Frankfurt am Main, C. Egenolff 1533.
4to (187 x 132 mm.). [i], p. EIGHTY WOODCUTS BY BEHAM (mostly 178 x 50 mm.). Title woodcut frame with six scenes from Exodus.
Contemporary blind-decorated calf (rebacked, corners worn), outer portrait and foliage frame, lilies in the corners, central ornament of a column braced by leaves, evidence of four ties.
“Hans Sebald Beham’s Biblische Historien (ca. 1533) would become a benchmark of English print” (Davis).
First Edition. Well drawn and tightly composed, THIS EARLY PICTURE BIBLE is the source for the woodcuts in the first complete Bible in English, the Coverdale Bible (Cologne 1535), and for those in its immediate successor, the Matthew Bible (Antwerp 1537). The set of blocks made for Coverdale was brought to England and used there. The Matthew Bible set appeared in English religious propaganda and an English juvenile picture Bible. By 1620 these images had illustrated at least eighteen Bibles in English, Latin and German for English Reformers, Catholics and Lutherans — in folio, quarto and octavo.
Beham’s first substantial book-trade commission, these seventy-five Old Testament and five New Testament blocks each have has a one-line legend in German and a concise biblical reference. The open space surrounding the cuts invites manuscript annotation. In later printings, Latin captions and explanatory verses were added. THE IMAGES ALSO SERVED ARTISTS AS PATTERNS, i.a., for a series of stained-glass windows of the 1550s in Nürnberg.
Only one example has sold at auction since 1950. The two copies in American libraries are cut down and in modern bindings (Emmett-Univ. of North Carolina and Rosenwald-Library of Congress). I have verified three other complete copies (British Library, Sorbonne, Berlin), one defective copy (Göttingen lacking 2 leaves) and have failed to trace three others (Oxford, Trento and Rosenthal’s lacking 12 leaves).
In fine fresh condition (two small blank marginal worm holes, stamp erased from the title); early signature of J. Choul, 16th-/17th-century signature of Oratorian Benedictus Magnard, stamp of Otto Schäfer (1912-2000).
¶Fünf Jahrhunderte Buchillustration. Meisterwerke…aus der Bibliothek O. Schäfer (1987) 82 (this copy) & illus.; Luborsky & Ingram, A Guide to English Illustrated Books 1536-1603 2063-66 & II figg. 1-2.
Bentley, “Images of the Word: Separately Published English Bible Illustrations 1539-1830” in Studies in Bibliography 47 (1994) 105-7 & 125; Bottigheimer, The Bible for Children From the Age of Gutenberg to the Present 39; Davis, “English Printing before the King James Bible” in The King James Version at 400 edd. Burke et al. 59 & 63; Kauffmann, Biblical Imagery in Medieval England, 700-1550 276-7 & figg. 198-9; Pauli, Hans Sebald Beham Ein…Verzeichniß seiner…Holzschnitten 271 & 277-356; Rosenthal, “Hans Sebald Behams Alttestamentarische Holzschnitte und deren Verwendung zur Bücher-Illustration” in Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaften 5 (1882) 379-405 & 384,11 (the seminal article); VD 16 B 1472.