(Venice: Hermannus Liechtenstein and Johannes Hamman, 1482). 305 x 200 mm. (12 x 8").  leaves, including the initial blank. Double column, 62 lines to the page, gothic letter (the Latin text in a larger face than the commentary).
Attractive old (17th century?) dark marbled calf (head of spine repaired with morocco, which occupies about one third of top compartment), old (or skillfully made to look old) morocco label. In a well-made and attractive morocco-backed slipcase and fleece-lined inner folder. Beginning of text WITH A SPLENDID VERY LARGE PAINTED INITIAL ON A SHIMMERING GOLD GROUND, INFILLED WITH PAINTED FLOWERS AND LEAVES ON TWINING STEMS, AND TERMINATING IN THE HEAD OF A HORNED DRAGON, the main part of the letter 16-lines high and with a marginal extension stretching most of the way down the page, the work done with varying shades of blue, magenta, green, orange, salmon, and white, THE WHOLE EXECUTED WITH GREAT SKILL AND DELICACY. Two other carefully drawn initials (three and four lines high) filled in with brown ink by a contemporary hand. Front blank with three 16th century inscriptions by John Bullingham, first text leaf with the 17th century signature of P. Tyrwhitt; monogrammed leather bookplate of Charles C. Kalbfleisch (for Bullingham and Kalbfleisch, see below). Goff T-230; BMC V, 356; ISTC it00230000. Leather just a little pitted and marked, joints lightly rubbed, but a completely solid and quite appealing early binding. Last quarter of book with faint dampstain at bottom (becoming gradually more apparent toward the end, with final quire a bit browned and softened in margin), lower margin of last nine leaves with branching wormhole (reaching two inches in length, but well away from text), a few additional trivial imperfections, but the text otherwise in fine condition, with the great majority of gatherings in extraordinarily fresh, clean, and smooth condition.
An impressive and desirable book in terms of content, printing history, decoration, and provenance, this famous commentary by Aquinas on the four Gospels appears here as the first book printed by Hermann Liechtenstein at the press he founded in Venice and the only book he issued in partnership with Johannes Hamman. Born in Cologne, Hermann Liechtenstein (d. 1494) printed in Vicenza between 1475 and 1480 and then in Venice from 1482 until his death. In his 20 years of printing, Liechtenstein produced a substantial quantity of books, employing both roman and gothic typefaces, depending upon how appropriate they were for the content of the text he was printing. Bullingham (d. 1598) was domestic chaplain to Bishop Gardiner and was himself Bishop of Gloucester for the last 17 years of his life, during which time he was scurrilously attacked by Martin Marprelate as a "Massmonger" (i.e., Catholic sympathizer). Our volume was later in the library of the discriminating American collector Charles C. Kalbfleisch (1868-1943), who was particularly interested in early books and fine bindings and who was known for choosing only the finest copies available. In a sale entitled "The Arts of the Book . . . the Splendid Library Formed by the Late Charles C. Kalbfleisch, New York," Parke-Bernet sold much of his collection in January of 1944 (the present item was lot 34, fetching a hammer price of $150). The exquisite opening "A" in the ivy-leaf style is beautifully designed, artfully executed, and in a magnificent state of preservation--but the illuminator was clearly a better painter than a Latin student, because the opening initial should have been an "S"! (CEH1901)
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PJP Catalog: 75.104