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Christian Works : Sinte Bernard[us] Souter tot onser lieuer vrouwe[n] Maria

Christian Works

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This Dutch devotional work is not, as its name suggests, a simple Psalter, but a more personal text intended for private use within a lay household. Each of the 150 prayers begins with a line from a psalm (in Latin), which is then interpreted into a meditation devoted to the Virgin Mary in Dutch. The text is attributed variously to St Bernard of Clairvaux, St Bonaventure and St Jerome and had been printed in various forms; this is the first time it occurs as a separate printing. It is accompanied by an even rarer text, the <i>Five afflictions of Mary</i> by St Anselm of Canterbury.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The text was printed by Gerard Leeu in Antwerp, using marginal woodblocks of animals, plants and flowers which he had used earlier in a book of hours. The Library holds 77 other items printed by Leeu, who was active between 1477 and 1492 and produced over 200 works. These included religious, historical and classical texts in Latin and Dutch, and a small number of items in English including Caxton’s translations of the <i>Chronicles of England</i> and the <i>History of Jason</i>.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Marian devotions lay at the heart of medieval piety and the value of this book to its owner is illustrated further by the hand colouring of every page in a vivid scheme of yellow, blue, green, red, brown and orange. A woodcut of the <i>Lactatio Bernardi</i>, where the Virgin nourished the saint with her milk, is on both recto and verso of the first leaf. Only four complete copies survive and this recent acquisition, purchased with the assistance of the Friends of the University Library, is the only one in the UK. It was bound in the nineteenth century in a sixteenth-century vellum music manuscript, the text being Psalm 94 in the Versio Romana. Reusing manuscript and early printed fragments for bindings was common practice for book owners of the period.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'><b>Digitisation generously funded by the Friends of Cambridge University Library.</b></p>

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