- Art Gallery -



Books about Books
Edited by A. W. Pollard

Early Illustrated Books

[Pg iii]


Early Illustrated Books

A History of the Decoration and
Illustration of Books in the
15th and 16th Centuries

By Alfred W. Pollard

Second Edition

Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd.
New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.

First Edition, 1893
Second Edition, revised and corrected
May 1917

The rights of translation and of reproduction are reserved

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This little book was written nearly a quarter of a century ago in the enthusiasm of a first acquaintance with a fascinating subject, and with an honest endeavour to see for myself as many as possible of the books I set out to describe. If I had tried to rewrite it now I might have made it more interesting to experts, but at the cost of destroying whatever merit it possesses as an introductory sketch. I have therefore been content to correct, as thoroughly as I could, its many small errors (not all of my own making), more especially those due to the ascription of books to impossible dates and printers, which before the publication of Robert Proctor's Index to the Early Printed Books in the British Museum, in 1898, was very difficult to avoid. In these emendations, and in getting the titles of foreign books into better form, I have had much kind help from Mr. Victor Scholderer of the British Museum. I am grateful also to Mr. E. Gordon Duff for his leave to use again the chapter on English Illustrated Books which he kindly wrote for me for the first edition.

A. W. P. [Pg vii]


Rubrishers and Illuminators 1
The Completion of the Printed Book 22
Germany—I. 37
Germany—II. 56
Italy—I. 79
Italy—II. 108
France 142
The French Books of Hours 174
Holland 195
Spain 209
England. By E. Gordon Duff 219
Index 249

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No point in the history of printing has been more rightly insisted on than that the early printers were compelled to make the very utmost of their new art in order to justify its right to exist. When a generation had passed by, when the scribes trained in the first half of the fifteenth century had died or given up the struggle, when printing-presses had invaded the very monasteries themselves, and clever boys no longer regarded penmanship as a possible profession, then, but not till then, printers could afford to be careless, and speedily began to avail themselves of their new license. In the early days of the art no such license was possible, and the striking similarity in the appearance of the printed books and manuscripts produced contemporaneously in any given city or district, is the best possible proof of the success with which the early printers competed with the most expert of the professional scribes.

All this is trite enough, but we are somewhat less[Pg 2] frequently reminded that, after some magnificent experiments by Fust and Schoeffer at Mainz, the earliest printers deliberately elected to do battle at first with the scribes alone, and that in the fifteenth century the scribes were very far, indeed, from being the only persons engaged in the production of books. The subdivision of labour is not by any means a modern invention; on the contrary, it is impossible to read a list of the medieval guilds in any important town without being struck with the minuteness of the sections into which some apparently quite simple callings were split up. Of this subdivision of labour, the complex art of book-production was naturally an instance. For a proof of this, we need go no further than the records of the Guild of St. John the Evangelist at Bruges, in which, according to Mr. Blades's quotation of the extracts made by Van Praet, members of at least fourteen branches of industry connected with the manufacture of books joined together for common objects. In the fifteenth century a book of devotions, commissioned by some wealthy book-lover, such as the Duke of Bedford, might be written by one man, have its rubrics supplied by another, its small initial letters and borders by a third, and then be sent to some famous miniaturist in France or Flanders for final completion. The scribe only supplied the groundwork, all the rest was added by other hands, and it was only with the scribe that the early printers competed.[Pg 3]

The restriction of their efforts to competition with the scribe alone, was not accepted by the first little group of printers until after some fairly exhaustive experiments. The interesting trial leaves, preserved in some copies of the 42-line Bible, differ from the rest not only in having their text compressed into two lines less, but also in having the rubrics printed instead of filled in by hand. Printing in two colours still involves much extra labour, and it was easier to supply the rubric by hand than to be at the pains of a second impression, even if this could be effected by the comparatively simple process of stamping. Except, therefore, in the trial leaves, the rubrics of the first Bible are all in manuscript. Peter Schoeffer, however, when he joined with the goldsmith Fust in the production of the magnificent Mainz Psalter of 1457, was not content to rely on the help of illuminators for his rubrics and capitals, or, as the disuse of the word majuscules makes it convenient to call them, initial letters. Accordingly, the Psalter appeared not only with printed rubrics, but with the magnificent B at the head of the first psalm, which has so often been copied, and some two hundred and eighty smaller initials, printed in blue and red.

