THE FIRST ILLUSTRATED TRAVEL BOOK
Le grant voyage de hierusalem.
Paris, for Francois Regnault, 1522.
4to. ff. (iv) 66 + folding plate, 67-90 + folding plate, 91-210, last blank. Lettre bâtarde, two parts in one, first title in red and black with armorial initial, second with Regnault’s elephant device, white on black and figurative initials throughout. Two very large folding woodcuts, 30” by 9½” and 32” by 9½” including margins (cuts amazingly uncropped), 42 further woodcuts mostly illustrating text, 3” by 3½” on average, largest 5” by 4½”, in very good clear impressions. Very slight age yellowing, light foxing at beginning, a few small ink splashes mostly at blank fore-edge; generally a good, clean, crisp, large copy in early C18 English calf, spine (remounted) and borders gilt, worn at corners, marbled endpapers, all edges red. Armorial bookplates of Charles, Viscount Bruce of Ampthill 1712 on pastedown and verso of title page, and Boies Penrose on fly.
Rare and early edition of the first illustrated travel book, the earliest modern account of the Holy Land and one of the most remarkable popular picture books of its day. Breydenbach, Dean of Mainz and friends set out for the Holy Land in 1482 and after a hazardous journey via Venice, Corfu, Crete and Rhodes eventually reached their goal. One of the company was the artist Berwick, a painter of considerable talent, whose works, based on first hand observation, forms the basis for some of the illustrations in the present work, though others are culled from earlier printed texts. Berwick’s work is easily discernible, however it owes nothing to the imaginary orientalism which characterises other works of the previous centuries which attempt to illustrate the Near East; by comparison the local colour is fresh and striking. Breydenbachs’ account of his travels is no less noteworthy. He had a remarkable gift for seeing and describing the principal characteristics of the of the places he visited, and which he viewed with curiosity and intelligence, faithfully recounting what he saw. No detail was too minor for his interest and observation, from the many strange animals he encountered to the unknown alphabets of the various inhabitants. As Hoefer puts it “Breydenbach mérite encore d’être lu”.
The glory of the book are the two great folding plates (often mutilated or missing). That of Jerusalem, in two distinct sections, was executed for Regnault’s editions from an entirely new design. The second similarly in two parts, depicts first the knights and princes of Christendom receiving the Papal blessing before departing on the crusade and second the French army before Jerusalem with the infantry composed of ‘adventurers’ and Swiss (probably mercenaries) with the Turks in the background. Other cuts are mainly of battles and sieges but also represent the Pope and the Kings of France, Persia and Poland, Badouin and the Duc de Lorrain, the murder of the King of Cyprus, various city views and the Turks including the Sultan and the Holy Sepulchre. The French translation is by Nicholas le Huen, here with additional material. Fol. 198 comprises the letter of Pietro Pasqualigo describing G. Cortereal’s discovery of Labrador, see Alden 522/4.
BM STC Fr. has Jean de Hersins’ earlier translation only. Fairfax Murray 625. Brunet I 1252-3. Not in Mortimer, Harvard C16 Fr. or Göllner. Blackmer had a later abridgment only.