CRANMER, Thomas Catechismus, That is to Say, a Shorte Instruction into Christian Religion for the Synguler Commoditie and Profyte of Childre[n] and Yong People

London, for Gwalter Lynne, 1548


FIRST EDITION. 8vo. [vi], ccxlix [i]. (-)6, A-Y8, Aa-Ll8, Mm7. (lacking final blank Mm8). Variant “D1r, line 1 begins: ymage. Errata corrected throughout.” ESTC. Black letter. Title within fine woodcut border, figures of justice and prudence at sides, royal arms below, full-page woodcut on verso of title of Edward VI enthroned presenting the Bible to his Bishops, white on black criblé woodcut initials, twenty-six woodcuts in text, one of Christ performing an exorcism signed Hans Holbein, one woodcut repeated on colophon, ex libris William Van Mildert, with his bookplate, “Bound by C. Lewis for the Rev. Theodre Williams” in pencil on fly, faded contemporary marginal annotations and underlinings. Light age yellowing, cut a little close at outer margin, just shaving a few side notes, minor mostly marginal staining in places, some dust soiling, the occasional mark or spot, small expert repair to lower blank margin of (.)2, and A1, closed tear restored, without loss, in Ee8. A very good, crisp copy in early C19th morocco by C. Lewis, covers with small gilt monogram T.W. in a small oval at centres, spine with raised bands, title gilt lettered, edges and inner dentelles double gilt ruled, a.e.g.

Extremely rare and important work, one of the earliest catechisms in the English language, beautifully illustrated in part by Hans Holbein. “This is an English version of the Latin translation made in 1539 by Justus Jonas of the ‘Caechismus oder Kinderpredigt’ (sermons on Luther’s small Catechism) which originally formed part of the 1533 Brandenburg-Nurnberg Kirchenordnung of Osiander and Brentz … The German original may have been in preparation while Cranmer was an inmate of Osiander’s house.” D. G. Selwyn. ‘A neglected edition of Cranmer’s Catechism.’ “In England Thomas Cranmer’s catechism had prints, several of which were by Hans Holbein. Printed in London in 1548 during the reign of Edward VI and the growing Protestant influence, his work had a large following. But the catechism illustrates some of the multiple influences that play in the English church and the confusions which resulted. The catechism is really a translation of a German devotional book by Andreas Osiander published in Nuremberg in 1533. Cranmer’s only original contribution is a long chapter addressing images, which did not really cohere with the Lutheran eucharistic theology propounded elsewhere in the document. But the catechism is notable for its inclusion of fine prints. For example .. note the simple print illustrating the first sermon which pictures a Pharisee (shaven with a tonsure) praying at the altar, while an unshaven lay publican stand alongside with his head down. In another illustrating the seventh petition of the Lord’s prayer – “deliver us from evil” – Jesus delivers a demoniac of a spirit which is pictured emerging from the mouth of the man, as amazed and sceptical leaders look on.” William A. Dyrness. ‘Reformed Theology and Visual Culture’. “Even more significant was the frontispiece to Archbishop Cranmer’s Catechism (1548) ,in which the king as emperor handed the Bible to his bishops. Reinforced by scriptural texts from Proverbs, Joshua and Deuteronomy, the woodcut held a double message. The king’s duty lay in handing to his subjects the Word of God but, just as importantly, the Word defined and disciplined the king himself. Edward was a godly monarch because he gave the Word of God to God’s people and because he lived by it himself.” Stephen Alford. Kingship and Politics in the Reign of Edward VI.

Two of the woodcuts in this work were made by Hans Holbein when in England, and another, on fol. 6, is a copy of Holbein’s ‘Moses on Sinai receiving the Tables of the law’. “The woodcuts of this series, evidently cut in England, have been disparaged but I consider them remarkable for the expressiveness of their outlines which are emphasized by the sparing use of shading and the complete avoidance of cross-hatching. Two of them, in which monks appear in the characters of Pharisee and the Hireling Shepherd, evince, like some of Holbein’s Basle woodcuts, a decided sympathy with the reformers. The hireling shepherd clearly belongs to the order of the Carthusians, who were persecuted in 1535. It will be noticed also that a bishop and a monk appear as onlookers and critics, in the character of Pharisees (Matt. ix. 34 and xii. 24) and in the scene where Christ casts out a devil. Woltmann (i. 401) justly observes that these evidently date from the period, 1535-9, when proceedings against the monasteries were in active progress. He supposes that their publication was hindered by the Catholic reaction which set in after the fall of Thomas Cromwell and that no occasion was found for their use as illustrations until after the death of Henry VIII. Though the little cuts are fully signed, no signature is needed to support their attribution. The Hireling Shepherd, in particular, is a little masterpiece which may rank with the woodcut illustrations to the Old Testament in the beauty of its composition and the clearness with which it tells its story.” Cambell Dodgson. ‘Woodcuts designed by Holbein for English Printers’.

From the superb library of the Rev Theodore Williams, lot 536 in his sale catalogue of 1827, marked ‘Extremely rare’. “The same year the Drury library were sold (1827) the handsome books and manuscripts collected by the Rev. Theodore Williams, mainly consisting of biblical texts, books printed on vellum and volumes on large or largest paper. Nearly all were bound in blue or green morocco with the collectors crest, showing his initials T.W. in a small oval.” De Ricci p. 99.

ESTC S109276. STC 5994. Lowndes 548-9 mentioning this copy “Williams 536, with woodcuts by Holbein, morocco, 5l. 15s.” Not in Grolier or Pforzheimer.
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