The first printer in Haarlem was not the legendary Laurens Janszoon Coster, but Jacob Bellaert, born in Zierikzee. Two of the seventeen or eighteen books printed by him between 1483 and 1486 are in French, the others are in Dutch. Five books from his list, including this Der sonderen troest of het Proces tussen Belial ende Moyses, had only appeared in Dutch versions in the fifteenth century at Bellaert's.
The author of the original Latin text of 1382 was Jacobus de Theramo, a lawyer born in the Abruzzi, Italy. It is stated in the preface of Bellaert's edition that the anonymous translator had access to a scribe who was well-versed in law and the Scriptures in the case of difficult passages. It is not known whether the translation was commissioned by Bellaert himself, or what his title to the edition was. The subject is the legal proceedings instituted by the devil against Christ, because He had saved mankind from the devil's clutches by His death on the cross.
An important part of books printed by Bellaert is illustrated with often splendid woodcuts. Bartholomaeus Anglicus's Van de proprieteiten der dingen, 1484, is the only book in which the name of the printer Jacob Bellaert is mentioned. Almost all the other editions give Haarlem as the place of printing, but do not mention his name. But they may be attributed to him because of the typeface and his printer's mark.
The fifteenth-century illustrators of books and woodcutters are veiled in still far greater anonymity than the printers at the time. Jacob Bellaert escaped from such anonymity by once including his name in a colophon. In art history he may now serve as the namegiver for the unknown illustrator: the Bellaert master.
The illustration shows Solomon as judge, seated in the middle; before him the clerk of the court, to the left Belial as prosecutor and to the right Moses, Christ's counsel for the defence. Three woodblocks were used, one for the centre and two for the sidepieces. In all 32 different woodblocks were cut, and printed in continually changing combinations. For the illustrations in the Belial reprints of 1512 and 1516 by the Antwerp printer Hendrik Eckert van Homberch, Bellaert's woodblocks, then 30 years old, were used again.
**Der sonderen troest ofProces tusschen Belial een duvel der hellen ende Moyses gemachticht van Jhesus ons verlosser. **Jacobus de Theramo. Haarlem, Jacob Bellaert, 15 feb. 1484. 2º, 132 (-2 blanco) folia. - Provenance: auction of the collection J.C. Baron van Alderwerelt, 1826. - 168 E 5, fol. c2v