Schoeffer's initial letters appear again in two editions of the Canon of the Mass attributed to 1458, in the Psalter of 1459, in the Rationale of Durandus of the same year, and in a Donatus printed in the type of the 1462 Bible. As Mr.[Pg 4] Duff has pointed out, in some sheets of this Bible itself the red initial letters are printed and the outline of the blue ones impressed in blank for the guidance of the illuminator in filling them in. Thereafter Schoeffer seems to have kept his initials for special occasions, as in the 35-line Donatus issued c. 1468, perhaps when he was starting business for himself, and in the antiquarian reprints of the Psalter in and after 1490. Doubtless he was sorry when he could no longer print in the colophon of a book that it was 'venustate capitalium decoratus, rubricationibusque sufficienter distinctus,' but while illuminators were still plentiful, handwork was probably the least expensive process of decoration. It is noteworthy, also, that Mr. Duff's discovery as regards the 1462 Bible brings us down to the beginning of those troublous three years in the history of Mainz, during which Fust and Schoeffer only printed 'Bulls and other such ephemeral publications.' When they resumed the printing of important works in 1465 with the Decretals of Boniface VIII. and the De Officiis of Cicero, Schoeffer was content to leave decoration to the illuminator. The firm's expenses were thus diminished, and purchasers were able to economise in the amount of decoration bestowed upon the copy they were buying. It is noteworthy, indeed, that even in 1459, when he was habitually using his printed initial letters, Schoeffer did not refuse customers this liberty, for while one of the copies of the Rationale Durandi at[Pg 5] the Bibliothèque Nationale has the initials printed, in the others they are illuminated by hand.

Very little attention has as yet been devoted to the study of the illumination and rubrication of printed books, and much patient investigation will be needed before we can attain any real knowledge of the relation of the illuminators to the early printers. Professor Middleton, in his work on Illuminated Manuscripts, had something to say on the subject, but the pretty little picture he drew of a scene in Gutenberg's (?) shop seems to have been rather hastily arrived at. 'The workshop,' he wrote, 'of an early printer included not only compositors and printers, but also cutters and founders of type, illuminators of borders and initials, and skilful binders, who could cover books with various qualities and kinds of binding. A purchaser in Gutenberg's shop, for example, of his magnificent Bible in loose sheets, would then have been asked what style of illumination he was prepared to pay for, and then what kind of binding, and how many brass bosses and clasps he wished to have.' What evidence there is on the subject hardly favours the theory which Professor Middleton thus boldly stated as a fact. The names we know in connection with the decoration of the 42-line Bible are those of Heinrich Cremer, vicar of the Church of St. Stephen at Mainz, who rubricated, illuminated, and bound the paper copy now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, and Johann Fogel, a well-known binder of the time,[Pg 6] whose stamps are found on no fewer than three of the extant copies of this Bible. We have no reason to believe that either Cremer or Fogel was employed in the printer's shop, so that as regards the particular book which he instances, it is hard to see on what ground Professor Middleton built his assertion.

As regards Schoeffer's practice after 1462, the evidence certainly points to the majority of his books having been rubricated before they left his hands, but the variety of the styles in the copies I have seen, especially in those on vellum, forbids my believing that they were all illuminated in a single workshop. A copy in the British Museum of his 1471 edition of the Constitutions of Pope Clement V. presents us with an instance, rather uncommon in a printed book, though not infrequently found in manuscripts, of an elaborate border and miniatures, sketched out in pencil and prepared for gilding, but never completed. The book could hardly have been sold in this condition, and would not have been returned so from any illuminator's workshop. We must conjecture that it was sold unilluminated to some monastery, where its decoration was begun by one of the monks, but put aside for some cause, and never finished.

