Book Series Art History (Outside a Series)

Book Collections as Archaeological Sites

A Study of Interconnectedness and Meaning in the Historical Library of the Canonesses Regular of Soeterbeeck

Hans Kienhorst, Ad Poirters

  • Pages: 716 p.
  • Size:216 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:15 b/w, 267 col., 3 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2023

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-60458-9
  • Hardback
  • Available

This volume studies the collective story of the old books of the convent of Soeterbeeck on the basis of their stratification and against the background of the community’s trials and tribulations and the sisters’ personal lives.


"Het geheel kan met recht een monument worden genoemd voor de zusters van Soeterbeeck en hun bibliotheek. Daarnaast opent het een nieuwe weg in het onderzoek naar de bibliotheekgeschiedenis en, meer algemeen, de collectiegeschiedenis." (Lauran Toorians, in Noordbrabants Historisch Jaarboek 2023, p. 193) 


Hans Kienhorst (1954) taught historical Dutch literature, book history and medieval book illumination at Radboud University in Nijmegen. His research focuses on Middle Dutch manuscripts and the production of books in women’s convents of the Modern Devotion.

Ad Poirters (1989) obtained his doctorate in Nijmegen with a thesis on the use of books from the convent of Soeterbeeck by Rector Arnoldus Beckers. A staff member of the Titus Brandsma Institute, he works on the Modern Devotion and its afterlife.


In 1997 the canonesses regular of Soeterbeeck moved from their convent in Deursen (the Netherlands) to a nursing home in Nuland. They left behind an old library of considerable size and historical significance that is now the core of the Soeterbeeck Collection at Nijmegen University Library. It is a suitable starting point for telling the story of the historical library of a women’s convent with roots in the Modern Devotion, from the community’s humble beginnings in 1448 to the present day.

This study describes the collective history of all manuscripts and early printed books that are known to have been in communal or personal ownership at Soeterbeeck. It investigates the books’ production and delves into their traces of use. Many of these are connected to each other, usually because they were left by the same person or had the same purpose. Such units transcend the level of individual volumes and reveal what might be called the stratification of the historical library as a whole. They can be interpreted in the context of the sisters’ personal lives and the convent’s communal history. This approach provides insight in the multiplicity of meanings that the books had for their users.

For the first time, theoretical principles of modern archaeology are used to map a historical library as an archaeological site. A scholarly catalogue of the Soeterbeeck Collection that documents its traces of use is also included. Stunning illustrations visually lay bare the books’ eventful lives.


Part I Study

Chapter 1 An Archaeological Approach

1.1 The Madonna of Soeterbeeck

1.2 The Historical Library

1.3 A Book Collection as an Archaeological Site

1.4 Plan of the Following Chapters

Chapter 2  Faithful to the Divine Office

2.1 The First Phase

2.2 Choir Books Attributed to Mariënhage

2.3 Two Stratigraphic Units in Choir Books

Chapter 3 In Times of Trouble

3.1 The Fire of 1539

3.2 Book Production at Soeterbeeck

3.3 Ownership Notes from the Years 1606-1608

3.4 Books that Came in 1613

3.5 Aftermath

Chapter 4 Personal Ownership of Books in a Monastic Environment

4.1 Two Circuits

4.2 The Sisters of 1632 and Their Books

4.3 Not to Forget

4.4 After the Relocation

4.5 Sister Lips’s Booklets

4.6 Books in the Choir Stalls

Chapter 5 Changing Attitudes towards Old Books

5.1 Cut to Pieces or Sold

5.2 First Signs of a Library

5.3 Revaluation

Chapter 6 On the Edge of Beyond

6.1 Special Attention for the Manuscripts

6.2 Witnessing to a Tradition

6.3 The Soeterbeeck Collection

6.4 Towards an Archaeology

Chapter 7 Back to Hodder


A Books with Ownership Notes of the Convents of Soeterbeeck and Nazareth

B Alienated Books

C Books in the Archives of Soeterbeeck

D Shelf-Marks on Labels of Woody Paper (ca 1952)

E Fragments from the Winter Part of an Antiphonary


1 The Term Stratigraphic Unit

2 A Bindery at Mariënhage

3 Incongruities in the Additional Office for Anthony Abbot in IV 4 and IV 22

4 Mysteries surrounding Psalter IV 75

5 Antonius van Hemert

6 Catharina Dekens

7 A Spiritual Exercise at Mass

8 A View on the Seventeenth-Century Convent

9 A Nuns’ Gallery at Soeterbeeck

10 The Uncertain Origin of Mater 2

11 The Contents of IV

12 The Choir Stalls of Soeterbeeck

13 The Duration of Petronella van Berckel’s Priorate

14 Issues about Wouter Willems’s Rectorate

15 Rumbling in the Convent

16 From Sister Verhoeven with Compliments

17 The Bishop’s Rule

18 A Sister’s Hand on Loose Leaves in IV 15

19 Against the Plague

20 Names of Loved Ones in Two Printed Books

21 Copies of the Windesheim Officia propria from St Joseph-Nazareth in Antwerp

22 A Bookcase in the Choir

23 Two Books near the Prioress

24 Books of Lay Boarders

25 Soeterbeeck’s Antiphonaries

26 The Feast of Vincent of Saragossa in Soeterbeeck’s Graduals

27 The Patched-Up State of IV 78

28 The Present State of IV 24

29 Lots 64-66 and 70-72 in the Auction Catalogue of the Estate of Theresia Smits

30 ‘Made by’ Antoon Hermans

31 More Roads to Haaren

32 Exceptionally Black

33 The Notebooks of ENK AR-Z104/545

34 Tight Links between the Text Block and Endpapers of The Hague, 130 G 18

35 The Sections of the Library of 1958

36 Soeterbeeck’s Books on Display

37 From Another Past

38 Books in the Care of Van Dijk

Part II: Catalogue of the Soeterbeeck Collection


In General



Traces of Use

The Sisters’ Old Library

Case III

Case IV

Case V



Previous Book-Owners



Pictures from the Archives

Statues, Portraits and Other Objects

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