Category: Bindings

Paul Needham’s Index Possessorum Incunabulorum (IPI)

By , 25 January 2011 12:45 pm

The publication of Paul Needham’s Index Possessorum Incunabulorum (IPI) in the online Provenance Research pages provided by the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL) is a most welcome addition to the useful provenance tools offered by CERL to bibliographers, librarians and cataloguers of early printed books.

Three days after the announcement of its publication in December 2010, the Index allowed me to identify the hitherto anonymous owner of the Cambridge University Library copy of a collection of Pseudo-Augustinian sermons published in Cologne by Ulrich Zel around 1468-69 (ISTC ia01303000), Inc.5.A.4.1[254].

The front page of the book bears a stamp described as “two C’s addorsed and interlaced belneath a coronet” in the incunable catalogues of the Cambridge University Library (CUL), published by Oates in 1954, and of the Bodleian Library at Oxford, published in 2005. A similar description in IPI, “addorsed C’s below coronet of 7 points”, allowed me to identify the stamp in the CUL book with the one used for his collection by George Friedrich Creuzer (1771-1858), philologist and professor at Marburg and Heidelberg.

Consequently, we can now associate to the  Creuzer’s collection four other CUL incunabula displaying the same stamp.  They are as follows: 1. Jacobus [Palladinus] de Theramo. Consolatio peccatorum, seu Processus Belial. [Strassburg : Heinrich Knoblochtzer], 1484 (ISTC ij00070000), Inc.3.A.2.8[3819]; 2. Pius II, Pont. Max. (formerly Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini). Dialogus contra Bohemos atque Thaboritas de sacra communione corporis Christi. [Cologne: Ulrich Zel, not after 1472](ISTC ip00668000), Inc.5.A.4.1[281]; 3. Jacobus Van Den Driesche [Dreische, or Driessen]. De indulgentiis et miraculis psalterium Virginis Mariae concernentibus, with Alexander Forliviensis. Copia bullae indulgentiarum de Rosario Mariae, and Sixtus IV. Copia probationis fraternitatis Mariae “Pastoris aeterni”. Cologne : Arnold Ther Hoernen, 12 November 1478 (ISTC id00366350), Inc.5.A.4.2[355]; 4. Dialogus inter clericum et militem super dignitate papali et regia. [Deventer : Richardus Pafraet], 31 January 1491 (ISTC id00153000), Inc.5.E.4.3[2962].

As a gesture of gratitude to both Paul Needham and CERL, I would like to share some new information regarding the former owner of another book in CUL, Inc.4.A.32.1[4169].  The volume is a sammelband and includes: a) Mensa philosophica. Heidelberg : [Heinrich Knoblochtzer] for Jakob Köbel, [after 28 March] 1489 (ISTC im00495000) – b) [Pseudo-] Seneca [i.e. Martinus de Braga]. De quattuor virtutibus cardinalibus, sive De formula honestae vitae. [Speyer : Conrad Hist, ca. 1500] (ISTC is00423000) – c) [Pseudo-] Seneca. Proverbia. [Cologne : Cornelis de Zierikzee, ca. 1500] (ISTC is00404000).

The title page of the Mensa philosophica, the first book in the volume, displays an ownership inscription, datable to the late 16th or early 17th century, that reads “Ioannes Rodolphus ab Erlach” followed by the words “Nasci Laborare Mori”.

Through a quick Google search, I located an identical inscription in volumes 2 and 3 of a copy of Antonio de Guevara and Aegidius Albertinus, Der guldenen Sendtschreiben. Durch der. Hoffraths Secretarium Aegidium Albertinum, auss der Hispanischen in die Teutsche Sprach auffs fleissigst verwendt. München : Adam Berg, 1599 (vol. III), 1600 (vol. II) and 1607 (vol. I), property of the Basel antiquarian booksellers Erasmushaus.  Timur Yueksel of the firm kindly informed me that the inscription in their book was indeed written by the same hand and that the motto “Nasci Laborare Mori” corresponds to the family motto of the von Erlachs, a prominent family of politicians, administrators and military commanders of Bern in Switzerland.

In the booksellers’s online description of Der guldenen Sendtschreiben, “Ioannes Rodolphus ab Erlach” is identified with Johann Rudolf von Erlach of Hindelbank (1585-1643), seigneur of Riggisberg, Rümlingen, Champvent and La Molte, bailiff of Verdon in 1624, member of the Parliament of Burgundy in 1633, and colonel of the Bernese regiment in the French army in 1635. According to the Dictionnaire historique et biographique de la Suisse, however, the owner of CUL and Erasmushaus books could be identified also with the representative of another branch of the family, i.e. Johann Rudolf von Erlach (1577-1628), bailiff of Moudon in 1604 (see Dictionnaire historique et biographique de la Suisse, vol. 3, Neuchatel, 1926, pp. 6, 7).

