ROLEWINCK, Werner. Fasciculus temporum.

[Strasbourg, Johann Prüss, 1488.]


Folio. ff. (xii) 90, lacking final blank. Gothic letter, multiple column, initials rubricated throughout. 14 small woodcuts of buildings, 2 of exotic mirabilia and 1 half-page of Christ Pantocrator. A dozen ll. anciently reinforced at gutter, few slightly browned, scattered worm holes touching couple of letters, trail to lower blank edge of D-F, small tear from outer blank corner of L2, occasional thumb marks, lower outer blank corner of N5 with old repair. A very good copy in contemporary dark goatskin over wooden boards, two clasps, straps renewed, lacking bosses, double blind ruled to a panel design, upper cover: outer border with blind-stamped St Sebastian pierced by arrows, and running deer, second with same deer stamp, inner border with lilies within lozenges and floral stamps in blind, centre panel with cross-hatched lozenge, lower cover: outer border with blind-stamped rosettes and Apostles within roundels, second with lilies within lozenges, inner border with eagles and Holy Lamb within roundels in blind, centre panel with cross-hatched decoration, raised bands, minor repair of spine at head. Nearly contemporary marginalia to P4, additional diagrams inked to P5 (blank), all c.1503.

The striking, austere binding, with the uncommon stamp of St Sebastian pierced by arrows, was most likely produced in south Germany, where the majority of examples are recorded (‘Einbanddatenbank’). The eagle stamp is almost identical to that of the ‘Zu Augsburg Adler’ binder (Schwenke 335).

A very good 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 enlarged the original reference to print in previous editions (Josephson, ‘Editions’, 61-62): ‘The very fine science of book printing never known before appeared at that time in the city of Mainz. This is the art of all arts, the science of all sciences; thanks to the speed of its process comes a trove of desirable wisdom and science which all men instinctively wish for, which pierces the deep lairs of darkness. It represents in writing this world prey to evil and it illuminates it.’ Scattered among the texts are handsome woodcuts of Noah’s Ark, Babylon, the burning of Sodoma and Gomorrah, the fall of Troy, and Christ. Of the two outstanding woodcuts with marvellous monsters, the first illustrates the consequences of a comet during the pontificate of Pelagius, when a man half-fish/half-human was born, without hands or eyes, and a ‘quadruped’ child with legs and arms reversed. The second is an allegorical representation of Emperor Lodovick III as a dog-headed man. The nearly contemporary annotator of this copy—who saw genealogy, in the typical contemporary manner, as a ‘living text’ which could be lengthened as history proceeded (Génicot, ‘Les généalogies’, 10)—drew additional roundels on the last blank for Popes Alexander VI (d.1503) and his successors Pius III, who died before the end of the year, and again in 1503, Julius II. A strikingly-bound copy of this handsomely produced, influential work.

BMC XV, p. 121; Brunet II, 1188; Graesse (1487 ed.). M.S. Champion, The Fullness of Time (Chicago, 2017); L. Génicot, Les généalogies (Turnhout, 1975); A.G.S. Josephson, ‘Fifteenth-Century Editions of Fasciculus temporum’, PBSA, 11 (1917), 61-65.
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