Pitts Theology Library | Kessler Collection

North Dutch Book of Hours, ca. 1470-1500


The chief aim of the Bretheren of the Common Life was the spread of practical Christianity, and their principle desire was to imitate the life and example of the primitive Apostolic Church. For a year (probably 1497-1498), Luther had been at school at Magdeburg where he appears to have been taught by some Brethren of the Common Life. They deepened his piety, and in no way raised in his mind any thought of opposition against the Roman Church, though it may have been through them that he first came to know the vernacular Bible.

In the Middle Ages, the Hours indicated inexact portions of the day devoted to the fulfillment of business and religious duties. Material splendor was considered appropriate to the expression of spirituality, and each worshiper, according to his means, spent unstintingly for the glorification of his Book of Hours. The liturgical contents come from the service books of the Church.

Used at Utrecht between 1470 and 1500, the North Dutch Book of Hours includes the "Hours of the Eternal Wisdom," by Gerard Groot (a member of the Brothers of the Common Life), Hours of the Virgin, and Penitential Psalms. Initial letters are illuminated in dark blue, light blue, red, light red or orange. The illuminations in this Dutch manuscript are typical of northern European manuscripts. This manuscript is stored in a clamshell box covered in blue buckram which is separate from the the document box for Msc no. 001.

For additional information about this collection, consult the finding aid.