Die Vier Buecher Von Der Nachfolge Christ


Jazz Moe

Special Collections Investigation Paper

Russell Flinchum, Deborah Littlejohn

Jan 27 2020


Die Vier Buecher Von Der Nachfolge Christi, by Thomas Von Kempen


This book initially caught my eye because of the verticality of it sitting on the display. It seemed very long and thin, with the actual size of it being impressively large. In fact, it was one of the biggest books on display in the viewing room in the special collections investigation, and this was a lot of the reason I chose it as my book to write about. 

I walked up to this book thinking that it looked pretty ancient considering how the edges were browned. It looked like it had seen an entire lifetime and more. I often wonder to myself what trees would say if they could speak, and I thought of this in regards to this book. After all the years it has been through and the many people it has touched, it must have many stories to tell apart from what its actual text reads inside. 

The physical nature of the book was quite heavy, with a thick binding of probably two or three inches in width. Everything about this book felt thick to me, including the paper that was used, and the cover and the back. I could see the glue seeping out of the binding of the paper at the back, and I could tell that even with this strong adhesive, this book still felt so fragile so I tried to handle it with entire care. The paper didn’t feel at all like any modern-day books, as it felt course in my fingers almost like it was produced with pulp in it. It seemed that this paper could have been deckle paper. This paper especially made the book look old because the edges surrounding the texts and illustrations were a brownish color, that of which wouldn’t have been there when it was made. 

This book felt extraordinarily sacred due to its dramatic size and density of its appeal. To me, this book smelled like something that had been left in a grandparent’s old attic for years. It has a musty undertone with the smell of time being ever-so present within its pages. The pages don’t sound like they would whip or slap like modern books, rather these pages sounded like they would flutter in the wind. The feeling of the cover was very tactile, with the engravings of the geometry on the front extremely intricate. The color of this book was a beige-ish-gold, and the pages a neutral-white. The edges of the pages were not a clean, crisp cut like typical books. Instead, all three exposed edges looked torn and uneven with its neighbors, like that of paper used in the art of printmaking.

The physical aspects of this book that especially interest me are definitely the bizarre size that I mentioned before, as well as the intricacies of the illustrations intertwined with the text and typography. The illustrations had a labyrinth-effect, and at the beginning of each text block, the first letter would be huge with detailed illustrations surrounding that letter. It gives a very awe-inspiring feel, as well as make the book feel very elegant and grand. This book gives off a mystical vibe, and this definitely contributes to the understanding that it was cherished during its time.

After some research on this book, I have found out that it is of use to monks, nuns and other Christian followers of the time. This book would be seen as special and is preserved today because of its great influence throughout history in a religious setting. It was seen as a sacred book that was carried with the owners and was used for the devotion of the divine as well as a source of knowledge of life virtues. This book could also be seen as special or important because there were not as many copies produced. This is known because of the specific numbering on the inside cover that shows there must not have been a mass-production of these copies. Having so few of these books gives collectors more of an appreciation and adds significant value to this edition. 

This book is indicative of its time period in terms of its elaborate decorative framing and use of detailed imagery of religious contexts. Centuries ago, the average person took religion more seriously, as people who called themselves Christians tended to be very strict with their beliefs. The audience saw this book as a sacred text and this is why the book is given such a grand and important visual appeal. 

This book is said to be written partly by Thomas Von Kempen who lived centuries before the book was produced. His name translated means that he is from Kempen, but he later moved to the Netherlands to follow his brother to attend Latin School. His work was published in a multitude of scriptures, appearing in various texts from 1600 all the way to 1922. His words were read widely across Christian history. This book specifically was seen as a compilation of ideas, written in german about religious thoughts and conversations between Jesus and the disciple. This book included multiple parts of a series written out of sequence for the followers of Christ. Kempen’s family lived through the religious movement known as Devotio Moderna, which stressed the idea of meditation and inner life. In turn, these ideas of Devotio Moderna were associated with the context of this book and its scripture.

This book was produced in a time of transformation in terms of printing and design. This book was published in 1922 while the idea of modern type was forming in the early 1900s. This included the modern typeface that is being used in this book, giving way to its clean readability in the lettering and layouts of the texts on these pages. The large negative spaces in the margins of this book were also a new idea around this time because while intricacy and detail were still extremely valued, the extended open negative spaces of the margins were beginning to make way for added modern effect. 


Work Cited

Kempen, et al. “Die Vier Buecher Von Der Nachfolge Christi MONOGRAM BY ILLUSTRATOR by Thomas Von Kempen, Melchior Lechter on Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller.” Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller, Einhorn-Presse, www.klinebooks.com/pages/books/37197/thomas-von-kempen-melchior-lechter/die-vier-buecher-von-der-nachfolge-christi-monogram-by-illustrator.

“Thomas à Kempis.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Jan. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_%C3%A0_Kempis.

Thomas, Thomas Von. Thomas Von Kempen, Oder Die Vier Buecher Von Der Nachfolge Christi. Im Verlage Bei Joh. Rep. Paffy, 1839.

“Thomas Von Kempen.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Dec. 2019, de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_von_Kempen.


Discussion — One Response

  • Jazz Moe 01/27/2020 on 8:38 PM

    Jazz Moe – Special Collections Assignment

Sorry, but commenting has been disabled.