URS GRAF, CONTEMPORARY COLOURING AND ANNOTATIONS
GUILLERMUS PARISIENSIS. Postille maiores in epistolas & evangelia: tam dominicalium feriatorumque dierum. [with] AGRICOLA, Daniel. Directorium in Dominice Passionis articulos. [with] Passio domini nostri Jesu Christi.
[Basel, Adam Petri,] 1514, 1513 and .
Large 8vo. 3 parts in 1, separate t-ps, continuous signatures. ff. (iv) 352 (viii), (iv), 40. Gothic letter, in two sizes. First t-p in red and black framed within woodcut border in fresh period colouring with putti and tendrils, second t-p with identical border, uncoloured; full-page woodcut, in fresh period-colouring, with Daniel, St Peter and the Evangelists on verso of first [*] 4 and second 2A 1 (serving as third t-p); 176 small woodcuts, all in period colouring but a handful, with scenes from the Gospel; decorated initials and ornaments, some in fresh period colouring. Mainly upper edges trimmed, slight shaving to few marginalia, light water stain to lower outer blank corner towards end, couple of small woodcuts minimally smudged, first and second gathering bit thumbed, t-p dusty, couple of ll. slightly browned or a trifle spotted at margins, small hole to outer blank margin of Y 8 , 3: colophon leaf trimmed and mounted with light stain. Very good copies in C16 Swiss pigskin, two clasps, single blind ruled to a panel design, outer border with roll of tendrils, second border with half-figure of Christ, Sts Paul and John separated by blank heraldic shields, centre panel with grille de St Laurent of tendrils, raised bands, spine painted white with inked title and shelfmark, a.e.r., upper joint and spine a bit cracked, corners worn. Stamps of New York religious institutions to front pastedown, fep and first t-p, early ex-libris of Jacobus Arbestele Thursson(?) Rethius and unidentified monastery of the Capuchins (C17) to first t-p, C16 annotations throughout, occasional small drawings.
Contemporary hand-coloured copies, in fine C16 Swiss binding, of these successful works addressed to priests, to improve their understanding of ‘lessons’ from the Gospels, read at liturgy. These didactic manuals, intended to be bound together, are illustrated with superb full-page or smaller woodcuts by the Swiss artist Urs Graf, added to decorate and facilitate memorisation, even more striking, as here, in fresh period colouring.
The first work is William of Auvergne’s (or Guillelmus Parisiensis, c.1180-1249) major commentary (‘postilla’), first published in Lyon in 1471. Appointed bishop of Paris in 1228, he was a Scholastic theologian and the first medieval philosopher who sought to reconcile Christian doctrines with Aristotelianism. Addressed to ‘less experienced clerics and preachers in their early stages’, ‘Postille’ presents on each page a small excerpt (‘lesson’) from the Epistles or Gospels to be read on Sundays or weekdays of specific parts of the liturgical year, surrounded by a commentary based on authorities like Nicolaus de Lyra, Rabanus and the Glossa Ordinaria. ‘More than one hundred editions of the “Postilla” […] were printed during the C15. Surely this esteemed compilation must be regarded as one of the earliest “best sellers” […]. This compilation of the ‘Postilla’ was written down in 1437 expressly for members of the clergy and for those desirous of understanding the excerpts
from the Epistles and the Evangelists, more commonly called lessons, which are read at appropriate services throughout the church year. It obviously filled a most pressing need’ (Goff, ‘Postilla’, 73). The ‘Passio’ shares a similar structure and purpose. First published in 1511 by the Swiss Franciscan preacher Daniel Agricola (or Meyer, 1490-1540), it presents excerpts—almost a concordance—from the Gospels’ narration of Christ’s passion, surrounded by glosses, as an instrument to facilitate the composition of Lenten homilies. It is prefixed by an index entitled ‘Directorium in Dominice Passionis articulos’ with the imprint 1513. The early annotator (and perhaps painter) of these copies, probably the Swiss Jacob Thursson, was a preacher. He was interested in the proper behaviour that becomes ministers of the church, who should pursue ‘what honours God and is helpful to people’, keeping ‘a humble mind and a pure flesh’. He also highlighted explanations of key issues such as that the proof of Christ’s divinity came from ‘the union of the Word and the flesh in the Virgin’s womb’, and minor points like the true geographical position of the region of Pamphylia. Most interestingly, he added marginalia with typological cross-references to the Old Testament, summarising several sections with a brief sentence. Some annotations appear to be prayers (e.g., ‘Custos Virginis que pro morte nostra adesse’) which we have not been able
to trace, or notes jotted down in preparation for homilies.
1: BM STC Ger., p. 117. Brunet II, 1821 (1471 ed.); Graesse III, 183 (1518 ed.); VD 16 E 4386. Not in BM STC Ger. F.R. Goff, ‘The Postilla of Guillermus Parisiensis’, Gutenberg- Jahrbuch (1959), 73-78. Indiana, Pierpont Morgan and Iowa copies recorded in the US.
2-3: Brunet I, 112 (mentioned); VD 16 E 4386. Not in BM STC Ger. or Graesse.