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Some Notes on Research into the Provenance of Medieval Books

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AbstractResearch into the provenance of medieval manuscripts and incunabula has generally focused on individual and institutional owners in the Middle Ages and the early modern period. Who were these books made for, and why? How were they used? What was the composition of the collections of which they were part? The traces of former owners in extant works are an important source of information on these matters. The histories of several incunabula from the collection of Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum in The Hague illustrate the importance of systematic research on the development of the collection of which they are part, and of using archival and printed sources (as well as other evidence) to reconstruct the eventful histories of individual works and the changes that were made to them over the years. Such research should also be conducted on past collections. Like genealogists, book historians should start from the present and progress backward in time.

Affiliations: 1: Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum The Hague Netherlands, URL:


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