A Splendid Example of Magnificent 15th Century Book Illumination


(Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 12 February 1477). 489 x 343 mm. (19 1/4 x 13 1/2"). Textually Complete. [277] leaves (of 278: including the initial blank and four medial blanks, but lacking one medial blank). Double column, 57 lines, gothic type. Volume I, of three. The Fourth Printing.

VERY STRIKING CONTEMPORARY BLIND-TOOLED CALF over thick wooden boards, front cover featuring central panel of ogival diapering with enclosed fleurs-de-lys, (back cover more simply decorated with panel frames enclosing rosettes and the same fleurs-de-lys stamps), NINE (of 10) ORIGINAL ORNATE BRASS BOSSES at corners and center, remnants of clasps, original vellum title at top of central panel of front cover, double raised bands, spine panels stamped with rosettes and fleurs-de-lys, four rawhide tabs as text markers, later leather strip running up the middle of each pastedown (apparently to lend strength to boards). Capitals struck in red, paragraph marks in red or blue, a great many two- to four-line initials (mostly three-line) in red or blue, 55 FINE SIX-LINE DIVIDED INITIALS in red and blue with elaborate infilling in pink and greenish blue, TWO SIMILARLY EXECUTED VERY ELABORATE 12-LINE INITIALS WITH CONSIDERABLE MARGINAL EXTENSION, AND THREE BEAUTIFUL ILLUMINATED INITIALS: A 10-LINE AND A 12-LINE MODELLED "C" IN VIOLET, BOTH ON A CHASED BURNISHED GOLD GROUND DECORATED WITH INCISED SWIRLING FOLIAGE OR CHARMING FLOWERS, ONE OF THE INITIALS WITH GREEN TENDRILS EXTENDING INTO THE MARGIN; AND A MAGNIFICENT 14-LINE MODELLED "M" IN BLUE AND SIX OTHER COLORS ON A SHIMMERING GOLD GROUND INCISED WITH FLOWERS AND WITH ELEGANT SCROLLING FOLIAGE EXTENDING DOWN THE LENGTH OF THE LEFT MARGIN AND ACROSS THE TOP AND BOTTOM MARGINS, the bottom margin with a shield (showing a black ram) dangling on an iron pin from the tendril, THE WHOLE DRAMATICALLY EXECUTED WITH VERY GREAT SKILL, USING AT LEAST EIGHT RICH AND LOVELY COLORS AND GOLD. Initial blank and lower margin of final leaf with a quatrain in a contemporaneous hand, perhaps the rubricator's (Abbot Ulricus of Durham?). Upper margin of first text leaf with 17th century monastic inscription. Goff R-8; BMC II, 413-14; ISTC ir00008000. Leather missing from top and bottom spine panels and at upper corner of front cover (where boss is missing), a dozen other small areas of leather loss on covers, as well as along a significant portion of edges of the thick boards, vellum label partly defective and curling a little, bands exposed, some scuffing; obviously with important external defects, but an imposing book in its original 15th century binding that makes a dramatic impression and that is still entirely sound and very pleasing. Final quire and two or three other leaves with minor dampstain, a few other trivial imperfections, but A SUPERB COPY INTERNALLY, THE LEAVES EXTRAORDINARILY FRESH, CLEAN, AND BRIGHT, THE TEXT PRINTED ON VERY THICK TEXTURED PAPER, AND WITH VAST MARGINS.

Written by a 14th century Dominican who, as his name indicates, came from Pisa, "Pantheologia" sets forth the key precepts of scholastic theology in alphabetical order. Our volume opens with a lengthy index of passages from the Old and New Testaments which will receive elucidation in this book, and then a list of all the alphabetical topics which will be covered, A to Z[ealot]. Then the main text continues, beginning with disquisitions on absolution, abstinence, and accidia (sloth or depression, a frequent problem for monastics) and ending with the entries for the letter "d," including a discussion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Though we have only the first of three volumes, what is here is an imposing example of a book from the 1470s with its grand contemporaneous binding and magnificent illumination. The binding can be localized to Nuremberg because it has the same floral frame as used on Kyriss 112, and typographically the book is distinguished by the fact that it represents the final use of the Koberger type 115, the first typeface confidently ascribed to him, and generally considered to be the most desirable. Finally, our copy has margins of special amplitude: the height of the leaf here is 473 mm., compared to the British Museum copy, which measures 417 mm.

Price: $35,000.00