How to Write Letters to Kings and Inamoratas, Bound in Fine "Heads-of-Reformers" Calf

DE CONSCRIBENDIS EPISTOLIS, DES. ERASMI ROTERODAMI OPUS. JOANNIS LUDOVICI VIVIS VALENTINI LI BELLAS VERÈ AUREUS. CONRADI CELTIS METHODUS. CHRISTOPHORI HEGENDORPHINI EPITOME. OMNIA NUNC DEMUM IN STUDIOSORUM GRATIAM UNO LIBELLO COMPREHENSA DE CONSCRIBENDIS EPISTOLIS EPITOME DE CONSCRIBENDIS EPISTOLIS LIBELLUS VERÈ AUREUS DE CONSCRIBENDIS EPISTOLIS METHODUS CONSCRIBENDI EPISTOLAS SCRIBENDARUM EPISTOLARUM COMPENDIUM.

(Basel: Nikolaus Brylinger, 1555). 172 x 102 mm. (6 3/4 x 4"). 514 pp., [2] blank leaves with index written in an early hand.

Contemporary Northern German blind-stamped calf over bevelled wooden boards, covers framed by signed and dated "Heads-of-Reformers" roll ("NP/1561"), central panel with large fleur-de-lys floral spray stamp, raised bands, one spine panel lettered "Erasm." in ink, early brass catches, without straps (neat old repair to head of front joint). Front pastedown with ink inscription "Empt. Heid 3.9/4 Sept. 77"; front free endpaper with ink owner inscription of "B. Chillian. Anno 1673," with 18th century signature of Eugene Müller, and with 20th century bookplate of R. Zierer; title page with (variably successful) attempts to obscure lettering with ink (perhaps to censor, but, in any case, with nothing illegible), and with early owner inscription marked through with iron gall ink, causing a small hole. Vander Haeghen, p. 58; VD16 E 2529; USTC 629344. For the binder: Haebler I, 342-48; Schunke, "Das Werk des Meisters NP" In: "Studien zum Bilderschmuck der deutschen Renaissance-Einbände" (1959), p. 122; EBDB w007387. One corner a little bumped and rubbed, occasional mild browning and other trivial internal imperfections, but A FINE COPY, clean and fresh internally in a solid binding with shining leather and stamps in clear relief.

This manual for writing "truly golden letters" comes covered by an excellent example of a Northern German "Heads-of-Reformers Binding," its blind-rolled frame containing portraits of Hus, Melanchthon, Erasmus, and Luther. The Luther panel is dated 1561, and that of Erasmus is signed with the monogram of the workshop dubbed by Schunke the "Meisters NP," active in Germany from 1549 to the mid-1560s. These artisans did not bind books, but instead created stamps and tools for use by other binders. Haebler and other scholars have identified 30 rolls with this monogram that were used by binderies in Switzerland, the Low Countries, and various parts of Germany; however, they have been unable to uncover the identity of the designer[s] or the place where the designs came from. According to bookbinding scholar Frederic Macchi, these tools were sold to binding workshops all over Europe. As Goldschmidt observes, "although we know nothing about N. P.'s name, personality, or domicile, his activity is proof of the far-reaching specialisation that had developed in the production of binders' tools by the middle of the 16th century. Obviously, the yearly Frankfurt Fair and other similar institutions helped to secure a world-wide sale for books as well as for the accessories of the book trade." First published in 1545, the text here begins with an extensive examination by the great Renaissance humanist and master of Latin composition Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) of the proper writing of letters, from requests to kings and diplomatic missives to letters of sympathy, congratulations, and even love. This is followed by short works of epistolary advice from German poet and humanist Conrad Celtes (1459-1508), theologian and Protestant Reformer Christoph Hegendorff (1500-40), and Spanish-born educational theorist (and former pupil of Erasmus) Juan Luis [Johannes Ludovicus] Vives (1493-1540), described by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as "one of the most influential advocates of humanistic learning in the early 16th century." An early owner of our copy clearly found it useful: in addition to discreetly underlining key points in the text, he prepared a brief index at the back of those sections he found most helpful. Despite this evidence that our volume was a handy reference tool, it was treated with sufficient care by past owners that it has come down to us in very desirable condition.
(ST15924)