Leaving a Lasting Impression. The Impact of Incunabula on Late Medieval Spirituality, Religious Practice and Visual Culture in the Low Countries
This project investigates how the first generation of Dutch printed books (the incunabula, 1473-1501) affected late medieval spirituality, religious practice and visual culture in the Low Countries.
While print still tends to be seen as holding a singular relation to the Reformation (the ‘Protestant paradigm’), many books printed in Dutch before the Reformation offered readers spiritual inspiration and religious instruction in texts and woodcut illustrations.
To bring to light the cultural-historical dimensions of religious incunabula, the project focuses on the Low Countries’ most prolific and original printer of the period, Gerard Leeu (d. 1492). His books are considered as material traces of a complex interaction between printer, author, and readers. Analyzing both the content and design of incunabula, and studying individual copies to collect data about owners and individualization (notes and coloring), the project hopes to uncover the ways in which the earliest printed books shaped spirituality and practices religious reading. As the project is addresses an important lacuna in our understanding of the printing press’ influence on spirituality, religious practice and visual language before the Reformation. I will present the results in the first monograph on the period’s most prominent publisher and his (readers’) role in shaping the religious book in the transitional age from manuscript to print.