The prayer book of Dutchess Dorothea
A prayer book gifted to Duchess Dorothea, the first wife of Duke Albert of Prussia, printed on parchment. Duke Albert was the last Grand Master of the Teutonic Order before it was secularized in 1511-1525. He left the Order with a host of other knights which in practice ended the presence of Teutonic Knights in Prussia. On 10 April 1525 he paid homage to the King of Poland, Sigismund I, in Cracow – later called the Prussian Homage and from that time until his death in 1568, he was the Duke of the former Teutonic state renamed to Ducal Prussia.
Duchess Dorothea was born on 1 August 1504 as the daughter of Frederick I, King of Denmark and Norway, from the House of Oldenburg and Anna of Brandenburg. Dorothea was the first wife of Albert of Prussia. The festive wedding was held on 1 July 1526. Duchess Dorothea give birth to six children of which only the eldest daughter, Anna Sophia, reached adolescence. She died on 11 April 1547 and was buried in the chancel of the Königsberg cathedral.
The history of a masterpiece
Feuerzeug Christlicher Andacht, the prayer book of Duchess Dorothea, – a personal gift from the Duke – was prepared in the fashion of illuminated hand-written prayer books. It is printed, but all decorations and illuminations were hand-made using gold. The uniqueness of the old print is imparted by numerous hand-painted illustrations, among others, the coat of arms of the Duchess and floral and zoomorphic borders, which in the original were made by German illuminator from Nuremberg, Georg Glockendon (1490-1533/34). The decorations show the influence of the fables of a Greek fabulist, the slave Aesop (6th century B.C.).
Following the untimely death of the Duchess, the prayer book was incorporated into the private book collection of Duke Albert. Today the original copy of the work is stored in the Library of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun – ref. no.Ob.6.II.4489.
Extraordinary jewellery binding made of two boards dressed in black velvet, fitted with original intricately cast and forged silver edge protectors, studs and clasps. These attest to the wealth and the very personal nature of the gift for the Duchess.