Birgitta, or Bridget, was a Swedish mystic, born in 1303 and married, at age thirteen, to the wealthy nobleman Ulf Gudmarrson, to whom she bore eight children. Having experienced religious visions since early adulthood, she devoted herself wholly to the worship of God and imitation of Christ after her husband's death in 1344, establishing a convent in the town of Vadstena by Lake Vattern. In 1350 she moved to Rome, where she spent the rest of her life, apart from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in her last years. She died in 1373 and was canonised by Pope Boniface IX in 1391. A blend of theological meditation, biblical lore and spiritual autobiography, her ‘Revelations’ were dictated to her confessors over a period of more than twenty years.
The 1500 edition produced in Nuremberg by one of the giants of the early printing period, Anton Koberger, is notable for the likely participation of another famous native of Nuremberg, the artist Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), who was Koberger's godson. It is generally accepted that Durer at least designed the illustrative woodcuts, even if another hand performed the actual cutting of the blocks. Compared with other Northern European book illustrations of the period, the Birgitta woodcuts show a readiness to move away from strict geometric patterning towards a more naturalistic grouping of figures and to endow these figures with individual expressions. Durer had visited Venice in the mid-1490s and been deeply influenced by the humanism of Italian Renaissance painters.
The Library's copy of Revelationes was a donation from Sir George Grey. He bought it in 1883 from the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch for £8 10s (a tiny fraction of its current value).