(Nuremberg: [Johann Sensenschmidt and Heinrich Kefer], 1470). 438 x 286 mm. (17 1/4 x 11 1/4"). 287 unnumbered leaves; without five of the six blank leaves, the internal blanks having been cancelled, as in most copies (the intention to cancel these leaves being confirmed by the printed index, where the foliation assumes their absence). Double column, 49 lines in a fine, clean gothic typeface. FIRST PRINTING.
Contemporary Nuremberg blind-stamped calf over thick wooden boards, covers paneled with contrasting designs, the front with a broad frame of palmettes enclosing a complex diapered central panel with unicorn, double-headed eagle, bird, and ornamental floral stamp, the back cover with single fillets forming much simpler and larger lozenges, upper board with vellum title label under (damaged) horn with brass framing strips (and below it, an early library paper label); raised bands, two old (16th century?) paper labels on spine, two brass catches, remnants of leather straps, bosses on covers no longer present, hole for chain attachment at top of lower board. Contemporaneous rubrication throughout: leaves foliated, capitals struck, and paragraph openings marked with red, decorative red or blue initials (generally three-line, but some with long marginal extenders), opening nine-line initial beneath a three-line manuscript incipit. Early round armorial paper bookplate of the Nuremberg City Library pasted (as a very unusual feature) within surrounding opening initial; front pastedown with bookplate of "HNF" (Helmut N. Friedlaender); rear pastedown with bookplate of the Broxbourne Library. Goff R-150; BMC II, 403. Perhaps ten percent of the leather covering gone (mostly at bottom of rear board, but also the portion above the top and below the bottom spine cords), joints cracked, other general signs of use to the binding, text with occasional small marginal stains or smudges and additional insignificant imperfections, but AN EXCELLENT WIDE-MARGINED CONTEMPORARY COPY THAT IS FINE INTERNALLY, the binding still firm and retaining much of its original appeal (despite its defects), and the leaves quite clean, fresh, and bright.
This is a very desirable copy of what is apparently the first work printed in Nuremberg (and certainly the first from that city with a date), a book printed on extremely thick, wonderfully textured paper, our copy in its original Nuremberg binding and with distinguished provenance. The text is the original printing of the chief work of Franciscus de Retza (ca. 1343 - ca. 1427), an Austrian Dominican theologican and professor of theology at Vienna, the work dealing with the seven deadly sins and the corresponding virtues. Thought by Haebler to be a native of Eger in Hungary who learned his trade in Mainz, Johann Sensenschmidt (ca. 1420-91) was the prototypographer in the important printing center of Nuremberg. His career was divided into four stages, during which he changed partners, backers, and location (he moved to Bamberg in 1478). The present work comes from his earliest period, when he worked in partnership with Heinrich Kefer to produce as many as 20 books and was financed by Heinrich Rumel. Hawkins says that our "Comestorium" was "probably the first book printed at Nuremberg. A strong reason for assigning it to Sensenschmidt and Kefer in partnership rather than to the former alone, and also for regarding it as the first production of the press, is the phrase 'patronarum formarum concordia et proportione impressus' in its colophon, the words being taken from that to the Catholicon of Balbus printed at Mainz in 1460, anonymously, but almost certainly by Gutenberg, Kefer's old master" (Kefer was identified in legal documents of 1455 as one of Gutenberg's workmen). Haebler notes that Sensenschmidt's "close connection with . . . Gutenberg's press would lead us to expect the influence of Mainz in his work. But in the design of his types he is remarkably independent." The faces he created were imitated, and, among others, the great Koberger, with whose name Nuremberg books will always be associated, "began to print with a similar type." In a later partnership with Andreas Frisner, Sensenschmidt "also cut new types, one of which exercised great influence on German printing." There is no doubt that this volume was bound at Nuremberg, though, somewhat curiously, its tools appear to belong to three different shops: the Carmelite convent (Kyriss shop 22, Schwenke-Sammlung Adler 52 and 407a), the Carthusian monastery (Kyriss shop 23, Schwenke-Sammlung Blattwerk 351 and Granatapfel 112a), and the Nuremberg "Laubstab" shop (Schwenke-Sammlung Einhorn 29 and Hirsch 20). The modern owners of our volume lend it considerable distinction. This copy comes, first of all, from the celebrated Broxbourne library of Albert Ehrman (1890-1969), a diamond merchant who gathered a fine collection of books at his home at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire. He spent half a century collecting books, specializing in incunabula and early bindings (as well as early type specimens and bibliographies). Feather says that "his collecting was intelligent and scholarly, for he sought to illustrate the history of printing and the book trade, and the early development of trade binding." Ehrman also authored learned articles on fine bindings and the history of printing. A German emigré, Helmut N. Friedlaender, who died at 95 in 2008, was a New York lawyer and financial adviser who collected early books and manuscripts with unerring discrimination over 30 years. A member of the Grolier Club, he was prominent in his support of libraries and book projects, and the sale of the bulk of his collection at Christie's in 2001 was not only a major bibliophilic occurrence, but also a significant social event occasioning notable celebration. While Retza's "Comestorium" item is well represented in institutions, it is not often at auction. ABPC lists just two copies sold since 1975: a copy in 19th century half calf in 1987, and the present volume in 1978 and then again at the Friedlaender auction in 2001 (selling for a hammer price of $30,000). (ST12312)
Add to Cart Price: $55,000.00
PJP Catalog: ELIST3.008