Medieval manuscripts in Dutch Collections
Medieval manuscripts in Dutch Collections

Introductory remarks to the palaeographical atlas

On early MMDC-manuscripts

Dutch public collections are not especially rich in books of the late antiquity or the early middle ages. The oldest fragmentary folio of a Latin parchment codex, containing the Sententes by the 2nd/3rd-century jurist Julius Paul,

Leiden, ub bpl 2589

is written in an early half-uncial dating from the 4th century; its origin is uncertain, but the fragment was presumably found in Egypt. Other remains of very early manuscripts are three bifolia of a 5th/6th-century chronicle,

Leiden, ub vlq 110a_f004r

a bifolium from the 6th century with minor prophets from the Old Testament,

The hague, mm 10b1_f001r

and two leaves with Origen's Homilies on Leviticus

Leiden, ub vlo 88a_f002r_t

from the second half of that century; all these fragments are written in Italian (half-)uncial, and were preserved by coincidence at the Benedictine abbey of Fleury-Saint Benoît. The first complete codex, written in uncial, is the famous Leiden Herbary,

Leiden, ub vlq 9_f001rkleur

which might even date from the 6th century and which was most likely written in Italy as well. On Dutch soil this is all that has come down to the present age from the period before c. 600.

The 7th century is represented by no more than one or two items. Two leaves of Gregory of Tours' History of the Francs survive as fly-leafs in a 9th-century codex;

Leiden, ub bpl 21_schutblad_f001r

and twelve folios containing part of a gospel lectionary from around the year 700 are bound to­gether with the equally famous Utrecht Psalter.

Utrecht, ub cat 32_f103rkleur

Again the uncial in this era is predominant, as both manuscripts are written in this script. But now the birthplaces show more diversity: France and England (Wearmouth-Jarrow), respectively.

From the 8th century onwards the stream of scripts flows more abundantly. About fifteen (fragmentary) manuscripts can be ascribed to the century that witnessed the emergence of Caroline minuscule. Nearly all of them were produced in 8th-century France: only one booklet, a fragment of Natural history by Pliny the Elder, was apparently made in Northern England;

Leiden, ub vlf4_f020vkleur

another book - with songs, prayers, a glossary and other minor texts - probably came from the abbey of Sankt Gallen in modern Switzerland,

Leiden, ub vlq 69_f007v_t

the same region that accounts for an exemplar of Fredegar's Chronicle, dated around 800.

Leiden, ub vlq 5_f038r

Some 130 codices, comprising an estimate of more than four times as many discernable texts, are datable to the 9th century.

We have to wait until the 11th century for the first manuscripts written in the Northern Netherlands to pop up in MMDC, while some of the earliest Dutch books – or objects recognizable as such – are kept in foreign libraries nowadays. Nevertheless we find in Dutch public collections the Lifes of Saint Martin probably written in Utrecht around 1050,

Leiden, ub vlq 74_f016r

and a paraphrase by Willeram of Ebersberg of the Song of Songs copied in the Benedictine abbey of Egmond around 1100.

Leiden, ub bpl 130_f012r

A copy of Gregory the Great's Moralia in Job possibly originates from Utrecht in the late 11th century;

Utrecht, ub cat 86_f021v

at least it was owned by the Benedictines of Saint Paul's abbey in Utrecht later in the middle ages. A magnificent 12th-century book with a commentary by Florus Diaconus on the Pauline epistles

Utrecht, ub cat 202_f128v

has the same provenance. The 12th century offers a few more remnants of Dutch scribal activity, such as a Collectarius

Utrecht, ub cat 424_f144r

and a Martyrology accompanied by annals of the Utrechtchapter of Saint Mary.

Nijmegen, ub 61



  • Bernhard Bischoff, Paläographie des römischen Altertums und des abendländischen Mittelalters. Berlin, 1979.
  • J.P. Gumbert, The Dutch and their books in the manuscript age. London, 1990.



capitalis quadrata

capitalis rustica



littera prae-carolina

littera carolina

[regional scripts]

Visigothic script

Insular script

Beneventan script           

littera prae-gothica

littera notula

littera cursiva

littera cursiva (A)

littera cursiva (C)

littera cursiva (A/C)

littera cursiva (Anglicana)

littera cursiva (Bourguignonne)

littera textualis

littera textualis (Italiana)

littera textualia (E) 

littera textualis (Y)

littera hybrida

littera humanistica 

littera humanistica cursiva         

littera humanistica textualis

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