Incunabula and the Keio University Library Collection


Dat Leven ons Heren Jhesu Christi (Leiden: Hugo Janszoon van Woerden, 12 Feb. 1500)

Dat Leven ons Heren Jhesu Christi

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This book is an incomplete copy of a Dutch book entitled Dat Leven ons Heren Jhesu Christi (The Life of our Jesus Christ), printed by Hugo Janszoon van Woerden. Each prayer and meditation on the life of Jesus Christ is arranged according to the eight canonical hours in a breviary, and they are decorated with woodcuts that depict the life of Christ. Although Janszoon printed several illuminated versions of Dat Leven ons Heren Jhesu Christi from the end of the 15th century through to the first decades of the 16th century, the Keio copy belongs to an edition of which no complete copy is known. A complete copy of another edition, which is in octavo format and consists of 208 leaves with 50 illuminations, is housed in the British Library (BMC, IX, 48). The Keio copy consists of 28 leaves with 21 woodcuts, and the colophon reads 'Gheprent te lLyden. Intiaer heeren. M. CCCCC. opten xij. d in Februario', which suggests that it was printed in Leiden on 2 February 1500, two years after the British Library copy. Since the 1500 edition has not been found in any other library, it is highly likely that the Keio book is a unique copy of an unrecorded edition.

Every woodcut is beautifully detailed and hand-painted in red, blue, yellow, green and purple – all done by a contemporary hand. The woodcut topics primarily relate to the life of Jesus Christ, except for the picture of the 'Virgin and Child on a Crescent Moon' on the last leaf. The extant 21 leaves include narratives from the life of Christ, such as 'The Annunciation' and 'The Last Judgment'. 'The Descent of Christ into Hell' depicts the figure of Christ bringing Adam and Eve out of 'The Mouth of Hell', along with small figures raising a toast with jugs of beer and saying 'vobis' ('to you') to the Mouth of Hell, which is depicted as a huge monster.

This book was cut apart, leaf by leaf, by a woodcut collector. As evidence of this, a trace of glue can be identified on the verso of one of the woodcut leaves that only has text on it.

  Bernard Quaritch, Early Books and Manuscripts (Summer 2004), item 47

(TM; trans. by KT)


Place of Publication
Hugo Janszoon van Woerden


Date of Publication
Bibliographical Notes

21 leaves only; each containing a full-page woodcut with bold contemporary colouring; vernacular Dutch text on the versos with penwork decoration; small amounts of text or woodcut replaced in pen facsimile.

Acquisition Year