Medieval manuscripts in Dutch Collections
Medieval manuscripts in Dutch Collections

Stamped miniatures

Book of hours. Latin. Parchment, 99 ff. 150x110 (83x62) mm. Bruges, c. 1430-1450. The Hague, KB : ms. 135 K 45

On April 1, 1427 the council of Bruges enacted a legal requirement as a response to a conflict between book producers and sellers on the one side, and the members of the image makers and saddle makers trade on the other. The Bruges illuminators, who belonged to the image makers trade, were suffering a loss of income because the book producers were importing single-leaf miniatures from Utrecht in order to retail them, either separately or within books. The ordinance required book producers to cease importing leaves from Utrecht and to buy only leaves that had been painted in Bruges. To prove their provenance, these miniatures were imprinted at their production site with stamps.

So far, we have been able to trace 25 manuscripts - all books of hours - as well as four single leaves, with stamped miniatures that can be connected with the requirement. All can be dated around the second quarter of the fifteenth century. The stamps are all black, red, or brownish circles, about 4-5 mm in diameter, containing crosses, stars, letters, lions, fleur-de-lys and clovers.

This book of hours contains twelve single-leaf miniatures, all stamped with a brownish circle in which a small gothic b is left blank. The miniatures are painted by an anonymous illuminator who, regarding the style of his work, must be one of the Masters of Otto van Moerdrecht. This group of illuminators contained many ateliers, who worked in several Dutch cities in the first half of the fifteenth century. The master we are dealing with worked in the city of Utrecht before moving to Bruges. In Utrecht he contributed to several prestigious projects, such as the illumination of a two-volume Bible (KB 78 D 38 I and II). In Bruges he illuminated more modest books of hours for private use, of which KB 135 K 45 is a good example. Most of the books of hours on which he worked contain stamped miniatures, but he did not use the b-stamp exclusively. Other stamps he used contain circles with a gothic i, and in one manuscript, now in Jerusalem, the illuminator used both stamps at the same time.

The Utrecht origins of the Master of Otto van Moerdrecht probably explain why so many miniatures by his hands were stamped. These stamps were proof that the miniatures were not illegally imported, but were actually made in Bruges. This book of hours therefore offers us a clear insight into the commercial world of book producers in the late medieval cities.


·                 Wilhelmina (Saskia) van Bergen, De Meesters van Otto van Moerdrecht : een onderzoek naar de stijl en iconografie van een groep miniaturisten, in relatie tot de productie van getijdenboeken in Brugge rond 1430, unpublished doctoral thesis, Universiteit van Amsterdam 2007

·                 A.S. Korteweg, `Middeleeuwse handschriften'. In: Accoord. C.R. Een keuze uit de bijzondere aanwinsten verworven tijdens het bibliothecariaat van dr. C. Reedijk. Tentoonstellingscatalogus. Koninklijke Bibliotheek. 's-Gravenhage 1986, p. 26-52. p. 25, 40 nr. 16, afb. 26

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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