A 1471 Jenson Imprint with Distinguished Early and Modern Provenance


(Venice: Nicolaus Jenson, 1471). 279 x 187 mm. (11 x 7 3/8"). 64 unnumbered leaves. Single column, 32 lines in an elegant roman type. Second Edition.

Handsome 19th century dark brown crushed morocco by Chambolle-Duru (stamp-signed on front turn-in), covers with blind-ruled frame and gilt fleuron cornerpieces as well as large central arabesque, raised bands, spine panels with small gilt floral spray, gilt titling, densely gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt (bottom half of front joint perhaps--though not certainly--with some very expert renewal). Opening page with a delicate hand-drawn bistre initial "E" framed in gold showing a deer lying in a meadow with the Italian countryside spreading in the background, in the style of the schools of Antonio Pisanello and Perugino. Front pastedown with armorial bookplate and rear flyleaf with monogram stamp of Albert Ehrman; opening page with the hand-painted escutcheon of the Colonna family (see below for both). Goff B-1235; BMC V, 170. Presumably washed to comply with the fashion among 19th century bibliophiles, with the leaves a shade less than bright and the type in a few places not as strong as it once was (the coat of arms on the first page a bit washed out, but the delicate initial entirely unaffected), covers with a bit of white residue from leather preservative, otherwise A SPLENDID COPY in a fine binding, the leaves with plenty of freshness, the text completely clean (there was no apparent soil to be washed away), and with especially ample margins.

This superb early incunable was produced through the efforts of two great humanists--writer and historian Leonardo Bruni (1369-1444) and printer and type designer Nicolaus Jenson (1420-80)--and owned in the 20th century by one of Britain's greatest collectors. Chancellor of Florence and author of the famous "History of the Florentine Republic," Leonardo Bruni (1369-1444, called "Aretino" from his native Arezzo), was a leading humanist of the early Renaissance. He was inspired by the fame of his fellow Aretine Petrarch to devote himself to classical studies, and is credited with coining the phrase "studia humanitatis," from which the terms "humanist" and "humanities" come. He wrote in a much-admired beautiful classical Latin style, and he influenced the way history was conceived of and written by focusing on three periods, the ancient world, the dark ages, and the "modern" world. Written in 1441, "Bello Italico" was the last of his works of history and is perhaps the most poignant. Composed late in the author's life and reflecting his growing pessimism, the work focuses on the end of the classical world, featuring the gothic invasion of Italy and Justinian's effort to free Italy from the invaders' rule. Born a Frenchman near Troyes, Jenson (1420-80) is known to have set up shop in Venice in 1470, and during a decade of labor, he probably issued in excess of 100 works. He is best known today for his perfecting of the roman typeface, something that he used early in his career, something on display to great effect in the present work, and something that inspired the printers of many later generations, including those at work in the Arts & Crafts movement at the end of the 19th century. William Morris and Emery Walker considered that "he carried the development of Roman type as far as it can go," and Walker's elegant Doves type was clearly influenced by Jenson. According to D. B. Updike, "no other man [in Renaissance Italy] produced quite so fine a font, or had better taste in the composition of a page and its imposition upon paper." Unsurprisingly, this copy comes from a fine modern home, the celebrated Broxbourne library of Albert Ehrman (1890-1969), a diamond merchant who gathered a very distinguished collection of books at his home at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire. An author of learned articles on fine bindings and the history of printing, he spent half a century collecting incunabula and early bindings (as well as early type specimens and bibliographies). Nixon's book on "Broxbourne Library Styles and Designs of Bookbindings" is an invaluable reference work, and the Sotheby's catalogue of the sales of Broxbourne books in 1977-78 contained no fewer than 698 incunables from 243 towns. The present book is scarce on the market, ABPC recording three other copies at auction since 1975.

Keywords: History

Add to Cart Price: $25,000.00

PJP Catalog: NY18BF.035


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