Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Prayer Book of Ursula Begerin

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Prayer Book of Ursula Begerin

Article excerpt

Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Nigel F. Palmer, with a Conservation Report by Ulrike Bürger, The Prayer Book of Ursula Begerin (Dietikon-Zurich: Urs Graf Verlag, 2015). 2 vols, 676 and 203 pp. ISBN 978-3-85951-280-1. CHF 148.00/€i35.00/$i55.00.

It is greatly to the credit of the two main authors of this study that in the 1990s they uncovered the small (approx. 13 x 9 cm) and unpretentious illustrated prayerbook that forms the subject of this investigation, and over the next decade and more urged and won its conservation, now publishing it to the highest standards of scholarly investigation imaginable. An original and visually understated work of 195 folios, Cod. 801 in the Burgerbibliothek in Bern has been expanded miraculously into a survey in two volumes of 676 and 203 pages respectively. No expense has been spared in providing not just the critical edition (vol. II) with scale facsimile but also an introductory volume with 562 colour reproductions.

The manuscript in question is a prayer-book with partly coloured images, one per opening, joined by a set of specially composed prayers in German, and originating (in the sense of being started) in the area of Strasbourg in the period 1380-1410. The basic remit of the study was that Jeffrey Hamburger would consider the art, and Nigel Palmer the German prayers. The little book eventually became the property of Ursula Begerin (d. 1531), a Penitent nun of the Reuerinnenkloster in Strasbourg. But, as M. R. James once remarked, it is often the little books that pose the biggest problems. Professors Hamburger and Palmer uncover a much more complicated earlier history. Begun at some point towards the end of the fourteenth or at the start of the fifteenth centuries, it appears that the images were only subsequently joined by the neatly written prayers which seem ideally suited to them; and further texts and images were added subsequently. …

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