Devotional prints

The devotional print collection at the Ruusbroec Institute Library is unequalled in the Low Countries, and counts, by estimation, 40 000 prints, pictures and drawings from before ca. 1850. Since 2014 the Thijs-collection was added to this already impressive number.

The founding scholars of the Ruusbroec Institute started collecting large numbers of devotional prints to facilitate their study of spiritual life in the Low Countries. They realised that these prints, which were already rare at that time, were valuable witnesses of devotion and devotional practices from earlier centuries. The prints, often small and easily thrown away or lost, were used to reach the uneducated lay people, and to give them instruction in Christian morality, to evoke devotion, and to motivate them to pray.

Until the late eighteenth century, Antwerp was, within the borders of present day Belgium, by far the most important centre of production of these types of prints. It is therefore no great surprise that many of the prints in the collection of the Ruusbroec Institute Library were printed in Antwerp during the Counter Reformation, but also from an international perspective the value of the collection of prints should not be underestimated.

At the end of the twentieth century, Filip Lemmens made an inventory of the collection of prints. This inventory, which consists of several folders, can be consulted in our reading room. An online accessible database is currently being worked on.

Folders by Filip Lemmens (in Dutch)

  • Antwerp devotional prints with decorated borders (1991) (pdf - 0,1 Mb)
  • Antwerp devotional prints with rhyming prayers (1991) (pdf - 0,5 Mb)
  • Antwerp devotional prints with allegorical symbolism (1996) (pdf - 0,8 Mb)
  • Antwerp gospel prints (pdf - 0,8 Mb)
    • Jesus' hidden life (1997)
    • Jesus' public life (1999) 
    • Jesus' passion, death and resurrection (2000)
  • Antwerp Marian devotional prints (pdf - 0,5 Mb)
    • St Mary's life (1997)
    • Marian devotion (1997)
  • Clad devotional prints (1992) (pdf - 0,1Mb)
  • Obituary cards from pre-1800 (1986) (pdf - 0,3 Mb)
  • Iconography of Jan van Ruusbroec and Groenendaal priory (1990) (pdf - 0,3 Mb)
  • Angels, saints and blessed souls (1994) (pdf - 0,4 Mb)
  • Miniatures (1993) (pdf - 0,2 Mb)
  • Local devotions (1989) (pdf - 0,6 Mb - and pdf - 0,4 Mb)
  • Cutting, clipping and pricking (1987) (pdf - 0,2 Mb)
  • Suffragia (1986) (pdf - 0,1 Mb)
  • Drawings by Louis Beyaert-Carlier (1990) (pdf - 0,1 Mb)
  • Pennants and house blessings (1987) (pdf - 0,2 Mb - and pdf - 0,1 Mb)
  • Copperplate collection (1985) (pdf - 0,1 Mb)

Analytical index of the devotional print collection (pdf - 0,3 Mb - in Dutch) by Frans Hendrickx, 2006.