The utmost on this subject that we can say at present is that as a printer would depend for the sale of his books in the first place on the inhabitants of the town in which he printed, and as these would be[Pg 7] most likely to employ an illuminator from the same place, the predominant style of decoration in any book is likely to be that of the district in which it was printed, and if we find the same style predominant in a number of books this may give us a clue to connect them altogether, or to distinguish them from some other group. In this way, for instance, it is possible that some light may be thrown on the question whether the 36-line Bible was finished at Bamberg or at Mainz. Certainly the clumsy, heavy initials in the British Museum copy are very unlike those which occur in Mainz books, and if this style were found to predominate in other copies we should have an important piece of new evidence on a much debated question. But our knowledge that Schoeffer had an agency for the sale of his books as far off from the place of their printing as Paris, the Italian character of the illuminations added to some of his books, and the occurrence of a note in a book printed in Italy that the purchaser could not wait to have it illuminated there, but entrusted it to a German artist on his return home, may suffice to warn us against any rash conclusion in the present very meagre state of our knowledge.

Apart from the question as to where they were executed, the illuminations in books printed in Germany are not, as a rule, very interesting. Germany was not the home of fine manuscripts during the fifteenth century, and her printed books depend for their beauty on the rich effect of their gothic types,[Pg 8] their good paper and handsome margins, rather than on the accessories added by hand. The attempts of the more ambitious miniaturists to depict, within the limits of an initial, St. Jerome translating the Bible or David playing on the harp, are, for the most part, clumsy and ill-drawn. On the other hand, fairly good scroll-work of flowers and birds is not uncommon. As a rule it surrounds the whole page of text, but in some cases an excellent effect is produced by the stem of the design being brought up between the two columns of a large page, branching out at either end so as to cover the upper and lower margins, those at the sides being left bare. It may be mentioned that much good scroll-work is found on paper copies, the vellum used in early German books being usually coarse and brown, and sometimes showing the imperfections of the skin by holes as large as a filbert, so that it was employed apparently, chiefly for its greater resistance to wear and tear, rather than as a luxurious refinement, as was the case in Italy and France. An extreme instance of the superiority of a paper copy to one on vellum may be found by comparing the coarsely-rubricated 42-line Bible in the Grenville Collection at the British Museum with the very prettily illuminated copy of the same book in the King's Library. The Grenville copy is on vellum, the King's on paper; but my own preference has always been for the latter. Even in Germany, however, good vellum books were sometimes produced, for[Pg 9] the printers endeavoured to match the skins fairly uniformly throughout a volume, and a book-lover of taste would not be slow to pick out the best copy. The finest German vellum book with which I am acquainted is the Lamoignon copy of the 1462 Bible, now in the British Museum. This was specially illuminated for a certain Conradus Dolea, whose name and initials are introduced into the lower border on the first page of the second volume. The scroll-work is excellent, and the majority of the large initials are wisely restricted to simple decorative designs. Only in a few cases, as at the beginning of the Psalms, where David is as usual playing his harp, is the general good taste which marks the volume disturbed by clumsy figure-work.

