Item #11827 Leaf twenty-seven of a forty-leaf xylographic Biblia pauperum. Biblia pauperum.

Leaf twenty-seven of a forty-leaf xylographic Biblia pauperum.

[Cut in the Low Countries and printed in southern Germany or northern Italy], s.n. c. 1465-1470.

Royal folio (leaf 389 x 269 mm.). Woodcut on paper in brownish-grey water-based ink (image 267 x 192 mm.).

In a passepartout.

            The woodcut has nine panels — five with figures and four with text. The principal sequence occupies the center of the leaf and has three parts, each framed by columns and arches. In the center is Christ’s entombment, flanked on the left by Joseph being thrown into the well and on the right by Jonas being thrown into the sea. Below each scene is its caption. Above the left scene, nine lines explain the story of Joseph, and above the right scene, a dozen lines explain the story of Jonas. At the top center of the page, facing each other, David and Solomon fill two arched windows, their prophecies on Christ below them in banderoles. In the center at the base of the page, Isaiah and Abraham occupy two windows, their prophecies on Christ in banderoles.

            THIS LEAF COMES FROM ONE OF THE EARLIEST SURVIVING WOODCUT CODICES OF THE POOR MAN’S BIBLE and once belonged to the preeminent bibliographer of xylography, W.L. Schreiber (1855-1922).
            Four states, or “editions”, from this woodblock set survive. The present example comes from the last of these states, known from two substantial fragments. Three other sets of Biblia pauperum blocks have been identified, and together they account for seven more states.
            This kind of picture Bible arose in the 13th century for devotion and pedagogy, visually confirming the fulfillment of Old Testament events and prophecies in the life of Christ — a single image uniting multiple books of the Bible. By the third quarter of the 15th century a series of forty complex images, one to a page, had become the standard for blockbooks, EACH PAGE RESEMBLES AN ALTARPIECE OR A STAINED-GLASS WINDOW.
            The work was typically printed from twenty large woodblocks, with one cut on each side of the block or, as here, with two images on the same side, separated by only a few millimeters. In this case, the image for one page was inked, half of a sheet of paper laid over the prepared surface and a pad, piece of wood, burnisher or frotton rubbed across the top to transfer the ink. The sheet was then removed, the block’s other image inked and the process repeated, impressing the second image next to the first.
            THE LEAF OFFERED HERE WAS ON THE LEFT-HAND SIDE OF THE WOODBLOCK AND THE FIRST OF ITS PAIR OF CUTS TO BE PRINTED, as five millimeters to the right of its frame is the lightly inked left frame of the woodblock’s other carved image. Our leaf, without watermark, is beautifully printed, wide-margined and uncolored. The chain-lines are c. 37 mm. apart. This printing is the only xylographic edition of the Biblia pauperum on this paper size.
            One Aluisius signed the blank side and dated his signature 25 February 1564 in Italian. The other recorded fragment also has 16th-century Italian provenance, strengthening the possibility that the “edition” was printed in Italy (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Ink 2.D.11; trimmed close to the image area, mounted in an album with damage and loss).
            In his 1902 Manuel, Schreiber described his thirty-leaf fragment, which he sold (Katalog (1909) 79). It next appeared in the Pforzheimer collection, each leaf in a passepartout (Sotheby’s, Valuable Books (12.VI.1978) 8). The Haarlem State Library acquired twenty-five of the leaves. Of the five remaining, one is at Brigham Young University (leaf 30; 093 B47 1460), one was offered in 1982 by a New York dealer (leaf 32, $25,000.00; current location unknown), a third belonged to Alan Thomas (leaf 28, Sotheby’s, Catalogue (21.VI.1993) 67; current location unknown): one is untraced. Our thanks to Dr. John McQuillen for this census.
            In good condition (outer margins darkened with some stains), some left margin deckle preserved).
¶Schreiber, Manuel de l’amateur de la gravure sur bois et sur métal au XVe siècle IV: 6-7 Éd. VII & 62-63 (leaf 27); Blockbücher des Mittelalters: Bilderfolgen als Lektüre (1991) pp. 365 & 367 (Schreiber copy), & 392 (Vienna copy), 402-5 (census) & see nos. 19a-b & 20; Kroll, “Beobachtungen zur Ausgabenfolge der 40blättrigen Biblia pauperum” in Blockbücher des Mittelalters 289-310; Henry, “The Iconography of the Forty-page Blockbook Biblia pauperum: Form and Meaning” in Blockbücher des Mittelalters 263-88; Hind, An Introduction to a History of Woodcut I: 4-5 & 230-42.

Item #11827

Price: $85,000.00

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