Losbuch in deutschen Reimpaaren

Losbuch in deutschen Reimpaaren – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Cod. Vindob. S. N. 2652 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)

Limburg (Germany) — Last quarter of the 14th century

From serious belief to sarcastic amusement: Long-tradition prophetic proverbs from ancient Greece in one of the oldest surviving German-language rhyming books, ornately illuminated on almost every page

  1. One of the oldest and most extensive rhymed books to be completely written in German

  2. The sayings from ancient Greece were translated from Arabic into Latin before being translated into German

  3. The tone of the questions and answers swing between serious belief and sneering amusement

Losbuch in deutschen Reimpaaren

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Losbuch in deutschen Reimpaaren

The question of what the future might bring was already a preoccupation of ancient man in the form of fortune-telling practices. Answers to this question were provided by divination books: collections of sayings that were used to predict the future and individual destiny by relating a randomly found saying to one's own situation. The Church initially considered this to be superstition, but from the 12th century works translated from Arabic rekindled interest in the subject. Later, the nobility in particular regarded the whole subject half seriously, half mockingly as a pastime. Our manuscript also falls into this period: the fixed list of questions, ready answers, and simple usage made it accessible to layman as well. The 1,296 rhyming pairs oscillate between the belief in the predictability of the future and a skeptical-ironic attitude towards it.

Losbuch in deutschen Reimpaaren

Rhymed books in the Middle Ages often contained a curious combination of texts for both moral edification and simple entertainment. The Losbuch in deutschen Reimpaaren or “Divination Book in German Rhyming Couplets” belongs among the oldest and most extensive rhymed books to be completely written in German. It is a collection of sayings representing moral exhortations or sociable entertainment that were translated from Arabic into Latin. The starting point of the Losbuch is considered to be the collections of sayings used in ancient Greece during ceremonial rites. After the Greeks' conquest of the Middle East, the determination of an individual's fate was further developed.

Part of a Wave of Arabic Translations

The translation of many Arabic works into Latin in the 12th Century awakened an interest in further exploration of the sayings in the West. At an early stage in Germany, towards the end of the 14th century, a change in the function of the divination book began to take place as a result of the shift from a purely predictive text to one with an entertaining character. The creation of our manuscript falls into this transitional period. The formulation of its questions and answers moves in the area between serious faith and fear of life on the one hand and mocking amusement on the other. With the set list of questions, the predefined answers and the simple handling, it was also possible for laypeople to carry out the questionnaires and thus take a mystical glimpse into their own future.


Alternative Titles
Rhyming German Losbuch
Size / Format
46 pages / 29.5 × 20.0 cm
Last quarter of the 14th century
2 full-page miniatures, all the other pages with small ornamental bands
Previous Owners
Royal Imperial Ambraser collection

Available facsimile editions:
Losbuch in deutschen Reimpaaren – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Cod. Vindob. S. N. 2652 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1972
Detail Picture

Losbuch in deutschen Reimpaaren

Grape Harvest in October

In this Losbuch, the questions and answers are assigned to months, which are illuminated by small depictions of the sun and moon as well as the corresponding zodiac signs and labors of the month. This page for the month of October accordingly shows two figures harvesting and processing grapes – a typical image for this time of year, which corresponded to the reality of people's lives.

Losbuch in deutschen Reimpaaren – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Cod. Vindob. S. N. 2652 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Single Page

Losbuch in deutschen Reimpaaren

Prophecy According to the Stars

Folio 2 is the most splendid leaf of this prophetic manuscript. The front and reverse pages, fols. 2r and 2v, show full-page miniatures that correspond with each other and together constitute a whole. On both sides, the upper half shows the firmament with the sun, moon and the five planets Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Mars as golden stars, which are arranged differently on each page.

Beneath, we can see twelve prophets – on fol. 2r these are ancient scholars, such as Virgil and Seneca, whereas here on fol. 2v Old Testament figures appear, including Moses and Abraham. They are sitting and standing, sometimes with open books, discussing with each other and pondering their prophecies, which they derive from the celestial bodies. This is illustrated by twelve connecting lines between the prophets and the heavenly bodies, as well as gestures and head movements, and demonstrates to the reader the ancient foundations of the rhymed prophecies in this manuscript.

Losbuch in deutschen Reimpaaren – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Cod. Vindob. S. N. 2652 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Losbuch in deutschen Reimpaaren

Binding: Leather, copy of the original binding omitting the metal fittings. All folios are cut according to the original.
Commentary: 1 volume (34 pages) by Werner Abraham
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €
(under 1,000€)
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