This contribution discusses the hitherto overlooked ownership of the earliest printed books (incunabula) by Netherlandish female religious communities of tertiaries and canonesses regular connected to the religious reform movement of the Devotio moderna. Studies of book ownership and book collections in these communities have tended to focus on manuscripts. From the last decades of the fifteenth century onwards, however, these religious women increasingly came in contact with printed books, even though the involvement of the Devotio moderna with the printing press was limited. The discussion focuses on the channels via which tertiaries and canonesses acquired books produced by commercially operating printers, the ways in which incunabula affected what these (semi-)religious women read, as well as the ratio between printed books in Latin and the vernacular, and their function(s) within these communities. Thus the essay intends to sketch a preliminary image of the role of incunabula in female convents, and advocates a more inclusive approach of female religious book ownership.
This article discusses and reproduces a unique copy of a hitherto unknown Dutch incunable. It was recovered at a Belgian auction after 164 years and bought by the Athenaeum Library in Deventer, the Netherlands. Thus, the book returned to the city where it was printed by Jacobus de Breda, between 27 October 1495 and 16 April 1496.