Item #298 Untitled. [Confessory.]. ANON.
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An Illustrated Manuscript Confessory for the Use of a Deaf Boy.

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A fascinating manuscript visual aid to confession for deaf children, very likely copied from a lost archetype produced by an institution for hearing-impaired youth, perhaps located in the Low Countries. Throughout the days of the early church and into the Middle Ages, the Deaf and hearing impaired were thought doomed to Hell, since it was believed they could not receive the uttered Word of God and related sacraments, including confession, confirmation, and the Eucharist. (Baptism was a special case, unresolved, as no one had yet found a way to "prove" deafness in infants.) Around 1520, Luther argued that the Deaf were also God's children, but it was not till 1571 that an edict was issued, at the Council of Besançon, that allowed deaf people access to the essential sacraments. Even then, deeply rooted local beliefs—backed by regional coutumiers—still held sway, and sacramental equality for the Deaf was still elusive, the core argument an echo of the historical sentiment: if they could not hear or speak, how could they receive the Word or confess their sins? In the 1670s, the Franciscan divine Christophe Leutbrewer designed a confessory book that consisted of 700 printed sins, each of which was two or three lines of text separated by a typographical rule. The sins could be separated by slicing along the rule, and by tucking the end of the printed sin beneath the margin, a deaf sinner could privately communicate with their confessor, receive penance, and be absolved. This was a notable advance, but that book (which was reprinted into the eighteenth century) was not exclusively for children. At some point, a new type of biblio-confessory for deaf children emerged, which was evidently inspired by the doctrine and philosophy of Charles-Michel de l’Epée, an advocate for the hearing impaired and founder of the first school for the Deaf in France; this book comprised narrative illustrations of sins, each of which carried a salient confession in Latin, written in the first person. At least 13 of these books survive, created between 1748 and 1861 (as counted by Munich scholar-bookseller Daniela Kromp), all of which seem to stem from the same lost archetype; a model-book of sorts that was very likely used by children to make (and probably bind) their own copies. The illustrations in our exemplar are highly expressive but distinctly naive, and represent 36 sins, including gambling, drinking, "muttering" to one's parents, being distracted in church, petty theft, inappropriate libido, being late to service, missing confession, and wishing one's parents dead. The figure in most illustrations is a boy in a pale blue cloak—the deaf sinner.  The suite of illustrations is prefaced with a prayer in Latin, roughly translated as Very reverend Father,  guide me, deaf and unable to speak, to a secret place, where I may utter a confession unto you, and I will be vested with salvation and absolution in confession and contrition, delivered from my sins, should you find me sufficiently penitent. In addition to the confessory illustrations are four drawings of penance, to which the deaf sinner may point, and four final images depicting Mors, Judicium, Infernus, and Gloria coelestis. A most fascinating survival, and a testament to the devotional challenges still faced by deaf children at the end of the Age of Enlightenment, and the efforts to include them in the machine of the Church.

Netherlands or Flanders: c1819.

Format unclear but sheets with vertical chainlines, 131 x 101 x 17 mm (binding), 129 x 98 x 13 mm (text block), no watermarks in evidence, gathered 18, 26 [-23], 312, 412, 512 =49 ff (of 50; the third leaf in the second gathering wanting, stub visible); last three leaves blank, 45 pen-and-ink illustrations highlighted with pale washes, on rectos (versos blank), each in a ruled border, subscriptios in Latin beneath, à la traditional emblem books, justification (illustrations) uniformly 80 x 87 mm; text justification variable; unfoliated, without guidelines, guide-folds, or catchwords, text in a single hand in iron-gall ink; period binding of reused vellum covering rigid pasteboard, turn-ins laced together at head and tail with thin linen thread. Binding structure not obvious, but each gathering sewn all-along through the center fold, perhaps tacketed to the back of the pasteboard, which has been shaped around the text block; this casing covered with the reused vellum, leaving a flap extension from the lower cover to be tucked into the upper, in the style of a pochette. Vellum bears traces of earler gilt cornerpieces and rules in blind and gilt. Interior: A sound, clean copy, with some wear, and more concentrated finger-soiling to certain pages, suggesting the owner's "favorite" sins.

Provenance:

The name "Carel" inked in a juvenile hand to lower cover. Acquired by W. S. Cotter Rare Books from Daniela Kromp of Munich. Valid export license on file.

Kurrer, Rauthgundis, Gehörlose im Wandel der Zeit, dissertation in philosophy at Ludwig Maximilians Universität (Munich), 2013, pp. 30-34, 66-68 and passim; Elsen, Paul, "Drie biechtboekjes voor doofstommen," Archief Ch.-L. Carton Spermalie Brugge, in: Brugse gidsenkroniek, v. 39, 2006, pp. 49-55; de Meester, Alphons "Oude biechtboekjes voor doofstommen," Biekorf, v. 54, 1953, pp. 31-37. We offer our sincerest thanks to Daniela Kromp of Munich for her invaluable expertise in this class of illustrated confessionals, and her work on the census of known copies.

Item #298

Price: $12,500.00

Status: On Hold