Medieval manuscripts in Dutch Collections
Medieval manuscripts in Dutch Collections

A historian at work

Petrus de Thimo, Brabantsche Yeesten. Latin and Dutch. Paper and parchment, 210 ff., c. 280xc. 212 mm. c. 1425. Leiden, UB : ms. Ltk 1019

One of the manuscripts of the Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde offers us a great opportunity to see a medieval historian at work.

Petrus de Thimo (1393-1474), or, in Dutch, Peter van der Heyden, pensionary and canon in Brussels, wrote an extensive history in Latin of the Duchy of Brabant and the City of Brussels, the Brabantiae Historia Diplomatica, up to the year 1429. Besides official documents, he made use of several historical works, such as Vincent of Beauvais’ Speculum Historiale and a Brabant genealogy, but also the vernacular chronicle Brabantsche yeesten, written by the Antwerp clerk Jan van Boendale at the beginning of the 14th century. That Boendale’s work was one of De Thimo’s sources may be hard to prove simply by comparing the content of the two chronicles, but the manuscript Ltk 1019 is an exciting physical witness to this fact.

Each page of the codex is divided into two columns. Originally, the text of the Brabantsche Yeesten was written in the left column, while the right column was kept empty. A hand different from that of the scribe has made notes in these empty columns, some filling the entire column, some only several lines. They contain fragments from the history of Brabant, derived from several Latin sources. These may not be word-for-word translations, but they do correspond to the period and subject described in the left-hand column. There are also short headings which help to outline Boendale’s structure, which was based on the genealogy of the Dukes of Brabant: each heading gives chapter, folionumber, and the number and name of the ruler appearing at the left.

So we can see this manuscript as a specially made work-specimen which would have allowed an historian to compose his own chronicle, combining Boendale’s structure on the one hand with his Latin sources on the other. Could it be Petrus de Thimo who used it for his Brabantiae Historia Diplomatica? A comparison of his chronicle with the Brabantsche yeesten shows that although De Thimo wrote neither a translation nor an adaptation of Boendale’s work, he did follow its structure – the similarity is striking. And indeed it was Petrus de Thimo whom we have seen at work: several autograph manuscripts show that the handwriting in Ltk 1019 is definitely his. With this aid on his desk he probably wrote the earliest (and now lost) version of the Brabantiae Historia Diplomatica, on which the surviving versions were based.

It is almost like a modern scholar at work... We borrow piles of books from the libraries (although that is nowadays a lot easier than back then), but when we expect to use a work really thoroughly, we buy our own copy – and praise the publisher for the spacious margins...


  • R. Stein, Politiek en historiografie. Het ontstaansmilieu van Brabantse kronieken in de eerste helft van de vijftiende eeuw. Leuven, 1994, ch. 2.

See also

  • A psalter from Royal libraries

    Psalter. Latin, Parchment, 185 ff., 245x177 mm. Northern England, 1190-1200. Leiden, UB : ms. BPL 76 A

  • Flemish surgical instruments

    Small manual for a surgeon, based on the Cyrurgie by Meester Jan Yperman (incomplete). Flemish. Paper, 130x95 mm. Flanders, last quarter of the 15th century. Leiden, UB : ms. BPL 3094

  • The Zwolle bible

    Bible. Latin. Parchment, 6 volumes, c. 530x390 mm. Brethren of the Common Life, Zwolle, 1464-1476. Utrecht, UB : Cat 31 and 15.C.11

  • The Utrecht Psalter

    Psalter. Latin. Parchment, 91 ff., 330x255 mm. Benedictine monastery of St. Peter, Hautvillers near Reims, c. 820-835. Utrecht, UB : Cat. 32 / 1

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