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Latin-French Book of Hours Manuscripts in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek [National Library of the Netherlands], The Hague

General Background
Books of hours were devotional prayer books designed to be used by the Catholic laity in reciting prayers at the eight traditional “hours” of the canonical day, which ran from “matins” before dawn to “vespers” in the evening and concluded with “compline” at bed time. They were without a doubt the most important and widespread books of the Middle Ages throughout Europe. Originating in the thirteenth century they continued to be made well into the sixteenth century, first as handwritten manuscripts, which by the fifteenth century were increasingly mass produced in workshops in the Low Countries and France, and following the introduction of printing after 1480 also in that format. They were in Latin but also frequently contained material, such as prayers, rubrics, rhymes and calendars of saints’ days, in the vernacular. In general they followed a standardized pattern that usually began with a set of prayers and readings in honor of the Virgin Mary (the so-called “Hours of the Virgin”) and also included the Hours of the Cross, the Hours of the Holy Spirit, the Seven Penitential Psalms and the Office of the Dead. Although generally cut from the same cloth, there was room for local variation within certain texts, called a “use”, for example “use of Paris”. Often material of a personal nature, such as favorite prayers, was inserted into the manuscripts and later into the printed books on pages left blank for this purpose. Marginal notes and jottings of a religious or more profane nature were common and books of hours were used to record family history, such as dates of births and deaths, but also to swear oaths and solemn vows, possession of the bible being still quite limited. They came in all price ranges, from lavish custom-made examples adorned with illuminated miniatures or full-page drawings by professional artists commissioned by nobles or wealthy bourgeois to inexpensive mass produced ones with a few illustrations of poor quality. If a person was likely to have any single book at all during this period, it would have been a book of hours. They were prized possessions meant to be used for both private and public devotion and were passed down to family members or other heirs at an owner’s demise, usually with the injunction to remember the deceased in one’s prayers. As a linchpin of the Catholic religion meant “to offer lay people a suitably slimmed down and simplified share in the Church’s official cycle of daily prayer…” (Duffy 2007, p. 59), it is no wonder that books of hours came under attack during the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. In countries where the Reformation triumphed such as England, their production and use disappeared. In countries that remained Catholic on the other hand, such as France, printed books of hours continued to circulate, with new editions, often bilingual Latin-French, being issued right down into the twentieth century.

The collection of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek
Among the medieval manuscripts of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague are 37 Latin Books of Hours that also contain parts in French and are included in the library’s collection of French-language Medieval Manuscripts as catalogued by Anne S. Korteweg, which was micropublished previously by Moran (MMP113). The majority are from the fifteenth century (29), while there are also six manuscripts from the sixteenth century and one each from the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries. They find their provenance in various parts of France and the southern Netherlands and follow different “uses” as explained above, the most common in this collection being Rome (16 examples), followed by Paris (8). Virtually all contain varying numbers of miniatures and other forms of embellishment such as initials and border decorations. The microfiches reproduce the entire text of each manuscript, including all illustrations, in black and white. Their availability will further research into a variety of subjects in art history, history of religion and private life, manuscript studies and text studies.

More details
For complete details of each title, see the draft version of the guide, which can be downloaded from our site: The illustrations can be consulted in color on the Koninklijke Bibliotheek’s website (see link on the front of this flyer, right column).

Reference: Eamon Duffy, Marking the Hours: English People and their Prayers 1240-1570 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007)
The Codices Vossiani Graeci et Miscellanei Online publishes the 174 manuscripts in Greek, and the 42 manuscripts containing both Latin and Greek, from the world-famous Isaac Vossius manuscript collection at Leiden University Library. Isaac Vossius (1618-1689) was a classical philologist and collector of manuscripts, maps, atlases and printed works; he had a particular interest in Greek manuscripts; his first publication was an edition of a Greek manuscript, and he taught Greek to Queen Christina I of Sweden during his time working at her court.

