Medieval Writing
Paleography Exercises
Book of Hours, later 15th century. From a private collection. Photographs © Dianne Tillotson.

This leaf from a book of hours is of interest because it is in the Dutch language. Vernacular books of hours were written in French, and much more rarely in English, but the Dutch seem to have had a particular fondness for saying their personal devotions in their native language. A fairly standard version is the translation by Geert Grote, founder of the Brethren of the Common Life, a movement to involve people more directly in their own spiritual life. This does not seem to have attracted the same adverse interest by the church authorities as the Lollard movement in England. This work was immensely popular, particularly in the northern Netherlands, and many examples survive.

The verso of this page shows a fine illuminated initial adorned with fancy penwork, indicating that, despite their small size (The page is around 13 x 9 cm.), these could be elegant productions of their kind. Unfortunately the predelictions of fanciers of medieval painting in the past have meant that many books of this type have been dismembered in order to remove the miniatures, leaving orphaned leaves floating around to be collected by those who realise that books also contain writing. To see what the whole productions were like, you have to visit museums or libraries which have retained intact volumes.

The vellum of the page is worked very fine and white, so that it is translucent and both sides look pretty much the same. The ink ruling lines for drawing up the page are very apparent. The script is a very respectable Gothic textura, exactly as would be found in a Latin volume. This leaf contains prayers relating to the Passion of Christ, with indulgences. As with other books of hours, the content was not absolutely fixed, particularly in relation to additional special prayers.

Thanks to Jan Bom of Plancius International for a transcript of this leaf, as well as some additional information. I think I could have managed it, but it's always nice to have something to check against. Getijdenboek van de Meester van Catharina van Kleef provides a complete digital facsimile of a very lavish Dutch book of hours, probably a bit more posh than this one was. A more modest Geert Grote book of hours is shown complete on the Digital Library of Illuminated Manuscripts site. Getijdenboek Geert Grote contains the main text of the offices, calendar and litany for this work, but not these particular prayers.

| overview | initial | text | alphabet | abbreviations | exercises | transcript | English paraphrase |

Click on each of the above to walk your way through the text. The transcript will appear in a separate window so that you can use it for reference at any time. These exercises are designed to guide you through the text, not test you, so you can cheat as much as you like.
Script sample for this example
Index of Exercises
Index of Scripts

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This site is created and maintained by Dr Dianne Tillotson, freelance researcher and compulsive multimedia and web author. Comments are welcome. Material on this web site is copyright, but some parts more so than others. Please check here for copyright status and usage before you start making free with it. This page last modified 23/3/2006.