THE FIRST CHIAROSCURO
Vivae omnium fere imperatorum imagines.
Antwerp, [s.n., but Egidius Copenius Disthemius], 1557.
FIRST EDITION thus. Folio. 176 unnumbered ll., * 6 a-b 6 A-Z 6 Aa-Bb 6 Cc-Dd 4 , 151 plates included in signature. Italic letter, little Roman, occasional Hebrew. Etched t-p with architectural vignette and small oval portrait of Goltzius, 151 full-page plates of medals with 141 emperors’ portraits (7 on same plate, 16 plates blank as usual), etched and cut in chiaroscuro in ochre and brown. T-p a little browned, just trimmed at foot, index numbers inked over on 4 pages, occasional slight browning or mainly marginal spotting, light offsetting from plates (better than usual), ink burn affecting portrait on pl. 96 and couple of words on verso, little hole in blank at gutter. A good copy, in fresh impression, in C17 French speckled calf, spine gilt, gilt heraldic monogram to compartments, joints and corners repaired and head and foot of spine. Printed ex-libris of Jacques Laget on front pastedown.
A very good copy of the first Latin edition of this important, lavishly illustrated work, featuring the first chiaroscuro book illustration. Hubertus Goltzius (1526-83) was a Flemish painter and engraver trained in classical art by his father, a German artist. He worked for 12 years on this compendium of Roman imperial coins and medals, from Julius Caesar to the Holy Roman Emperors Charles V and Ferdinand, which he had seen in the collection of Antwerp humanists including the geographer Cornelius Grapheus and the antiquarian Marc Laurin, Duke of Watervliet. The first edition was published in Spanish in 1550; Italian, German and Latin translations followed in 1557, urged by the great success of the work. Goltzius’s displayed the first combined use of copperplate and woodblocks engraved following the chiaroscuro technique—its first appearance in a book. ‘Prints in chiaroscuro were [generally] not intended for use as book illustrations, but for sale as separate plates, or occasionally in sets’ (Burch, ‘Colour Printing’, 28). The woodcutter, Josse Gietleughen of Courtrai, prepared two blocks for each etched image: ‘a darker tone provide[d] the background for the effigy, a lighter tone the flesh-tone and the background for the inscription, and the white of the paper the highlights’ (Wouk, in ‘Printing Colour 1400-1700’, 154). Each medallion is surmounted by a motto summarising the virtues and vices of the individual emperor and preceded by a short account of his deeds. This copy includes the uncommon oval pl. 156, portraying Maximilian II and Philip II on D 2 recto (usually blank); we have traced the same collation only in BNE and St Geneviève. The plate was probably added in later issues, after Philip II, the dedicatee of the work, was crowned in January 1557 (1556 old style). The future Maximilian II was the eldest son and heir of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor. The gilt monogram on the spine appears to be a stylisation of Louis XIV’s famous ‘chiffre’, with interlacing Ls, though with a surmounting ducal crown. Although we have not been able to trace a similar chiffre, it was probably a duke related to Louis XIV.
Pettigree, Netherlandish Books, 13496; Brunet II, 1654 (mentioned); Bib. Belgica III, 241; Hollstein, Dutch, VIII, 139.