CUL sammelband is bound in brown calfskin over pasteboards, with blind-tolled decoration.  The binding is datable to the early 16th century and appears to be the first. The rather amateurish tooling creates a pattern of flourished arches interspersed with fleurs-de-lis in rhomboid frames, with a square strapwork stamp along the edges.  The decoration is identical on both the upper and the lower cover.  The comparison with other Bernese bindings published in Johann Lindt, Berner Einbände Buchbinder und Buchdrucker Beiträge zur Buchkunde 15. bis 19. Jahrhundert. Bern : [1969], suggests that the binding of the Cambridge sammelband could also be Suisse (possibly from Bern ?).

There is another feature of the binding that could help us in the identification of its origin: the upper pastedown is a a parchment fragment from an 11th-century Breviary in Caroline script of northern origin (pasted up-side-down). Its text corresponds to readings for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, as Giacomo Baroffio kindly informs me.

We would be grateful for information regarding other books with corresponding ownership inscriptions, bindings decorated with comparable tools, and fragments from a similar manuscript in Caroline script used as binder waste in early 16th-century bindings of Swiss origin.

I wish to thank Dr Timur Yueksel of Erasmushaus, Dr Sabine Schlüter of  Universitätsbibliothek Bern, Dr Anthony Hobson and Prof. Giacomo Baroffio for their kind assistance and suggestions.

A Greek anthology printed in Florence, a Yiddish subscription and a German binder

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By , 6 November 2010 1:35 pm
The Cambridge University Library copy of the Anthologia Graeca Planudea pubblished by Janus Lascaris and printed by Laurentius (Francisci) de Alopa Venetus in Florence on 11 August 1494 (ISTC ia00765000) comes from the Sandars Collection, which is particularly rich in original and de-luxe bindings (SSS.60.10) .  This book retains its original binding too.

upper cover

lower cover

The cover is made a of quarter blind-tooled pigskin over bevelled wooden boards, with two stubs of fastening pigskin straps at fore-edge of lower board and channeling and nail holes for two lost catches at fore-edge of the upper board.  It is clearly German and datable to the end of the 15th or the beginning of the 16th century.

Upper guard

The parchment guards of the first and last gatherings A and KK are fragments from a 15th-century liturgical German manuscript in Gothic hand with rubrics and initials in red.

B1 recto

The margins bear some marginal manuscript notabilia both in Latin and Greek in cursive hand by a German reader of the early 16th century.

More intriguingly, the book is also inscribed with notes by different hands in Greek and Hebrew on the blank recto of its title page, i.e. leaf [A1] recto: a classical citation [?], an imploration to God, and a partly cropped note written by a less educated hand in the upper margin of the leaf.

A1 recto

This short note turned out to be the most interesting one.  Written in Yiddish in an Hebrew hand datable to the end of the 15th century, it reads “12 grozim Ingolstadt”, providing us with a price and the name of the German town in which the book was at the end of the 15th or the beginning of the 16th century (I am most grateful to my colleagues from the Geniza Project, and Dr Esther-Miriam Wagner in particular, who kindly helped me in reading and dating the Hebrew inscriptions).

Yiddish inscription

The cropping indicates that the note was written before the book was bound.  A quick provenance search for incunables from Ingolstadt in the BSB-Ink website (BSB-Ink, H-372) led to the discovery of another incunable bound in similar style and decorated with seemingly identical tools.  The book is a copy of Horatius’s Opera printed in Venice [by Philippus Pincius partly with Bevilaqua's types] and dated 13 July 1498 (ISTC ih00459000), now in the Bayerische StaatsBibliothek in Munich, 2 3652 m,  which was bound in Ingolstadt in the workshop of Johannes Ewring (for similar bindins in Ingolstadt, see E. Kyriss, Verzierte gotische Einbände im alten deutschen Sprachgebiet, 4 vols, Stuttgart, 1951-1958, no. 170).

The BSB-Ink record provides a link to a German Bindings Database, called Einbanddatenbank, with images and measures of all the tools used in Johannes Ewring’s workshop (EBDB w000030), six of which can also be found on the binding of the Greek anthology in Cambridge (Ewring’s tools).

K2 recto

According to the Einbanddatenbank, Johannes Ewring was active in Ingolstadt between 1475 and 1514.  One of the notabilia added by the German reader in Latin and Greek on the book margins of our anthology is dated “1513 die 2°” (leaf K2 recto), thus providing us with a certain “terminus ante quem” for the binding.

The book was therefore bound in Ingolstadt in the workshop of Johannes Ewring sometime between 1494, its printing date, and 1513, the date of the annotation.

Miriam also came up with an interesting idea: could the Yiddish inscription be a pawnshop remark?  Books were often used as pawn items within the Jewish community, and the Jewish lenders should therefore have been used to take books as pawn items from Christian customers.  If this was the case, the book must have been used as “collateral” in a lending transaction before the bookblock was cropped in preparation for its binding when part of the note in Yiddish was cut away.

It only befits the international nature of this book that international experts in Hebrew and Yiddish languages from the Geniza Project at Cambridge University Library, and international digital catalogues with images available on-line have made possible for me, and Italian incunabula cataloguer, to solve a little but intriguing busillis.