This primary source collection offers, in total, 216 manuscripts comprising 27,205 leaves, giving a total number of images (including covers, spines, and fly-leaves) of c. 55,409. K. A. de Meyier’s Latin-language catalogue of the collection is available in digital format alongside the scanned manuscripts, providing users with essential information on the content, context, and physical appearance of each codex; an English-language summarised and updated version of the catalogue is also provided for each manuscript, including new and recent bibliographical references.
The Codices Vossiani Latini Online publishes all 363 codices which form the world-famous Latin part of Isaac Vossius’ manuscript collection held at Leiden University Library. The Codices Vossiani Latini count a large number of early medieval manuscripts (a whopping 76 Carolingian manuscripts dating from before 900), including major sources of many classic texts. Famous are the oldest sources of Lucretius’ De natura rerum, of Cicero’s philosophical works, and the earliest manuscript of Plinius’ Historia naturalis known to be produced north of the Alps (Northumbria, eighth century). Other highlights include an illustrated herbal from around 600 and the Aratea, an astronomical treatise from around 840, manufactured at the court of Louis the Pious with 39 beautiful miniatures of the constellations. A large part of the research done by foreign scholars on Western manuscripts at Leiden University Library focuses on the Vossiani Latini.

Isaac Vossius (1618-1689) was a classical philologist and collector of manuscripts, maps, atlases and printed works. Vossius was born in 1618 as the son of the humanist Gerard Johannes Vossius (1577-1649). In 1648, Isaac started to work as a scholar for Queen Christina of Sweden. After he had sold the famous library of his father to Christina in 1649, Vossius was appointed court librarian a year later, with the task of expanding and cataloguing the library. After a stay of eighteen months in the Republic, partly forced, Vossius returned to Sweden in 1653, where he found his own book collection and the court library in great disarray. When Christina abdicated in 1654, a large part of her library was shipped to Rome. A part of the manuscripts and printed books was, however, taken from Christina’s library by Vossius as compensation for late payments, and for the loss of his own books. At the end of his life Vossius bequeathed his library to the children of his brother Matthaeus.

When negotiations with Oxford University had come to nothing, the heirs accepted an offer from the curators in 1690 to buy the collection for 33,000 guilders on behalf of Leiden University Library. The purchase of the Vossius library caused financial difficulties for Leiden University, but to its library it brought international fame. Especially the manuscripts proved to be of invaluable worth. The purchase of the Vossius library doubled the collection of Leiden University to c. 9,500 books. Doubles were removed from the printed books and these were auctioned in 1706. After ex libris slips had been attached to all title pages, the books were distributed over the existing collection which was grouped according to size and to subject. The manuscripts from Vossius (over 700 items) were always kept separately.

The 363 codices in all comprise 40,278 openings, resulting in 84,266 images, including covers and flyleaves.

The manuscript collection is enriched by detailed information drawn from by K. A. de Meyier's catalogues of the codices, providing users, both students and researchers, with essential information on the content, context, and physical appearance of each codex.

Conrad Gessner's Private Library Online

The Revealing Hand-Written Notes of an Early Modern Polymath

• Number of titles: 70 • Languages used: Latin • Title list available • MARC records are available • Location of originals: Zentralbibliothek Zürich; Universitätsbibliothek Basel This source edition of Gessner’s private library contains those seventy eight books that Gessner read most carefully and annotated by hand. The majority have been reproduced from the rich holdings of the Zentralbibliothek Zürich, while other important copies included in this edition are held by the University Library of Basle. The marginalia in these books are so numerous that they almost constitute a new set of sources, which are of interest not only to historians and philologists but also to those who study the history of early modern medicine and the natural sciences.
• Number of titles: 189
• Languages used: Latin, French, German, English and Dutch
• Title list available
• MARC records are available
Location of originals: Zentralbibliothek Zürich, Zurich; Institut für Schweizerische Reformationsgeschichte, Zurich; Bibliothèque Publique et Universitaire de Genève, Geneva; Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich; Sion College Library, London; Universiteitsbibliotheek Universiteit van Amsterdam; Amsterdam; Universiteitsbibliotheek Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam; Universiteitsbibliotheek Utrecht, Utrecht

This collection contains a selection of the original works in Latin and German by the Protestant Reformer Heinrich Bullinger. In some cases translations of Bullinger’s works into Latin, French, German, English and Dutch have also been included because of their importance. This selection is of particular value for Reformation research in that Bullinger has always been overshadowed by Calvin and Zwingli.