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De Illustraties in Doen Pieterszoons Uitgave Van Het Evangelie Naar Mattheus (Amsterdam 1522)

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image of Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis / Dutch Review of Church History
For more content, see Church History and Religious Culture.

In 1522 the Amsterdam printer Doen Pieterszoon published the first edition of the gospel according to St. Matthew in the vernacular. The text by Johan Pelt was a translation of Erasmus's Novum testamentum of 1516. The titlepage shows a woodcut of the evangelist of a type recurrent in several dutch bibles. Furthermore, the gospel contains six woodcuts of a rather emblematical character. Five of these depict an angel (the symbol for Matthew) holding in his hands, and surrounded by it, several objects, figures, and little scenes. Each of these are accompanied by a number, and are thus related to a corresponding chapter of the gospel. For example, a gnome-like devil carrying boulders at the angel's feet, refers to the temptation of Christ in the desert (Mt. 4:3). Pieterszoon's illustrations were copied after Petrus von Rosenheim's Rationarium evangelistarum, or Ars memorandi (editio princeps Pforzheim 1502), in which all the gospels were covered, and the symbols of the other evangelists (lion, ox and eagle) also featured as presenters. In their turn these cuts were copied after the Ars memorandi quator evangelia, a blockbook printed in Germany ca. 1470. As their titles suggest, these were works of a mnemotechnical nature, and the woodcuts served as images to aid the memory. However, the Ars memorandi does not belong to the tradition of the artificial memory as described by Frances Yates. Yet, the elements of the classical mnemotechnical Ad Flerennium tractate, loci and images, are present in the illustrations. Thus the Ars memorandi woodcuts are memory images, through which the contents of the gospels can be more easily memorised. They did not, however, prove succesful as biblical illustrations. Pieterszoon did not use them again in any of his later bible editions, and in fact no other printer did. Biblical illustrations were intended to depict biblical stories and to eludicate the text, and as such the Ars memorandi images obviously did not work.


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