This book presents a survey of ninety of the finest and most interesting medieval manuscripts produced in the southern Netherlands – present-day Belgium – which ended up in Dutch public collections at various points in time.
This largely unknown cultural heritage is displayed here in a vast panoramic context ranging from the tenth to the mid-sixteenth century. The painted scenes in these handwritten books are not only of a high artistic quality, but also present a richly-textured picture of medieval life. The emphasis is on the role of books in the society of the Middle Ages: they served as expressions of sumptuousness on the part of the aristocracy, as richly-decorated books for church services, and as cherished objects used by affluent burghers for their private devotion. The authors also devote attention to the large-size, superbly-illustrated works of history and literature that were produced under the patronage of the dukes of Burgundy. Other subjects include the Order of the Golden Fleece, the artistic ties between the northern and southern Netherlands, pilgrim badges, and the transition from manuscripts to printed books.
The book contains twenty-four chapters, each one consisting of an introduction to the art-historical and cultural-historical context, followed by discussions of individual manuscripts. These chapters were written by fifteen international specialists in the field of medieval manuscripts and book illumination of the southern Netherlands. In addition, the book contains an introduction on the ways in which these manuscripts ended up in the Netherlands, a technical analysis of a number of manuscripts, and a map accompanied by an account of the rise and unification of the southern Netherlands. At the back of the book, readers will find detailed descriptions of the manuscripts. The entire publication is lavishly illustrated, with some 250 magnificent colour reproductions.