A catalogue of Western manuscripts at the Bodleian Libraries and selected Oxford colleges

MS. Douce 373

Summary Catalogue no.: 21948


Gielis vander Hecken, 1491-1538, Labyrinthi

Thirty-three schematic diagrams, usually on the recto of a leaf; the facing verso containing explanatory Latin verses (6-line hexameters) usually with a Dutch paraphrase (three quatrains). The last drawing (fol. xxxii) is a diagrammatic map of Brussels. Prefatory poems in Latin (fols. 2v-3r) and Dutch (fols. 3v-4r) state that the manuscript was assembled after Gielis's death (in 1538) by his cousin Joos vanden Hecke (Shepers, 261) and it has been argued that the explanatory poems, as well as the prefatory poems, were also added after 1538 (Schepers, 262; Evans, 39). This seems to be the text described in a contemporary account of Zevenborren: 'Item opus figurarum insigne, titulo Labyrinthi, quas a sacris paginis meditatus est, calamo scitissime delineavit depinxitque' (Schepers, 253), and which according to a later historian of Zevenborren was left to the house (J. B. Wiaert, Historia Septifontana (1688), p. 62).

Language(s): Latin and Middle Dutch

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: paper
Extent: i (modern paper, fol. 1) + 3 (medieval parchment) + 33 + i (modern paper, fol. xxxiii)
Dimensions (leaf): c. 410 × 280 mm.
Foliation: 1-4, i-v, via, vib, vii-xxxiii.


Latin verses in humanistic script.

Dutch verses in textualis.


Good drawings by Gielis vander Hecken; three miniatures (fols. 22–24) by an assistant (Evans, 38-9; Pächt and Alexander i. 402)

Diagrammatic map of Brussels.


19th-century binding.


Origin: c. 1530 (before 1538), with some additions after 1538 ; Flemish, Augustinian priory of Zevenborren

Provenance and Acquisition

Augustinian priory of Zevenborren: see above, drawings created by Gieles den Hecke, custos of Zevenborren, for use in the priory; the volume was compiled after his death by his cousin Joos van Hecke and given to the priory.

Apparently remained at the priory until its suppression in 1784: 'Reverendo Domino Joanni Antonio Steemans ad 7tem Fontes canonico regulari ... a Josepho 2do suppresso 13 Junii 1784' (fol. 2r).

Unidentified English bookseller's catalogue, no. 548 (front pastedown), with the title 'Reformatio laquetis ais [sic for languentis anime]', and then bound with 51 prints.

Unidentified English bookseller's catalogue, no. 36, priced £8 18.s. 6d. (front pastedown).

Thomas Thorpe, catalogue, 1831, no. 4393, price 10 guineas.

Francis Douce, 1757–1834: probably acquired from Thorpe in 1831.

Bequeathed to the Bodleian in 1834.

Record Sources

Description adapted (April 2022) from the following sources, with additional reference to published literature as cited:
The Douce Legacy (exhibition catalogue, 1984), no. 241
Otto Pächt and J. J. G. Alexander, Illuminated Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library Oxford, I (1966), no. 402
Summary Catalogue (1897)

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)
Digital Bodleian (12 images from 35mm slides)


    Kees Schepers, 'Gielis vander Hecken and his Perplexing Guide through the Labyrinths of Christian Moral Doctrine. An Introduction', Ons Geestelijk Erf, 2013, 84 (2-3), 244-289
    M. W. Evans, 'The Labyrinths of Giles van der Hecken', in Manuscripts in the fifty years after the invention of printing: some papers read at a colloquium at the Warburg Institute on 12-13 March 1982, ed. J. B. Trapp (1983), 34-41, pl. 11-16

Last Substantive Revision

2022-04-26: Description revised for publication on Digital Bodleian.