ROLEWINCK, Werner Fasciculus temporum

[Cologne, Nicolaus Götz, 1478]


Large folio. 74 unnumbered and unsigned ll. Gothic letter, multiple column, initials rubricated throughout. Woodcut genealogical diagrams, nine small woodcuts of buildings, Christ on the cross and Noah’s ark, one bigger of Christ Pantochrator, small armorial woodcut printer’s device with motto ‘Sola spes mea vite virgis gr[ati]a’. First two ll. a little dusty, water stain to upper blank margin of couple of final ll., few small marginal tears to lower blank margin and small repair at gutter of two ll., occasional very minor marginal spot or thumb mark. A fine, exceptionally large, wide-margined copy in high-quality contemporary deerskin over wooden boards, one of two clasps, brass cornerpieces and guides at head and foot of spine (lacking one), spine lined with C15 rubricated ms., triple blind ruled to a panel design, outer border with blind-stamped fleurons within lozenges and indistinct creature within circle, centre panel with fleurons within lozenges, spine a little cracked, minor loss to covers, head and foot of spine. Near contemporary inscriptions: ‘liber ut[rumque] petri et pauli ap[os]to[lorum] in a[m]me[n]sleue pro d[o]m[i]n[um] egbertu[m] abate[m] co[m]paratus’ (modern stamp ‘R.H.’) to front pastedown, ‘Fasciculus temporum’ inked to fep, ‘Auctor est Wernerus Rolewinck Westphalus’ to first, ‘Serum omnium ingressus et usus’, ‘Fortuna plerumque eos quos plurimis beneficiis ornavit, ad duriorem casum reservat’ (from De Bellum Alexandrinum?) and ‘Obdo pessulum ostio’ (from Terence?) to rear pastedown, Roman (occasionally trimmed) and Arabic leaf numbers to upper blank margins, occasional marginalia.

A fine, very large copy of this remarkably successful late medieval universal chronicle—‘this innovative genealogical history lays the claim to being the first ever horizontal timeline’ (Champion, ‘The Fullness’, 173), with an early mention of printing. The Westphalian Werner Rolewinck (1425-1502) was a Carthusian monk in the Charterhouse of Cologne or Utrecht; little else is known. ‘Fasciculus temporum’ was his masterpiece, with dozens of editions appearing in Latin, French, Dutch and German solely in his lifetime. Based on major Christian historiographic sources like Orosius and Eusebius, ‘Fasciculus’ presents a history of the world in the form of a genealogy—a traditional historiographic structure dating back to late antiquity—leading the reader from the Creation to the pontificate of Sixtus IV. The diagram adapted to the horizontal dimension of the book format the original vertical schema of genealogies used to represent biblical history in medieval times. Rolewinck’s genealogy is surrounded by descriptive passages populated with heretics, kings, martyrs, popes, mythical figures, prophets, ancient deities, biblical patriarchs and celestial phenomena, all listed in the long thematic index. The six ages of the world begin with the patriarchal genealogies of Genesis to the Flood, the survival of Noah and his family, and its repeopling by his three children, moving on to the ancient civilisations, with a focus on the genealogy leading to Christ, down to the late C15. For the year 1457, Rolewinck added a reference to print: ‘Craftsmen usually and quickly produce wondrous and fine things. And printers, the origin of whose art is in the city of Mainz, multiply books on earth.’ Scattered among the texts are handsome woodcuts of Noah’s Ark, Babylon, the burning of Sodoma and Gomorrah, the fall of Troy, and Christ. This copy was prepared for Egbert Fischer, abbot of the Monastery of Ammensleben, in Saxony-Anhalt, in the years 1518-43. A house of the Benedictine order, it survived the Reformation and had its own bindery. Fischer was also counsellor of the Bishop of Magdeburg. A most handsome copy of this important work for the history of historiography and bibliography.

Brunet II, 1187; BMC XV, p. 239; Graesse II, 553. M.S. Champion, The Fullness of Time (Chicago, 2017); A.G.S. Josephson, ‘Fifteenth-Century Editions of Fasciculus temporum’, PBSA, 11 (1917), 61-65.
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