Everyone knows about Elckerlijc (Everyman or Jedermann), the Dutch play from the end of the fifteenth century that has become an integral part of world literature. It is a morality play of less than 900 lines of poetry in which the protagonists are personifications, like Fellowship, Knowledge, Beauty and Virtue, with God as the first speaker. The theme is the summoning of Everyman by Death to justify himself.
The Latin adaptation of Elckerlijc *mentions Petrus Diesthemus as the author, but nothing is known about him. Attempts have been made to identify him with Petrus Dorlandus, the Carthusian monk whose life and writings are nót unknown. *Elckerlijc's popularity at the time of origin and in the century thereafter is clear from the translations into English, Latin, and German. Yet the original Dutch text had almost disappeared completely. Not until 1862 did G. Schotel, in his Geschiedenis der Rederijkers, draw new attention to Elckerlijc, which he knew from the unique copy of an Antwerp edition of about 1525, in the library of the Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde in Leiden.
Besides a unique copy of a Delft edition (c. 1493-1496) that had been bought in 1886 by the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in Brussels, another - again unique - copy had been in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague for a much longer time; it was part of the collection of the lawyer Joost Romswinckel, bought en bloc *in 1807. Romswinckel had bought the Elckerlijc* in 1806 at the auction of Matthias Röver, where it had formed one lot with another booklet: Lambertus Goetman, De spiegel der jonghers, Antwerp, H. Eckert van Homberch, 1501. As there are many similarities between the two books, Elckerlijc was in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek also attributed to Eckert van Hombergh, and dated 1501. This was the reason why it was not included in the 1856 catalogue of the incunabula of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, and possibly escaped Schotel's attention. In 1952, ‘after a closer inspection’ Dr Maria E. Kronenberg, an expert on post-incunabula, ascribed it to Govaert Bac, also in Antwerp, but she did not change the date. Further research will be necessary to establish whether this Elckerlijc might have been printed in the closing years of the fifteenth century, a date not precluded by the types used.
Den spieghel der salicheit van Elckerlijc. [Antwerp, Govaert Bac, c. 1500]. 8º, 32 (-1) leaves. - 231 G 51, fol. a1v-a2r