Students make online exhibition of valuable 13th-century manuscript

Het oudste handschrift van Jacob van Maerlants Rijmbijbel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek België

Master's students from Utrecht and students from Antwerp will work together to create an online exhibition of one of the oldest and most abundantly illustrated Middle-Dutch manuscripts: Jacob van Maerlant's Rijmbijbel (Bible of Rhymes). This late 13th-century valuable manuscript contains no less than 163 illustrations in paint and gold leaves.


The manuscript has not left the vault of Brussels' Royal Library of Belgium in decades because the paint of the illustrations is starting to peel off of the parchment. These miniatures and margin decorations will now be restored to the point that they will not deteriorate any further.

Furthermore, a wide audience will be able to see the manuscript in high resolution on the website of the Royal Library of Belgium. This website will also provide background information on the manuscript and the context of its origins in the 13th century.


The texts that accompany the images will be translated to modern Dutch by the Antwerp-based students, under the supervision of Prof. Frank Willaert. The 163 illustrations will each receive an explanation provided by the Utrecht-based students, under the supervision of Dr Martine Meuwese (Art History).

The Utrecht-based students on this project are: Dennis van Ark, Eline Gielen, Renske Hoff, Laurens Kleine, Rolf Lommerde, Andrea Romein, Niels de Rooij, Willemijn Rozemuller, Marly Terwisscha van Scheltinga, Isaäc Vogelsang and Nelleke de Vries.


The Rijmbijbel by the 13th-century poet Jacob van Maerlant contains pieces of Biblical history in poetic form and a description in verse of the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in the first century AD; it sports no less than 35,000 lines of poetry. The title Rijmbijbel, which has been in use ever since the late Middle Ages, is actually a misrepresentation: it is not a literal rhymed version of Biblical texts, but an adaptation from both the Latin Historia Scholastica by Petrus Comestor (12th century) and De bello judaico by Flavius Josephus (1st century AD).

The online magazine covered this project as well (in Dutch).

More information
Royal Library of Belgium