel tot tytus;

ff. 29v-67v, Lent readings for each day of the week, rubric, Des sondages in des vastavens een lex uut der epistel totten van corinten;

ff. 67v-99v, Passion readings, rubric, Des vijften sondach inder vasten Gheheiten die sondach der passien onss heren uut der episten totten hebreen;

f. 75, Palm Sunday readings, Op den palm dach een lex uut den boeck exodus alsmen die palmen segent;

ff. 99v-116v, Easter readings and readings for the following Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, rubric, Op paeschavent een lexe uut den boeck dat genesis heit;

ff. 116v-118v, Ascension readings, rubric, Op ons heren hemelvaerts avent uut der apostelen wercken;

ff. 118v-129v, Pentecost readings and the following octave, rubric, Op den pinxtavent. Een prophecia uut den boec geheiten genesis die ierste lexe;

ff. 129v-164, Readings for the First Sunday after the octave of Pentecost and the following Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays for twenty-five weeks, rubric, Des iersten sondages naeder octaven van pinxten uutder epistel sent iohannes evangelist;

ff. 164-168v, Readings for the Blessing of a Church, rubric, Opten sondach der kerck wijnge. Een lexe uut den apenbaringe sent iohans; incipit, “Inden daigen sach ick die heilige stat…”;

ff. 168v-204, Beginning of the Sanctoral, rubric, Hier begint vanden heiligen ynt gemeyn. Op eens apostel avent uut der wijsheit boeck; incipit, “Salich is die mensche die die wijsheit vynt…,” starting with readings for the feast day of any apostle and including, f. 169r, readings for any martyr, rubric, Van enen marteler. Een lexe uut den boeck der wijsheit; f. 171v, readings for any group of martyrs, rubric, Van voel martelers. Een lexe uut der epistel totten hebreen; f. 174v, readings for any confessor, rubric, Van den confessoren een lexe uut den boeck der wijsheit; f. 177v, readings for any virgin saint, rubric, Epistelen vander iofferen uut den boeck der wijsheit; and readings for individual saints’ feast days, beginning with St. Andrew, f. 180r, rubric, Vanden heiligen epistel ende evangelie. Op sunt Andriees avent. Een lexe uut den boeck der wijsheit, and including readings for 126 individual feast days;

ff. 204v-209v, Text about receiving grace, incipit, “Dat men god vercrigen mach daer toe behoert een ganss waer afkeer van alden dat niet luter god en is....” Two scribes have added short sections to this text, which is in effect a quire filler. It is unedited.

This manuscript contains Johannes Scutken’s translation of the New Testament, arranged in a Lectionary. A cleric from the convent of Windesheim, Scutken (died 1423) was a pivotal reformer in the so-called “Modern Devotion” or Devotio Moderna. Scholars have pointed out that the very term “Modern Devotion” is something of a misnomer, resulting from the translation of the Latin “moderna” as “modern” instead of “renewed” (see van Engen, 1988, p. 10). This religious movement, which was widespread in the northern Netherlands in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, owes its origins to Geert Grote (died 1384). Following the example of Grote, whose life was centered in Deventer, churchmen lived in common, without necessarily taking religious vows. Eventually, the “Modern Devotion” consisted of two primary groups of adherents: the Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life, who lived together in communal houses, and the Congregation of Windesheim, a group of affiliated monasteries of the order of the Canon’s Regular. Many individuals who were important to northern Humanism and the Reformation were influenced by the “Modern Devotion,” Erasmus and Luther to name only a few.

One of the tenets of the “Modern Devotion” was that religious texts should be available in the vernacular so as to be easily understood by everyone. To this end, many translation projects are associated with the “Modern Devotion.” Grote himself translated the Book of Hours into Dutch (see van Wijk, 1940). Scutken’s main activity at Windesheim, as described by the chronicler of the movement, Johannes Busch, was translating devotional books for the brethren into the vernacular. Grote had translated fifty-four Psalms completely and six Psalms partially. Probably at the beginning of the fifteenth century a follower of Grote continued his translation and completed what is now known as the Psalms and Cantica in the Standard Redaction of the Modern Devotion. Generally it is assumed that this continuator was Scutken. Of this standard redaction, which is the third complete translation of the Psalms in Middle Dutch, fifty-six manuscripts are known. Scutken is best known, however, for his work as the translator of the so-called northern Dutch translation of the New Testament. Accomplished between 1387 and 1391, this work included the four Gospels, letters of Saint Paul, canonical letters, Acts of the Apostles, and the Apocalypse, but also the Pericopes (readings) from the Old Testament. The great number of manuscripts (more than 120) which contain it completely or partially testifies to the popularity of this translation. Scutken’s translation formed the basis for several Lectionaries and harmonies of the Gospels. His work as a translator followed in the wake of that of Petrus Naghel, formerly known as the Bible Translator of 1360, as well as earlier Dutch translations such as Jacob van Maerlant’s Rijmbijbel of the thirteenth century.

