Collections’ Highlights

Collection ID





ca. 1420–1430


Hattem, Netherlands




Ink on parchment


159 folios; 12.5 × 9.1 × 2.2 in. (31.7 × 23 × 5.6 cm)

Exhibit Location

Not on View

The Brethren of the Common Life sought to produce a version of the Vulgate that accurately reflected Jerome’s translation, purged of Vetus Latina additions. This manuscript, containing 11 books from the Old Testament, is part of a multivolume set likely produced by the Brethren in the early fifteenth century in Hattem, the Netherlands. The volume begins with an illuminated initial C with an attached, page-long border in gold, red, and blue from which leafy tendrils sprout. Elaborate red and blue initials at the start of each prologue and book extend from 7 to 12 lines. The scribe copied the text in two columns of 35 lines each.

Likely created ca. 1420–1430 by the Brethren of the Common Life at Hulsbergen Monastery near Hattem, the Netherlands.[1] Acquired before 1896 by William Morris (1834–1896) of Kelmscott House, London, England;[2] Purchased in 1897 by Richard Bennett (1849–1911), Manchester, England;[3] Purchased at auction in 1898 by Walter Percy Sladen (1849–1900), Northbrook Estate, Exeter, England.[4] Acquired before 1919 by Sir Thomas Colpitts Granger (1852–1927) Tregurrian and Falmouth, England;[5] Purchased in 1919 by George D. Smith Book Co., New York; Sold April 28, 1921.[6] Acquired before 1935 by Estelle Cohn Getz (1880–1943) Beverly Hills, California.[7] Sold at auction in 1936. Acquired by 1957 by William J. K. Vanston (1881–1957) South Orange, New Jersey; Sold in 1959 at auction.[8] Acquired in 1964 by H. P. Kraus, New York.[9] Acquired before 1983 by Peter Ludwig (1925–1996) and Irene Ludwig (1927–2010), Aachen, Germany;[10] Purchased in 1983 by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California; Deaccessioned in 1997; Purchased in 1997 by Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books AG; Purchased jointly in 1997 by Les Enluminures and Bruce Ferrini;[11] Purchased in 2010 by Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Donated in 2012 to Museum of the Bible, Washington, DC.[12]

Notes: [1] The dealer notes from Les Enluminures state that Professor James Marrow of Princeton University had linked the style of this manuscript to two manuscripts in Liège at the Bibliothèque de l’Université, MS 189 and MS 222. They are the first two parts of a three-volume Bible which is securely localized and dated to 1429. They can be seen here: Morrow dated the manuscript earlier than previous scholars had done. [2] His bookplate is on the front pastedown. According to the website for the William Morris Society, Morris “built a large library of medieval manuscripts in the last five years of his life, the period in which he worked on the Kelmscott Press” William Morris was a famed British poet, author, artist, designer, and socialist who was part of the Arts and Crafts Movement in Victorian Britain. The manuscript is number 27 in the list made by his executor, Frederick Startridge Ellis, The Valuation of the Library of William Morris 1896, Appendix B in The Collected Letters of William Morris, vol. 4, 1893–1896 (Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ, 1996), 402 accessed at [3] Bennett purchased Morris’s library for £18,000. The library contained 112 manuscripts. He sold the manuscripts he did not want to keep the following year. It was said that he did not keep volumes taller than 13″, and so this manuscript’s height of 12.5″ may have been too close to that limit for his tastes; [4] Purchased from Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, in London, Lot number 172. The catalog includes the manuscript in the subsection “Folio” (Lots 103–195);,+Wilkinson+%26+Hodge+1898+William+Morris&pg=PP6&printsec=frontcover. Sladen was a marine biologist whose expertise with echinoderms made him the perfect candidate to describe and classify the thousands of starfish and sea urchins collected by the HMS Challenger on its around-the-world expedition from 1872–1876. Sladen worked on the report from 1881–1889. [5] The son of a Radical Member of Parliament, Granger was a lawyer who became a judge in Cornwall in 1891; He was knighted in 1921, at which point he was a Senior County Court Judge; [6] From dealer notes. [7] Seymour de Ricci, Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada, vol. 1 (H. W. Wilson Co.: New York, 1935), 12, number 4. She was the wife of the banker Milton E. Getz and sold her entire collection in 1936, perhaps due to financial reverses in the Depression; John Bidwell, “Bible Collections in Los Angeles,” A Thousand Years of the Bible: An Exhibition of Manuscripts from the J. Paul Getty Museum Malibu and Printed Books from the Department of Special Collections, University Research Library, UCLA (The J. Paul Getty Museum and the University of California: Malibu and Los Angeles, 1991), 11, accessed at [8] Park-Bernet Galleries, New York, Incunabula & Early Printing, Illuminated Manuscripts, Elizabethan Literature, First Editions of American and English Authors: The Library of the Late William J. K. Vanston, South Orange, N. J., Lot 49. Vanston was an investment banker and collector of rare books. [9] Initials HPK on the rear pastedown, with the date XI/64 (November 1964). The manuscript subsequently appeared in H. P. Kraus Catalog 111, 1965, Lot 39. [10] Bookplate of Irene & Peter Ludwig, Aachen, on front pastedown. A second bookplate pasted above the first gives the Ludwigs’ shelf number, MS I 12. [11] The joint ownership is confirmed in Bruce Ferrini and Les Enluminures, LTD, Important Illuminated Manuscripts (Les Enluminures, Ltd.: Paris, Chicago, and New York, 2000), Lot 5. [12] The manuscript is number SDBM_MS_1989 in the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts;

** Published References:**

Anton Von Euw and Joachim M. Plotzek, Die Handschriften der Sammlung Ludwig, vol. 1 (Museum Schnütgen: Köln, 1979), 112–116, fig. 24.

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