A 1482 Bible in Three Folio Volumes, in Period Calf, and Featuring Unusual Mystical Decoration and Painting by Nuns

BIBLIA LATINA (CUM POSTILLIS NICOLAI DE LYRA ET EXPOSITIONIBUS GUILLELMI BRITONIS IN OMNES PROLOGOS S. HIERONYMI ET ADDITIONIBUS PAULI BURGENSIS REPLICISQUE MATTHIAE DOERING).

(Venice: Franciscus Renner, de Heilbronn, 1482-83). 337 x 229 mm. (13 1/4 x 9"). 1,211 leaves, complete, collating as the British Museum copy, but without the "Additiones" of Paulus de Sancta Maria included in some copies (see GW 4287). Double column, headlines, text surrounded by commentary, gothic type. Three volumes.

Excellent contemporary blind-stamped calf over thick wooden boards, recently and expertly rebacked and with edges skillfully renewed, 25 ORIGINAL ELABORATELY DECORATED BRASS BOSSES and six original catch plates (five other less decorative bosses, all on the same cover, probably made in the 17th century), covers panelled with triple rules, the first volume with a broad outer frame and center saltire enclosing lozenge stamps with floral or spread eagle tools, the central triangular compartments with an all-over pattern of small, linked quatrefoils; the second volume similarly decorated, but with fewer stamps, the third volume with an all-over field of widely spaced horizontal, vertical, and diagonal rules; raised bands, lacking clasps and thongs, original endpapers. First few quires of each volume with hand painted red initials of three or four lines (several with trailing scrollwork), 15 LARGE MULTI-COLORED INITIALS (predominately in green, red, and yellow), SEVERAL WITH TRAILING DECORATION, TWO WITH DECORATIVE PANELS THE LENGTH OF THE PAGE (the first initial with a charming man's face, a few additional later, probably 17th century, initials done in brown ink), TWO ELABORATE PEN DRAWINGS IN THE SAME GREEN, RED, AND YELLOW, EACH ILLUSTRATING A ROUGH CROSS, PIERCED AND BLEEDING AT STIGMATA POINTS, the larger (on two-thirds of a page) with a heart pierced by a lance and a rod and with a skull and cathedral (no doubt representing Jerusalem) at the base, the second (on a quarter page) with a motto, the rubrication and illustration all in an untutored but sincere hand. First page of each volume with ownership inscription of Lateran Canons Regular associated with a church dedicated to St. Benignus, dated 1652, and with other manuscript additions made almost certainly at the same time, including (1) the name B. P. Bormon neatly written over a portion of an inscription (that is part of one of the elaborate pen drawings), and (2) a pair of drawings in brown ink of the ark of the covenant and its cover executed in the blank spaces left in Exodus for illustrations to accompany Nicholas' discussion of the Temple furnishings. Notes in at least two early hands on blanks and pastedowns, an index to the location of biblical books in a neat 15th century hand at the back of each volume, occasional marginal annotations. Goff B-612; BMC V, 197. One board with loss of about six square inches of leather, covers a little soiled and crackled, other abrasions and minor flaws, but THE BINDINGS ENTIRELY SOUND AND EXTREMELY APPEALING, particularly with their brass hardware. Some leaves in third volume slightly yellowed, first and last leaves and one other opening a little soiled, a few quires slightly affected by light dampstaining in margins, terminal leaf in two volumes with expert repair of lower corner, two leaves with a closed tear as long as three inches (into text but without loss), other defects, but all these imperfections quite minor: A FINE COPY, ESPECIALLY PLEASING INTERNALLY, THE TEXT REMARKABLY CLEAN, FRESH, AND BRIGHT.

