The Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg has uploaded seven of their Medingen manuscripts to the DFG viewer, opening up the largest group of the Abbey’s prayer-books in one library.

It all started with an experiment in digization in Hamburg twenty years ago, way back in the days when digital cameras were just making their first appearance in academia: Dr Hans-Walter Stork, then Keeper of Manuscripts at the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, was looking for challenging manuscripts to present to test new equipment and chanced upon a group of hitherto uncatalogued octavo manuscripts which shared some remarkable features: Latin devotional text with Low German songs, musical notation, thick gold initials protected by cloth covers, “striped” text; all of them were prayer-books addressing an apostle plus other saints. The profile of these other saints, among them St Maurice, John the Baptist, Bernard of Clairvaux, and the female forms used in the text pointed to a Cistercian convent with St Maurice as patron saint: Medingen Abbey was the ideal fit.

Since then, the group of Medingen manuscripts in Hamburg have offered an unparalleled insight into the formation of personal devotion in the convent since in the apostle prayer-books the nuns fashion the text for their particular patron – and name themselves as scribes. We can compare how around 1500 Elisabeth Elebek was praising “her” apostle Bartholomew (Ms. in scrin. 209) with the way in which her sister Tiburg Elebek was promoting Matthew (Ms. in scrin. 206) and their contemporary Mechthild von Dassel was putting forward James the Greater (Ms. in scrin. 207).

Particularly fascinating is a psalter which incorporates pages of two much older manuscripts which Stork traced back to the Peterskloster Erfurt – the crucifixion on fol. 9v of Ms. in scrin. 149 is clearly centuries older than the nun adoring her apostle John the Evangelist on fol. 10r (pictured above).

Replaced head of the nun adoring John the Evangelist in the Medingen Psalter in Hamburg HH8, fol. 10r

Even more fascinating is that the nuns kept reworking their own illuminations: the nun’s head with the veil was replaced once and then again the headdress updated – details which only become apparent in the digitised image that allows zooming in.

List of the Medingen manuscripts in the SUB Hamburg

The first number is that of the Handschriftencensus which lists all Medingen manuscripts [“Medinger Gebetbücher”] and provides a bibliography for each manuscript, the link under “DFG viewer” will lead you straight to the digitized copy.

  • HH1 D-Hs: Ms. in scrin. 151b Prayer book for Easter in Middle Low German 3314 DFG viewer
  • HH2 D-Hs: Ms. theol. 2199 Prayer book for Easter in Middle Low German 3494 DFG viewer
  • HH3 D-Hs: Ms. in scrin. 206 Prayer book for the saints days of the apostle Matthias, John the Baptist, Bernard of Clairvaux, St Maurice and the Holy Cross, written by Tiburg Elebeke in Latin 16263 DFG viewer
  • HH4 D-Hs: Ms. in scrin. 207 Prayer book for the saints days of the apostle James the Greater and St Maurice written by Mechthild of Dassel in Latin 16264
  • HH5 D-Hs: Ms. in scrin. 208 Prayer book for the saints days of the apostle Thomas and John the Evangelist written in Latin 16265 DFG viewer
  • HH6 D-Hs: Ms. in scrin. 209 Prayer book: saintsPrayer book for the saints days of the apostle Bartholomew and St Maurice written by Elizabeth Elebeke in Latin 16267 DFG viewer
  • HH7 D-Hs: Ms. in scrin. 210 Prayer book for the saints days of St Maurice, Michael, Benedict, John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, and Bernhard of Clairvaux by nun “M” in Latin 16266 DFG viewer
  • HH8 D-Hs: Ms. in scrin. 149 Psalter in Latin 16220DFG viewer

Many thanks to the keepers of manuscripts in Hamburg for their academic and to David Maus and his team for the technical support – and watch this space for updates on the IIIF-implementation and the metadata!

PS: For #IIIF pros who are itching to get their hands on the code to combine and compare with the Medingen manuscripts digitised as part of #PolonskyGerman: here are the links to the manifest pages for the manuscripts; David Maus writes: “the integration of the data is still at a very early stage but the web addresses should be stable. Metadata to follow in the next few weeks. Enjoy!”

Hamburg Medingen Manuscripts Online!
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