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Abstract

The genre of the Ars moriendi is by no means a homogeneous one. Indeed, the great textual diversity has more than once attracted the attention. This diversity, caused by various omissions and, more often, extensions in the original text-types, is often considered as the decay of an originally orthodox theological genre. In this essay, manuscripts and printed versions of the Ars moriendi in the Dutch language ( ± 1450-1530) are studied. Instead of considering the omissions and extensions meant above as a decline of the genre, the author attempts to regard them, as the medieval writers may have done, as means to make the texts find their way to the public more easily. Various methods used by the authors of these Artes to reach their public, are examined and their presumable succes is evaluated. It seems that, whereas particularly the older literature assumes an almost infinite public, recent research does not confirm this point of view. For, in spite of explicit remarks addressed to all christians, commerce dictated to the printers a more or less wealthy public. As for the manuscripts, these seem mainly to have had a public of clergy and (female) religious communities. However, considering the existence of a public of listeners, both manuscripts and printed versions had, in an indirect way, their impact on the masses of the christians.

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