Medieval manuscripts

Table of contents

An overview of the medieval manuscripts collection

About the medieval manuscripts collection

The KB's collection features the finest manuscripts from the medieval period. The collection has three focal points: illuminated manuscripts, Middle Dutch manuscripts and liturgical manuscripts. We are still expanding the collection.

Illuminated manuscripts are decorated, for instance with drawings or miniatures. The KB holds the largest collection of illuminated manuscripts in the Netherlands. Most of it consists of books of hours and prayer books, with images from the lives of Mary and Christ. Fine examples of illuminated books of hours are the Trivulzio Book of Hours, the Book of Hours of Duke Philip of Burgundy and the Book of Hours of Simon de Varie.

The collection also contains many Middle Dutch manuscripts. About half of the manuscripts were written partly or entirely in the vernacular. Some of these manuscripts are elaborately decorated, such as the book with the unique Beatrijs and the manuscripts of Jacob van Maerlant's Der naturen bloeme.

More than 100 medieval manuscripts in the collection are liturgical in nature; they were made for use in Catholic worship and are all in Latin. These are books for choral prayer or mass. Gospel books also belong to the liturgical manuscripts.

  • Beatrijs, Brabant, ca. 1374.

History of the medieval manuscripts collection

The KB was founded in 1798. The KB has kept many medieval manuscripts since that time. These books come from the former Stadtholder's Library. The library obtained valuable acquisitions with the collections of Joost Romswinckel (1807), Jacob Visser (1809), Joseph Désiré Lupus (1823) and Georges-Joseph Gérard (1832). Thanks to these, the KB has a large medieval collection, containing manuscripts made across a large part of Europe.

Since the middle of the 19th century, the collection has mostly been supplemented with books of hours from the northern Netherlands. The collection is still expanding. In recent years, emphasis is placed less on obtaining richly decorated manuscripts, and more on collecting pieces of national cultural or historical importance. 

  • Afbeelding van een struisvogel uit Der naturen bloeme, halverwege de 15e eeuw.

Accessibility of the collection of medieval manuscripts

The collection can be found via the KB catalogue and the website Medieval Manuscripts in Dutch Collections. Images from the illuminated manuscripts can be found at Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts. Manuscripts can be viewed in the Special Collections reading room. The liturgical manuscripts are described in more detail in a printed catalogue.

Would you like to know more about our medieval manuscripts?


  • Boeren, P.C. (red.). Catalogus van de liturgische handschriften van de Koninklijke Bibliotheek. KB, 1988.
  • Korteweg, A.S. & Chavannes-Mazel, C.A. Schatten van de Koninklijke Bibliotheek. Acht eeuwen verluchte handschriften. Tentoonstellingscatalogus. KB, 1980.
  • Vlist, E. van der. Schitterende schatten. Verluchte handschriften in de Koninklijke Bibliotheek. Bekking & Blitz Uitgevers, 2011.