With Unsurpassably Sharp, Clear 16th Century Blind-Stamped Decoration


(Basel: Peter Perna 1578; Rostock: Jacob Lucius, 1576). 225 x 145 mm. (8 3/4 x 5 3/4"). 4 p.l., 198 [i.e., 168] pp., [4] leaves (final blank); 232 pp., [8] leaves (final blank); 1 p.l., 192 pp., [7] leaves. Two separately published works in one volume.

SUPERB CONTEMPORARY BLIND-STAMPED CALF over bevelled wooden boards BY JOBST KALHART OF LAUINGEN, covers panelled with two rolls, the outer roll showing putti engaged in various activities, the inner roll showing full-length figures of the Virtues, WITH VERY DETAILED CENTRAL PANEL STAMPS DEPICTING TWO OF THE VIRTUES, that on the upper cover depicting Fides and Spes with their attributes sitting in the foreground, a city and mountains in the distance, and God the Father blessing them from above, below them the legend "Impetrat Alma Fides Christo Quam Dante Saliutem Ex Pectare Soror Spes Animos"; panel on lower cover showing Fortitudo and Justitia similarly situated, with a large wheel of Fate between them, below them the legend "Fortuna Fortes Metuit Ignavos Premit Justicia Per Se Exigua Res Est"; the rolls and panels all signed with the initials I. K., raised bands, two brass clasps (upper joint and headcaps expertly repaired, neat leather repair around catches). Printers' devices on title pages. Title page with ownership inscription of Heinrich Vaget [Henricus Vagetius], dated 1622. Front pastedown with bookplate of the Sunderland Library. First work: Schweiger II, 709; Adams P-745; VD16 P1629. Second work: Schweiger II, 1074; Adams T-387; VD16 T531. Corners a bit rubbed, small chip to tail edge of lower board, occasional minor browning, more noticeably affecting the last three quires in the second work, but A VERY FINE COPY, clean and crisp internally, IN A BINDING WITH REMARKABLY WELL-DEFINED STAMPS.

This sammelband containing two rare classical editions was beautifully decorated by an eminent binder with exquisite stamps and rolls that remain in remarkably sharp relief more than four centuries later. The six satires of the first century playwright Persius were influenced by his teacher, the Stoic philosopher Cornutus, to whom our writer bequeathed his not-inconsiderable estate (the Stoic refused the money, but accepted the books). The Oxford Companion remarks favorably on Persius' works, noting their "elevated moral tone, with occasional passages of genial humor, and forcible graphic expression, showing the poet's keen observation of life." The second work here is a scarce edition of Terence's "Adelphi" (The Brothers"), edited by Nathan Chytraeus (1543-98), an important humanist poet and professor who founded the library at the University of Rostock. An exploration of the merits of strict versus liberal child rearing, the play is considered Terence's masterpiece, and inspired later dramas, including Moliere's "School for Husbands." Our binding's beautiful panels and rolls depicting the Virtues are the creation of Bavarian binder Jobst Kalhart, who wed the widow of Lauingen bookbinder Balthasar Werner in 1576 and took over the bindery, continuing in business until the early 1600s. He was one of the binders who did work for bibliophile Pfalzgraf Philipp Ludwig von Neuburg (1547-1616). The stamps here are extremely well preserved, due in part to the method of creating panel-stamped bindings. Needham notes that "binders' panels, or dies were engraved in metal. They were stamped not by hand, but by a screw press. This provided considerably greater pressure than hand-stamping (such as used for small tools) could do, and panel-stamping over wooden boards often provides very sharp detail and firm reliefs." ("Twelve Centures of Bookbindings," p. 92) That is certainly true here, and Kalhart's designs are little changed from the day they left his workshop. In fact, in 40 years of bookselling, we have never handled a 16th century binding with sharper, clearer decoration in blind. Former owner and humanist scholar Heinrich Vaget [Henricus Vagetius] (1587-1659) was a professor of logic and metaphysics at Hamburg and a correspondent of Hugo Grotius. This volume was later in the famous library (comprising more than 20,000 books), formed by Charles Spencer, third Earl of Sunderland (1674-1722), one of the greatest of all English book collectors. When the library was sold in five memorable auctions from 1881-83, nearly 14,000 lots changed hands, a large share going to Quaritch, who had an engraved bookplate (as seen here) made for each volume purchased.