Medieval prayer book newly available online

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Photo of a two-page spread of the manuscript.

A two-page spread of the manuscript

KALAMAZOO—A 15th century prayer book for nuns has been digitized and is now available from the medieval manuscript collections of the Special Collections and Rare Books department of University Libraries, ahead of the 48th International Congress on Medieval Studies, set for Thursday through Sunday, May 9-12, on the campus of Western Michigan University.

Obrecht Manuscript 23 is the first fully digitized medieval manuscript codex from the Dom Edmond Obrecht Collection of Gethsemani Abbey. The manuscript, in Latin and German, is among the Cistercian manuscripts and rare books dating from the 12th century which are held on permanent loan in the Special Collections and Rare Books department on behalf of the Center for Cistercian and Monastic Studies, which is affiliated with WMU's Medieval Institute.

The manuscript, part of the Cistercian Studies Collection, was digitized by the WMU Libraries Digitization Center and a descriptive metadata structure was designed by the Technical Services Department. The images are now available online as part of the Medieval Document Collection, which contains several other early manuscripts. The digitized format allows users to click through pages, interact with metadata using searchable fields and open the text in a variety of views.

About the manuscript

The 760-page manuscript was produced in the 15th or 16th century by Cistercian nuns in the monastery of Medingen, near Lüneberg in Northern Germany. It is one of a number of bilingual—Latin and Eastfalian—manuscripts written there that have been dispersed around the world. The Medingen manuscript "MS lat. 395," is another example.

Obrecht Manuscript 23 includes meditations and prayers derived from liturgical texts for the Easter season and features examples of medieval manuscript illustration with pen-flourished initials in various colors. Obrecht Manuscript 23 was given priority in a long-range plan to digitize the manuscripts of the collection after Dr. Henrike Lähnemann, chair of German studies at Newcastle University contacted WMU about the manuscript in conjunction with her efforts to locate surviving bilingual texts from the Medingen monastery library, which are available online

Digitized at a high resolution to reveal as much detail as possible, the work is now widely available and preserved for future generations. Other items in the Obrecht collection may be digitized in the future.

For more information about the manuscript, contact Dr. Sue Steuer, Department of Special Collections and Rare Books, at lib-rbr@wmich.edu or (269) 387-5221.

About the Digitization Center

High quality digitization, full service planning, imaging and hosting for the manuscript was done in-house through the Digitization Center at Waldo Library. The center has the capacity for both 2-D and 3-D projects with balanced color and lighting. The Luna System, an image database system, provides enhanced viewing options and comprehensive metadata for easy research. Custom digitization projects are available for University, community and businesses.

For more information about the center, contact Paul Howell at (269) 387-4776.