The present manuscript Lectionary has a Temporal with readings throughout the liturgical year, beginning with Advent; and a Sanctoral, which provides readings for the feast days of the saints in liturgical calendrical order. The Lectionary is therefore structurally related to the breviary, but whereas the breviary contains prayers, this vernacular Lectionary contains stories and episodes taken from the Bible. For example, for the first Sunday in advent, the votary reads part of one of Paul’s epistles and a verse from the Gospel of Matthew. On Wednesday of the same week she reads an epistle from St. James, and on Friday she reads a selection from St. Luke. The text continues by providing readings three times each week for the remainder of Advent, largely taken from the Old Testament, usually with at least one reading from an epistle and one from the Gospels at each session. The pattern continues for the four Sundays preceding Advent, which culminates in a large number of readings for Christmas eve (f. 10v-14r), before moving on to St. Steven’s Day celebrated on 26 December with a relevant reading about Steven from the Acts of the Apostles and a text from the Gospel of Matthew. Some versions of this text have a prologue and glosses, which do not appear in this manuscript.

The decoration helps the reader find her place in the book. The readings for each Sunday are singled out by red capitals decorated with purple pen flourishing, with the readings from Good Friday until Easter Sunday receiving 4- to 6-line initials decorated in multiple colors, and subdivisions within Easter similarly decorated (f. 83r, 89r, 95v, 103r), and other major feasts, such as Pentecost (f. 181r), Ascension Day (f. 128v), the feast of St. Andrew (f. 180r) receiving similar initials The individual texts to be read are signaled in red capitals.

Its original or early note of ownership names Anne van Steenbergen. She may also be the scribe of the first 208 folios. Signs of use within the book suggest that it was often consulted, probably by several people. Some darkening from handling appears at the lower corners of most pages. A corrector has made notes in the margins of several folios, including f. 136r. The book’s second or subsequent owner, writing in a hand distinct from that of the scribe, added notes in the margin of f. 37v, and another reader added a revealing note to f. 41r: “The brothers do not follow this gospel that appears here” (“Dit evangelie en halden die broders niet dat hier steet”) and then crossed out the passage that the “brothers do not follow.” The note suggests that the book’s users took their devotional structure from some “brothers,” which would make sense, as most female convents were under the pastoral care of male clerics. These clues strongly suggest that the Anne van Steenberg, the book’s original or early owner, was an inmate in a monastery.

The manuscript contains original foliation, which is rare in the Netherlands of the fifteenth century and is found chiefly in collections of sermons and copies of Scutken’s translation of the epistles and pericopes such as this one. Whereas most manuscripts that are foliated in a contemporary hand accompany a table of contents that then refers to the foliation, this manuscript does not have a table of contents and was never intended to have one. Rather, the scribe refers to the folio numbers of texts within the rubrics, such as on f. 155v, where the rubric reads, “Refer to the fourth Sunday after the octave of Epiphany, [f.] xxii” (“Guect des vierden sondags nader octaven van diertiendach xxij”). Rather than recopying a passage that appears earlier in the book, the scribe refers the reader to the relevant page. The scribe foliated the Temporal from i-clxviij, then started the numbering from the beginning with i for the Sanctoral, since the “hyperlinks” would only refer to passages within each respective section. For the same reason, she did foliate the final text in the manuscript, a text about receiving grace that fills the quire, for no other texts in the manuscript refer to this one.

The manuscript has been well-preserved in a handsome panel-stamped binding of the sixteenth century, although the binding itself needs repairs. The maculature, sheets of vellum cut from an old liturgical manuscript and used as binding material in the present manuscript, was formerly pasted to the inside front and back covers but have since been lifted. These leaves are inscribed in littera carolina, a script type created around 780 and in use until the twelfth century. The sheet formerly pasted to the front cover contains a list of saints.

There is a flower pressed between f. 187 and f. 188, although further research would be necessary to determine whether this is contemporary with the book.


Biemans, J. A. A. M. Middelnederlandse Bijbelhandschriften, Codices manuscripti Sacrae Scripturae Neerlandicae, Leiden, Brill, 1984.

Deschamps, Jan. “De verspreiding van Johan Scutkens vertaling van het Nieuwe Testament en de Oudtestamentische perikopen,” in In navolging: een bundel studies aangeboden aan C. C. de Bruin bij zijn afscheid als hoogleraar te Leiden, Leiden 1975, pp. 159-179.

van Engen, John H., ed. Devotio Moderna: Basic Writings, Classics of Western Spirituality, Mahwah, New Jersey, Paulist Press, 1988.

Kwakkel, Erik and Wybren Scheepsma, eds. Middelnederlandse bijbelvertalingen, Middeleeuwse Studies en Bronnen, 102, Hilversum, Uitgeverij Verloren, 2007.

van Wijk, N. ed. Het Getijdenboek van Geert Grote: naar het Haagse Handschrift 133 E 21 (Leidsche Drukken en Herdrukken: Kleine Reeks, III), Leiden, 1940.

Online resources

On Pericopes

Medieval Manuscripts in Dutch Collections