The paper quantitatively analyses a sample of 300 Czech prayer books and other popular religious handwritten material (not including songbooks) from the 18th and 19th centuries. The author maintains that most of the material consisted of (partial) transcriptions of popular printed books and their widespread popularity was influenced by the growth of literacy and the individualization of piety. Their use was by no means limited to the milieu of the secret non-Catholics which were proscribed until 1781; indeed the majority of Catholic writings were not fully orthodox. The character and decoration of the writings in question were not directly related to the confessional nature of their originators and/or users; in fact the general rules of early modern popular culture played a much more important role and in many cases it is difficult to determine whether the source is catholic, protestant or sectarian. Prayer books fully reflected official forms of religion relatively late i.e. from the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries as a result of church domination over popular piety. However, even at this time the process did not result in absolutes: religious writings substituted the non-existence of baroque literature the printing of which was prohibited by the enlightened censorship prevalent at the time. Only a change in religious forms and new opportunities for the printing of pre-enlightenment books in the mid-19th century led to a decline in handwritten prayer books.
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