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The Decoration of a 1486 Book Wrapper and its Reappearance in 1531

  • Rudolf Hirsch (a1)


The migration of woodblocks and the copying of illustrations in the early period of printing comprise an interesting, but by no means novel, field of study. Today, when we point proudly and somewhat monotonously to our ‘shrinking world', it is amusing to ponder how far, how easily, and at times how rapidly, news and ideas and art work traveled from one part of Europe to another, even in periods of history when communications and transportation were still primitive. Although the travels of the particular woodblock which is the subject of this article did not cover great distances, the comparatively long time which elapsed between its last hitherto known use and its reappearance is one of its puzzling aspects.



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1 Jackson, W. A., ‘Printed Wrappers of the Fifteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries’, Harvard Library Bulletin VI (1952), 313321 .

2 Baer, Leo, Holzschnitte auf Buchumschlägen (Strassburg, 1936, Einbhttdrucke des 15. Jahrhunderts, Bd. 90); Müller, Max, ‘Der alteste bisher bekannte Buchumschlag’, Festschrift fur Georg Leidinger (Munich, 1930), pp. 195197 , and plate XXV. Miiller dates the wrapper of the Chiromantia, assigned by some to the 1470s, ‘not before 1488’.

3 Leo Baer, op. cit., no. 2; O. Leuze, ‘Mit Holzschnitten verzierte Buchumschläge des 15. Jahrhunderts’, Festschrift fur Georg Leidinger, pp. 165-169, and plates XXI-XXII. The author is greatly indebted to his colleagues at the Landesbibliothek Stuttgart for providing an excellent photograph of the front cover corresponding to the exact measurements of the original.

4 Benzing, Joseph, Buchdmckerlexikon des 16. fahrhunderts (Frankfurt a.M., 1952), p. 12, no. 4.

5 Leo Baer, op. cit., no. 5. The Harvard copy, on Obertus de Horto's Lehenrecht, is reproduced in Mr. Jackson's article (see note 1) and on plate XXXVIII of the History of Bookbinding…An Exhibition … Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, 1957).

6 The identity of the two ornaments was established by superimposing the 1531 pomegranate detail (figure 6) on the 1486 ornament (figure 4).

7 ‘Ayn Buch-, Zwillich-, Leynwandt-, Wullener tucher- vnd Seydengewandt-Druckereyen, dozu ayn Papir Mulhe.’ Quoted from the contract between the city council of Zwickau and Hans Schonsperger the Younger, 25 June 1523, reprinted by Fabian, Ernst, ‘Die Einfiihrung des Buchdrucks in Zwickau,’ Mitteilungetides Altertumsvereinsfiir Zwickau VI (1899), 8284 .

8 Ernst Fabian, p. 45.

9 Benzing, Joseph, op. cit., p. 12 , no. 8, and p. 195, nos. 1-3; for further bibliographical references see the same author's Der Buchdruck des 16. Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1936, Zentralblatt für Bibliolhekswesen, Beiheft 66), p. 127, nos. 1286-1289.

10 ‘Holtzerne formen vnd modeln … [vnd] drey vnd zwantzigk hultzerne Modeln zu parchant, zwillich, Atlas vnd wullen tuch trucken.’ See Ernst Fabian, pp. 63-64 and 88-90.

11 Luther, Johann, ‘Der Besitzwechsel von Bildstöcken im Zeitalter der Reformation’, Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde (1902-1903), 132134


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