Liber Chronicarum.

Nuremberg, Anton Koberger, 12 July 1493.

Price on request

FIRST EDITION, large folio, ff. (xx) 266 (v) 266-299 (i), lacking final blank. Gothic letter, up to 64 lines to page, initials painted in red and blue and rubricated throughout. One thousand eight hundred and nine woodcuts of various sizes, the largest double page, from small medallion portraits to large maps. All most elegantly hand-coloured by Johann Kruyshaar c. 1521, his and other early marginal notes (some shaved) intermittently throughout, extensive towards end, many place names added to city views in Kruyshaar’s hand, his catalogue of the Abbots of his monastery on fols 269v-271 (else blank save for running titles and page numbers) Kruyshaar’s autograph on head of title page and acquisition note of this ‘famous volume’ (1521) beneath, early manuscript page references below and on verso, his shield and monogram at foot. Very nasty looking spiders added to portraits of heretics and other grave malefactors. Another purchase record of Kruyshaar on verso of last recording that he paid 3 gold pieces for the book uncoloured, and that he himself rubricated the text, and illustrated the “pictures themselves with charming colours,” which indeed he did. In late 18th-century German 1/4 diced Russia, green watered paper boards and morocco label. Minor repair to joints and head and tail bands.

First edition of the earliest and ultimate coffee table book, one of the greatest and grandest of incunabula, and when published the biggest and most elaborately illustrated book ever produced. A traditional world history, is it largely drawn from Italian sources such as Blondo, Forresti and Piccolomini. There are also passages of more modern interest such as Schedel’s account of the invention of printing at Mainz, of the proto-Reformation movements of Wycliff and Huss, and the famous voyage of Cam and Behaim (lacking from the German translation) actually to Africa, but long believed to be evidence of their first discovery of the New World. But the glory of the work lies in its sumptuous woodcut illustrations, one the greatest examples of that art of any time. They are identified in the colophon as the work of Michael Wohlgemuth and William Pleydenwurff, making this one of the very few incunables illustrated by known, named artists. More recently, a number of the splendid cuts have been attributed to Pleydenwurff’s young disciple, Albrecht Dürer, and they bear a remarkable resemblance to his later illustration of the Apocalypse, making this Dürer’s first published illustration. He had probably been given the great opportunity by the publisher, Koberger, who was his godfather.

Of particular topographical importance are the double page maps; that of Europe is the earliest to appear in print, and the world map is one of only three before 1500 to show Portuguese knowledge of the coasts of Africa, as well as the city, views which in many instances constitute the earliest pictorial representation of those places, invaluable today. About 400 copies of the volume are believed to have survived, a very small proportion of which have contemporary, or near contemporary, hand colouring.

Johann Kruyshaar of Lippstadt (1484 – 1555), better known as Joannes Cincinnius, was a Westphalian humanist, author and scholar of some significance. Educated at the Paulinum Gymnasium in Münster and then the University of Cologne, where he followed the “Bursenhumanisms” of the Domuschulrektor Timon Kernerer, the refined Thomism he learned there is reflected in his book acquisitions, as well as his mathematical and scientific studies, especially astronomy and geometry. His connection there with the Münster humanists, and particularly Rudolf von Lingen also gave him an historical approach to writing and literature. He always maintained that he did not deserve his inclusion among the obscurorum virorum (Epistolae 1515).

Cincinnius had joined Werden Abbey by 1505, where he served i.a. as librarian and archivist. He continued his studies, especially Greek, over nearly 40 years, and produced several published works, historical or religious, which evidence the influence of the Christian humanism of Erasmus. His book acquisitions from 1520 indicate an interest in Luther, but as with many of the humanists of the devotio moderna, never an attraction. Cincinnius had an abiding passion for learning and books. He raised the level of the monastic school to that of the great Latin School at Emmerich, and provided it and the monastery with a first class library, making many notable acquisitions, including the collection of Gisbert Longolius. At the same time, Cincinnius was enthusiastically building up his own splendid library, which is thought to have numbered nearly 200 volumes. 157 of these are known, and 153 survive, mostly at Dusseldorf. Many are annotated and it is through both their quantity and his attentive noting that we can get a very rare contemporary insight into the mind of a humanist scholar, at the time of one of the major changes in the intellectual world.

BMC II 437. Goff S307. Fairfax Murray Ger. 394. Campbell ‘The Earliest Maps’ 1987. See Andreas Freitäger, ‘John Cincinnius of Lippstadt (ca. 1485-1555). Library and mental world of a Westphalian humanist’, Münster 2000.


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