A Very Rare and Especially Desirable Dutch Incunable: The Gouda Printing of the First Dated Edition of the "Gesta Romanorum"

GESTA ROMANORUM.

(Gouda: Gerard Leeu, 23 August 1480). 250 x 180 mm. (9 3/4 x 7"). [144] leaves.

18th century polished calf, raised bands, spine attractively gilt in compartments with calligraphic ornament at center, tulip cornerpieces, red morocco label, marbled endpapers. Rubricated in red, numerous handwritten two-line initials in red, first page of text with woodcut frame of floral vines and with five-line opening initial in red and white infilled with penwork vines, woodcut ecclesiastical coat of arms in colophon. Colophon and final page of index with red ink ownership inscription of the Brethren of the Holy Cross of Saint Peter's Vale in Hoorn. Goff G-282; not in BMC. Covers with a few blemishes, joints with short cracks at head, corners rubbed to boards, but the binding still solid and not without appeal. Woodcut frame trimmed with minor loss, final leaf a little soiled, isolated marginal stains and spots, otherwise a fine copy internally, quite clean, fresh, and bright.

This is the first dated edition of a popular Medieval work, printed by the proto-typographer in Gouda, Gerard or Gheraert Leeu (ca. 1445-92). Issuing his first work in 1477, Leeu produced 69 books in Gouda before moving in 1484 to Antwerp, then a major city for international trade that offered more opportunity to sell his publications in other countries. While most of his works were in Latin or Dutch, he also printed some of Caxton's translations for the English market. His career, and his life, came to an abrupt end in 1492, when he was stabbed to death by one of his typesetters during a quarrel. He was admired by humanists, with Erasmus describing him in a letter as "a skilled practitioner of the art of printing and a very amiable man." The "Gesta Romanorum," or "Deeds of the Romans," is a collection of tales probably compiled in England in the early 14th century as a sourcebook for pastoral sermons. Some of the stories are from classical history, some are legends, but all have a moral or edifying quality. In addition to offering material for preachers, "Gesta" was also a source for such works as Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" and Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" and "King Lear." There were numerous manuscript versions of "Gesta" in circulation, and with the advent of printing, 25 editions were issued in the incunabular era. This is an uncommon edition, with ISTC finding just four copies in the United States. Our copy was originally owned by the Abbey of the Brethren of the Holy Cross, an Augustinian order commonly called the Crosiers or "Crutched Friars," in the Northern Holland city of Hoorn. Dutch incunabula are considerably rarer than German or Italian or French, and they continue to be aggressively sought after, bringing very considerable prices, particularly when they have substantial content, as in the present case. The only auction record we could trace since the Hoe copy was sold in 1911 was for the Broxbourne copy (in modern vellum boards), sold in 1977 for £9,500 (the equivalent then of $17,266).
(CBJ1720)

Add to Cart Price: $55,000.00

PJP Catalog: NY19BF.057

GESTA ROMANORUM.
GESTA ROMANORUM.
GESTA ROMANORUM.
GESTA ROMANORUM.

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