[CATHOLIC CHURCH]. Martyrilogium Viola Sanctorum.

[Strasbourg, Matthias Hupfuff, 1516].


4to. ff. (vi) 99 (i), last blank. Gothic letter title, romanized text. Charming woodcut title border with putti, grotesques, jesters and armorial printer’s device, decorated white-on-black initials and ornaments. A few lower edges untrimmed, uniform slight age browning, light water stain extending from lower outer corner of t-p to small portion of text and later fore-edges, paper flaw to lower outer blank corner of b1 and q3, finger-soiling at blank foot in places, mainly marginal marks, spots or smudges, slightly heavier to first and last couple of gatherings. A well-preserved, unsophisticated copy in contemporary German quarter calf over wooden boards, lacking clasp, triple and quadruple blind ruled, three blind rolls of fleurons and tendrils (similar to the widespread design in Oldham 479-85), spine cracked with compartment loss at head and foot, leather and boards scuffed, corners a bit worn. Early C20 bookplate of the Abbey of Mouzon to front pastedown, contemporary ms. ‘Omnia cum deo et nihil sine eo’ and ‘Et alio[rum] plurimo[rum] sancto[rum] et marty[rum] et confesso[rum] : atq[ue] virginu[m] 1516 3fl’ to ffep recto and verso, later ms. ‘In seruio Joanni Petro Hörnero, titulo legati; Annõ 1670, Modo [con]fessor[um](?)’, ‘Joannes Jacobus Franciscus Comes ab Eltz Kempenich 1740 17 fl’ and tiny C20 stamp YG to title, the odd C17/C18 ms. marginalia, 2 pages of ms. text in an early C16 Germanic hand, entitled ‘Lectio Martyrologij in Vigilia Natalis Christi abbreviata’ and ‘Lectio Capitularis in d[ie] Vigilia Natalis Chr[ist]i et in die p[rimus] pr(?). Loco Lection[i]s Sancti Pauli’ to last verso (blank) and verso of rear fep.

A good, unsophisticated copy – in an attractive, strictly contemporary binding and with early ms. annotations – of this most successful Catholic martyrology. This was the last edition printed before the Reformation. Used intensively for the writing of sermons, it is infrequently found in such well-preserved, genuine state. This copy specifies a contemporary price of 3 florins for the book, probably already bound, as the price is written on the ffep, and a later price of 17 florins, dated 1740, which provides interesting evidence for the history of book prices.

First published in Basle in 1474, this anonymous compilation, like the ‘Legenda aurea’, brought together the lives of the Apostles as well as saints, martyrs, confessors and virgins from late antiquity and (fewer) from the early middle ages. Each section includes short accounts on the life, death and miracles of each exemplary figure, with a selection from saints’ days in the Breviarium Romanum (Kalendae, Idus, Nonae). The choice provides clues as to the original authorship and intended readership: e.g., Wenceslas (10th century), mostly venerated in Bohemia and England, embodied political resistance against the Holy Roman Empire and was especially dear to C15 and C16 Hussites; Winibald (8th century) was a German monk and missionary of English origin, whose relics were donated to Henry VII of England in 1492.

The early C16 Germanic annotator of this copy, a cleric and preacher, copied down an abridged version of the ‘lectio’ for Christmas Eve as well as the Vulgate text of Isaiah 2-7, with a marginal note reminding him to highlight the legend of St Bernard. The Isaiah excerpt was intended for a ‘lectio capitularis’ – a sermon delivered at a ‘Capitul-Kirche’, a collegiate church, generally a cathedral. In this case, the annotator specified that the place of the sermon was a church dedicated to St Paul. The late C17 annotator, the unidentified Joannes Petrus Hörner, was probably an apostolic legate; he noted an episode from the life of St John Chrysostom. The C18 annotator, Joannes Jacobus Franciscus, Count of Eltz-Kempenich, was a theology student at Strasbourg in 1764 and canon at Mainz and Trier, like his famous relative Philipp Karl von Eltz-Kempenich (d.1743), Archbishop-Elector of Mainz. He glossed two passages with references to Charlemagne and Pipin. 

Marquette, JHU and Idaho copies recorded in the US. VD16 V 1249; USTC 675280; Adams M798; Graesse VI, 42 (earlier eds); BM STC Ger., p.895 (imperfect).
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