De imitatione christi (The Imitation of Christ) is a private devotional work familiar to generations of Christians. First written in Latin ca. 1418, it circulated widely in manuscript form before it appeared in numerous printed editions and translations. The
Imitation of Christ reflects the piety of the Brethren of the Common Life and the
Devotio moderna. The book encourages the reader to cultivate interior spirituality, with Christ as the model. The concept of a handbook for a spiritual athlete, striving for Christian perfection, was not new; the innovation was explaining it in colloquial language for the average lay reader. With The
Imitation of Christ as a manual, any dedicated lay person could practice monastic spirituality.
This small copy was designed to be carried in a pocket. Its owner, F. Cojetan, used it often. Note that he corrected the author’s name to Gerson,
who some thought was the true author. The volume is
deformed, as if Cojetan frequently grasped it tightly or held it open with one hand.
Thomas à Kempis, De imitatione christi. Book four.
Bassano del Grappa: Johannes Antonii Remondini, ca. 1700.