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Athenaeum Library Deventer

Athenaeum Library Deventer

The Athenaeum Library in Deventer is the oldest city library in the Netherlands. The library was founded in 1560 and at that time consisted of one bookcase with 44 volumes from the collection of Johannes Phoconius, a parish priest of St Mary’s Church. The Athenaeum Library’s collection of medieval manuscripts is closely linked to the Moderne Devotie (Modern Devotion), the religious reform movement that had its origins in the region of Deventer (IJssel region). The founder of the movement, Geert Grote (1340-1384), was born and raised in Deventer. About 100 manuscripts in the current collection, which comprises a total of 130 manuscripts and 20 fragments, come from former brother and sister houses in Deventer, such as the Mr Florenshuis, the Meester Geertshuis and the Lamme van Diesehuis, or from nearby Diepenveen. The manuscripts were mostly produced by the brothers and sisters themselves, who devoted themselves to transcribing texts. This part of the collection consists mainly of devotional books, sermon collections and books of hours and prayers, often with owner’s notes on the flyleaves.

From 1630, the city library also served as the school library of the Athenaeum illustre, a school for higher education, from which the library takes its current name. The collection contains a number of manuscripts containing classical texts, such as the Aeneid of Virgil (Deventer, AB, 11 D 3 KL), the Elegies of Propertius (Deventer, AB, 11 D 4 KL) and speeches by Cicero (Deventer, AB, 101 G 11 KL, Olim 1795). These may have been acquired specifically for teaching at the Athenaeum illustre. In 1666, for instance, Antonius Perizonius (1626-1672), rector magnificus of the school, bought two Hebrew Bibles from the famous collector Isaac Vossius (1618-1689) to enrich the library’s collection. These two thirteenth-century Bibles (Deventer, AB, 74 A 4 KL and Deventer, AB, 74 A 5 KL) are not included in this portal, but can be consulted at In 1818, the library acquired the collection of the then dissolved University of Harderwijk.

This virtual reading room contains 59 manuscripts from the Athenaeum Library’s collection, which the institution has had digitised by Picturae. As of July 2022, the library’s collections of medieval, Arabic and Asian manuscripts have been fully digitised. The images of Athenaeum Library manuscripts that can be found here have been retrieved from the institution and are hosted on a Huygens Institute server. Here they are provided with (provisional) IIIF manifests pending the institution’s own manifests. Data about the manuscripts are taken from the database Medieval Manuscripts in Dutch Collections. For additional information on the Athenaeum Library’s manuscripts in this portal, please visit the institution’s own image database: Medieval Manuscripts (up to 1601)

Irene van Renswoude
Suzan Folkerts, Garrelt Verhoeven (red.), Deventer Boekenstad. Twaalf eeuwen boekcultuur aan de IJssel (Zutphen, Walburg Pers, 2018)
Henk Slechte, ‘Tien eeuwen topstukken. De rijkdom van Deventer boekenstad’, De Boekenwereld 27: 2 (2010-2011), pp. 63-85

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