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CATHOLICON. (TEXT FROM THE OPENING OF THE SECTION ON THE LETTER "O")
[Mainz: Printer of the Catholicon (Johann Gutenberg?); Peter Schoeffer(?) for Konrad Humery(?), between 1460-72]. Already of intrinsic interest, this leaf from Gutenberg's "Catholicon" is extraordinarily attractive because of its historiation. While not as famous as its older brother, the 42-line (or "Gutenberg") Bible, the "Catholicon" is noted for being the first book to name its place of printing, and the first extensive work of a secular nature to be published. Compiled by the Dominican priest Johannes Balbus (or John of Genoa, d. ca. 1298), the text consists of a grammar and a dictionary of Medieval Latin, and treats the etymology of Latin terms in vogue during the Middle Ages. It was the first lexicographical work to be completely alphabetized. There were three impressions of the first edition, all with identical typesetting but distinguishable by the kind of paper used: the original 1460 version is either on vellum or Bull's Head paper, the 1469 second impression was printed on Galliziani paper, and the 1472 third impression was on Tower and Crown paper. Unfortunately, our leaf is from the half sheet without the watermark, and thus an exact date cannot be definitively determined. At the time, after a work like this had been printed, the type would have been distributed to be used for another book, and there would inevitably have been noticeable differences when it was reset for a later impression. The fact that the three impressions are identical is explained by Paul Needham, who has explained that our printer actually produced two-line slugs of cast type, and that these were used subsequently at two later times. This means that whenever our copy went through the press (in 1460, 1469, or 1472), it was printed on type that was produced ca. 1460. The prominent historiated initial here is a source of great pleasure, featuring a charming image of a tonsured and haloed monk with a slight smile on his face, holding a chalice and book. It opens the section of text that begins the letter "O," and it seems likely that similar decoration would have been found at the openings for other letters as well. Historiated initials like the one seen here were not normally employed in copies of the "Catholicon," or, for that matter, in very many books from this period, making this leaf a particularly special specimen.. 395 x 289 mm. (15 1/2 x 11 3/8"). Double column, 66 lines of text in gothic type. Secured in a mat with mounting tape along one vertical edge. Capitals struck in red, paragraph marks in red, numerous one-line initials in red, blue, or green, and A 10-LINE INTERLOCKING HISTORIATED INITIAL ENCLOSING A TONSURED AND HALOED MONK holding a book and a chalice filled with wine, the whole decorated with green vine-stems and red penwork. Goff B-20; BMC I, 39. Two small chips out of the red portion of the puzzle initial, one upper corner with diagonal dampstain not entering the text, minor soiling and a hint of moisture at one edge or another, but the leaf without major condition issues, and the delightful initial itself in a fine state of preservation.Already of intrinsic interest, this leaf from Gutenberg's "Catholicon" is extraordinarily attractive because of its historiation. While not as famous as its older brother, the 42-line (or "Gutenberg") Bible, the "Catholicon" is noted for being the first book to name its place of printing, and the first extensive work of a secular nature to be published. Compiled by the Dominican priest Johannes Balbus (or John of Genoa, d. ca. 1298), the text consists of a grammar and a dictionary of Medieval Latin, and treats the etymology of Latin terms in vogue during the Middle Ages. It was the first lexicographical work to be completely alphabetized. There were three impressions of the first edition, all with identical typesetting but distinguishable by the kind of paper used: the original 1460 version is either on vellum or Bull's Head paper, the 1469 second impression was printed on Galliziani paper, and the 1472 third impression was on Tower and Crown paper. Unfortunately, our leaf is from the half sheet without the watermark, and thus an exact date cannot be definitively determined. At the time, after a work like this had been printed, the type would have been distributed to be used for another book, and there would inevitably have been noticeable differences when it was reset for a later impression. The fact that the three impressions are identical is explained by Paul Needham, who has explained that our printer actually produced two-line slugs of cast type, and that these were used subsequently at two later times. This means that whenever our copy went through the press (in 1460, 1469, or 1472), it was printed on type that was produced ca. 1460. The prominent historiated initial here is a source of great pleasure, featuring a charming image of a tonsured and haloed monk with a slight smile on his face, holding a chalice and book. It opens the section of text that begins the letter "O," and it seems likely that similar decoration would have been found at the openings for other letters as well. Historiated initials like the one seen here were not normally employed in copies of the "Catholicon," or, for that matter, in very many books from this period, making this leaf a particularly special specimen.
      [Bookseller: Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books and Mediev]
Last Found On: 2017-11-09           Check availability:      ABAA    

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