LUCK, Johann Jacob.

Sylloge Numismatum Elegantiorum

Strasbourg, Johann Repp, 1620


FIRST EDITION. Folio, pp. (xxiv) 383 (v). Roman and italic letter, woodcut floriated initials, charming headpieces and tailpieces with animals, foliage, putti and grotesques. Handsome engraved architectural t-p with standing figures of Charles V Holy Roman Emperor and Henry II of France, female allegorical figures and two vignettes depicting a siege and a naval battle, engraved arms of dedicatee Eberhard von Rappoltstein (1570-1637), emblem of author, c. 400 1/8 to full-page engraved illustrations of Renaissance coins and medals. T-p a bit dusty, light age yellowing (heavier to a few ll.), ink smudge to blank margins of two ll., repaired tear to one fol., light see through to verso of some engravings, small waterstain to blank margin of first five ll. and lightly at gutter of final gatherings. A very good copy in contemporary vellum over boards, a few ink stains to covers, missing ties. Bookplate of Patricia Milne-Henderson (1935-2019) to front paste-down, autograph “B Schuynman Hrz” to fly, early ms. “Ad usum Franci Caroli Reichstenii (?)” (ruled through) and later “H.B. Penborg” to t-p.

A very good copy of the first edition of this beautifully illustrated treatise on numismatics. This is the very first work in which coins and medals were used as a visual guide to outline and discuss historical events.

Johann Jacob Luck (1574-1653) was a native of Strasburg and councillor of Staufenberg. A passionate numismatist and genealogist, he was the owner of a remarkable collection of several thousands of coins. In this fascinating work, Luck sketches the history of 16 th century Europe presenting, in chronological order, hundreds of medals, coins and emblems between 1500 and 1600. The scenes and portraits depicted on this impressive corpus of numismatic material constitute the starting point to describe the biographies of kings and politicians, as well as the political events and memorable battles that these artefacts were made to commemorate. A history illustrated through coins, rather than a numismatic manual, this work does not provide any indication of size, metal, manner of production and denominations. Part of the medals published in this work were in Luck’s collection, others are reproduced from the earlier work ‘Symbola divina et humana’ by Jacob Typot (ca. 1540-1600). Curiously, some of them appear to be hybrids: the obverse is correctly reproduced, but it is paired with a reverse that belonged to another coin or sometimes never existed.

This treatise is embellished with countless detailed engravings designed by the German printmaker and miniature painter Friedrich Brentel (1580-1651). Brentel also realised the handsome frontispiece, in collaboration with the Franco-German Peter Aubry: “The frontispiece (…) announces the military context: the armoured figures of Charles V and Henry II stand on a pediment, flanked by piles of weapons and pennants, the decorative architectural ovals filled with scenes of a naval battle and the siege of a city. Two female allegorical figures flank the vignette of the siege. Fame grasps a trumpet whose banner bears images of ears, eyes, and tongues, while Plenty holds an overturned cornucopia, from which falls a pile of medals and coins”. (Stielau). Due to the quantity of illustrations, the printing costs of this work were so high that Luck fell into debt and had to sell his numismatic collection in 1628. It was bought by Catherine of Sweden, and part of it might – after a series of unclear vicissitudes – be now in the Cabinet des Medailles in Paris.

The manuscript autograph “H.B. Penborg” belongs to Houwo Bonno Penborg (c. 1690-1748), Mayor of Emden in Saxony and owner of a remarkable book collection which was sold in 1749.

From the prestigious numismatic library of Patricia Milne-Henderson (1935-2019), British art historian and collector of fine historic numismatic books, coins and medals.

USTC 2134646; VD17 23:232008R; STC Ger. 17th century, L1171; Brunet III, p. 1217; Graesse IV, p. 287; Cicognara 2910: “Questa è una delle opere ove siano con più fedeltà (…) in gran copia raffigurate medaglie di bella esecuzione prodotte nell’aureo secolo”. A. Stielau in R. Kaske and J. Saviello, Objekte des Krieges: Präsenz & Repräsentation (2019).
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