Donation from the Vereniging Vrienden van de Koninklijke Bibliotheek
Date: Ca. 1502-1503
Size: 15 x 10 cm.
Call number: 2901 E 26
When the 'Vereeniging Vrienden der Koninklijke Bibliotheek' [Association of Friends of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek] was set up in 1938, Menno ter Braak wrote an article about it in Het Vaderland (5 November 1938). The article is actually a declaration of love to the Koninklijke Bibliotheek 'O, National Library, how many footsteps have I left behind in your rooms? How overawed, how bashful I was when as a student I first entered [...] this ideal monastery of scholarship in The Hague! Gradually my infatuation grew into love, and perhaps even into a companionable marriage.' He goes on to say that he has had a conversation with the then newly-appointed librarian Leendert Brummel about the foundation of this association which was to set up a fund for special purchases. Seventy years later, the 'friends' have in fact helped the Koninklijke Bibliotheek to purchase a number of splendid pieces.
For example, to mark the Koninklijke Bibliotheek's 200th anniversary in 1998, the 'friends' donated this little book, a copy of the Hier beghint dat leuen ons liefs heren Ihesu cristi which was printed in Leiden around 1503 by Jan Seversz.
The book is not remarkable for its text. Ludolph of Saxony's *Vita Christi *, of which this book is an adaptation, was published many times in various languages in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Nevertheless, this was a very special gift. There was only one known copy of this edition, which was not in a public collection. Moreover, it contains 44 superb coloured woodcuts. As a result, the work can be dated quite precisely even though no date is mentioned in it. If a woodcut is printed many times, the original blocks start to wear and signs of this can be seen in the impressions. Because the woodcuts of 'Jesus with the instruments of torture' and 'The Blessed Virgin and St John beneath the Cross' show less evidence of wear and tear than those in a book dated to 10 November 1503, it is clear that the book was printed before that date. Moreover, because the letter type shows that it was published by Jan Seversz, who started to work in Leiden around 1502, the book must have been printed between 1502 and 10 November 1503. (MvD)