This item is a major achievement for a printer whose work was distinguished by the production of a number of important Bibles. Renner was responsible for at least two biblical firsts. In 1475, his folio edition was the first Latin Bible printed in Venice, and his 1480 Bible was the first quarto Venetian printing (it seems from Goff to be only the second Bible to be printed anywhere in that format). The present set is of considerable interest as a very well preserved incunabular Bible, and it is textually important as being only the second Bible with the "Postillae Literales" of Nicholas of Lyra, originally printed by Sweynheym and Pannartz in 1471. But apart from its condition and text, our Bible is of extraordinary interest because of the striking rubrication and especially the elaborate pious drawings seen here. The two illustrations of bleeding crosses constitute rare and striking manifestations of the tradition of what is known as the affective piety movement of the late Middle Ages, when there was an increased identification among mystics with the pain felt by Christ on the cross, and an attempt to experience the stigmata through meditation. Many of these mystics were women, often nuns. The devotion to Christ's passion evinced by our illustrations, combined with the naïve style, which argues that the artist had not received as much formal training in painting as men received in monasteries, make it not unlikely that they are the work of a cloistered woman. The decoration here is closely related to a group of German colored pen drawings of the same period that, because they are either known, or presumed, to have been made by nuns, are commonly called "Nonnenarbeit," or "nuns' work." Our drawings and this corpus of German nuns' art reflect contemporaneous feminine spirituality with its emphasis on the wounds and suffering of Christ, as well as a devotion to the heart of Jesus. In the German-speaking world, the latter was particularly associated with 13th century mystics in the convent of Helfta in Saxony; the work of one of its number, Mechthild of Hackeborn, circulated in vernacular versions in German convents by the 15th century. The relationship between the probable decoration of our Bible by a nun and this larger cultural context is reflected especially by the more elaborate of the two drawings, an emblematic, rather than a narrative, representation of the Crucifixion. Although the instruments of the passion (the nails, crown of thorns, sponge soaked in vinegar, soldier's spear) are present, only the heart and blood, which so expressionistically drips from the cross itself, relate to Christ's humanity. The flowers beneath the cross, irrigated, as it were, by the Savior's blood, are also found in other drawings attributed to nuns. Finally, these images made by nuns are thought to have had a devotional function, and that appears to be the case with our Bible as well, for the marginal decoration of the creation account at the beginning of Genesis ends with a banderole inscribed with a prayer that is touching in its simple faith: "May he who created heaven and earth grant me eternal life. Jesus and Mary, my hope." Most known examples of "Nonnenarbeit" are found on single sheets of vellum or paper or, more rarely, as an integral part of a manuscript written by a nun. The presence of such images in an incunable, especially a scholar's Bible like the present item, is apparently very unusual. (For another 15th century drawing very similar in style and iconography, see the exhibition catalogue "Die Graphiksammlung des Humanisten Hartmann Schedel," Munich, 1990, cat. #21, pl. 8; for these drawings by nuns in general, see Jeffrey F. Hamburger, "Nuns as Artists," Berkeley, 1997.).
(CJW1502)

Add to Cart Price: $65,000.00

PJP Catalog: NY16BF.006

BIBLIA LATINA (CUM POSTILLIS NICOLAI DE LYRA ET EXPOSITIONIBUS GUILLELMI BRITONIS IN OMNES PROLOGOS S. HIERONYMI ET ADDITIONIBUS PAULI BURGENSIS REPLICISQUE MATTHIAE DOERING). BIBLE IN LATIN.
BIBLIA LATINA (CUM POSTILLIS NICOLAI DE LYRA ET EXPOSITIONIBUS GUILLELMI BRITONIS IN OMNES PROLOGOS S. HIERONYMI ET ADDITIONIBUS PAULI BURGENSIS REPLICISQUE MATTHIAE DOERING).
BIBLIA LATINA (CUM POSTILLIS NICOLAI DE LYRA ET EXPOSITIONIBUS GUILLELMI BRITONIS IN OMNES PROLOGOS S. HIERONYMI ET ADDITIONIBUS PAULI BURGENSIS REPLICISQUE MATTHIAE DOERING).
BIBLIA LATINA (CUM POSTILLIS NICOLAI DE LYRA ET EXPOSITIONIBUS GUILLELMI BRITONIS IN OMNES PROLOGOS S. HIERONYMI ET ADDITIONIBUS PAULI BURGENSIS REPLICISQUE MATTHIAE DOERING).

Browse Similar Items