VALERIS, VASILEOS (ed.) Hieron Evangelion [Holy Evangeliary]

Venice, Andrea and Giacomo Spinelli, 1550


FIRST EDITION. Folio. ff. 136 unnumbered, – 6 4. Greek letter, in red and black, double column. Title within handsome architectural border and all’antica decoration, charming engraved headpieces with grotesques, full-page very fine woodcuts of the Four Evangelists, ornamental printer’s device to last. General light browning, water or wax stains in places to margins or not affecting reading, ink smudge to t-p not affecting text, lower outer corners thumbed and sometimes soiled, occasional small repair to lower margins and last, skilful repair to t-p not affecting reading, three holes each affecting a few letters to final leaf. A good, crisp, well-margined copy on thick paper in very handsome C16 red morocco, covers laid onto modern morocco with slight loss, Virgin with Child and Crucifixion gilt in central ovals to front and rear, gilt title and fleurons to modern spine, gauffered edges. Old ink ms stamp ‘MJ’ to t-p and last, occasional annotations (probably editorial).

This extraordinarily rare ‘Hieron Evangelion’, only two other recorded, was bound in luxury C16 gilt red morocco. The superb late C16 gold-tooling in the outer panel provides a solid frame to the double-rule border surrounding the central ovals with the Virgin with Child and the Crucifixion. The design typifies the sumptuous Italian bindings of the second half of the C16, often Venetian or inspired by contemporary Roman patterns (Davis III, 346, 349, 350; Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, GERLI.1941), generally made for liturgical or biblical texts.

‘Hieron Evangelion’—‘Holy Evangeliary’—is a collection of texts from the Gospels which were recited during services in specific periods of the liturgical calendar of the Greek rite. Each section is devoted to one Evangelist, whose woodcut portrait prefaces the text. The readings for Easter are taken from John, those for Pentecost from Matthew, for Lent from Mark, and for the New Year from Luke. Such ‘evangelia’ were traditionally held in high respect as liturgical objects, so preciously decorated and sumptuously bound.

This copy was printed on high quality, thick paper by Andrea and Giacomo Spinelli. In the 1550s, the Spinelli were the most important publishers of liturgical texts for the community of Greek émigrés in Venice. The superb types, inspired by the calligraphy of Greek manuscripts, were designed by Andrea Spinelli (1508-72), a renowned artist and official engraver of the Venetian mint. Among Spinelli’s collaborators was Vasileos Valeris, a priest of the Church of San Giorgio dei Greci, who assisted them in the editing of Greek texts, including the ‘Hieron Evangelion’.

The occasional Greek annotations in this copy are selective, knowledgeable, and probably editorial. They overwrite sub-headings correcting the grammar and amending mistaken references to the names of the evangelists or the days of the week. The presence of wax stains and thumbed pages suggests that this copy was probably used during liturgical services.

Only Trinity College, Cambridge, and Biblioteca Angelica (Rome) copies recorded.USTC 820413; Adams L830; Essling I, 303; Légrand I, 284-85: ‘Belle impression rouge et noire, caractères superbes, papier de qualité supérieure’.
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