In turning from the illuminations of the first German books to those printed by Jenson and Vindelinus de Spira at Venice we are confronted with an interesting discovery, first noted by the Vicomte Delaborde in his delightful book La Gravure en Italie avant Marc-Antoine (p. 252), carried a little further in the Bibliographie des Livres à figures Venitiens, written by the Prince d'Essling when he was Duc de Rivoli, then greatly extended by the researches of Dr. Paul Kristeller, some of the results of which, when as yet unpublished, he kindly communicated to me, and finally summed up in the Prince d'Essling's magnificent work, Les Livres à figures Venitiens. In a considerable number—the list given me by Dr. Kristeller enumerated about forty—of[Pg 10] the works published by Jenson and Vindelinus, from 1469 to 1473, the work of the illuminator has been facilitated in some copies by the whole or a portion of his design having been first stamped for him from a block. The evidence of this stamping is partly in the dent made in the paper or vellum, partly in the numerous little breaks in the lines where the block has not retained the ink; but I was myself lucky enough to find in the Grenville copy of the Virgil printed at Venice by Bartholomaeus de Cremona in 1472, an uncoloured example of this stamped work, which was reproduced in Bibliographica, and subsequently by the Prince d'Essling. A copy of the Pliny of 1469 in the Bibliothèque Nationale, illuminated by means of this device, has an upper and inner border of the familiar white elliptical interlacements on a gold and green ground. In the centre of the lower border is a shield supported by two children, and at the feet of each child is a rabbit. The outer border shows two cornucopias on a green and gold ground. The upper and inner borders are repeated again in the Livy and Virgil of 1470, in the Valerius Maximus of 1471, and in the Rhetorica of George of Trebizond of 1472. In this last book it is joined with another border, first found in the De Officiis of Cicero of the same year. All these books proceeded from the press of Johannes and Vindelinus de Spira. A quite distinct set of borders are found in Jenson's edition of Cicero's Epistolae ad Familiares of 1471; but in an article[Pg 11] in the Archivio Storico delle Arti Dr. Kristeller showed that the lower border of the Pliny of 1469, described above, occurs again in a copy of the De Evangelica Praeparatione, printed by Jenson in 1470. The apparent distinction of the blocks used in the books of the two firms is thus broken down, and in face of the rarity of the copies thus decorated in comparison with those illuminated by hand, or which have come down to us with their blank spaces still unfilled, it seems impossible to maintain that either the preliminary engraving or the illumination was done in the printer's workshop. We should rather regard the engraving as a labour-saving device employed by some master illuminator to whom private purchasers sent the books they had purchased from the De Spiras or Jenson for decoration. No instance has as yet been found of a book printed after 1473 being illuminated in this way.[1]

Apart from the special interest of these particular borders, the illumination in early Italian books is almost uniformly graceful and beautiful. Interlacements, oftenest of white upon blue, sometimes of gold upon green, are the form of ornament most commonly met with. Still prettier than these are[Pg 12] the floral borders, tapering off into little stars of gold. Elaborate architectural designs are also found, but these, as a rule, are much less pleasing. In the majority of the borders of all three classes a shield, of the graceful Italian shape, is usually introduced, sometimes left blank, sometimes filled in with the arms of the owner. More often than not this shield is enclosed in a circle of green bay leaves. The initial letters are, as a rule, purely decorative, the designs harmonising with the borders. In some instances they consist simply of a large letter in red or blue, without any surrounding scroll-work. We must also note that in some copies of books from the presses of the German printers at Rome we find large initial letters in red and blue, distinctly German in their design, the work, possibly, of the printers themselves.

Germany and Italy are the only two countries in which illumination plays an important part in the decoration of early books. In England, where the Wars of the Roses had checked the development of a very promising native school of illuminators, the use of colour in printed books is almost unknown. The early issues from Caxton's press, before he began to employ printed initials, are either left with their blanks unfilled, or rubricated in the plainest possible manner. In France, the scholastic objects of the press at the Sorbonne, and the few resources of the printers who succeeded it during the next seven or eight years, at first forbade any[Pg 13] serious competition with the splendid manuscripts which were then being produced. In Holland and Spain woodcut initials, which practically gave the death-blow to illumination as a necessary adjunct of a book, were introduced almost simultaneously with the use of type.

So far we have considered illumination merely as a means of completing in a not immoderately expensive manner the blanks left by the earliest printers. We may devote a few pages to glancing at the subsequent application of the art to the decoration of special copies intended for presentation to a patron, or commissioned by a wealthy book-lover. The preparation of such copies was practically confined to France and Italy. A copy on vellum of the Great Bible of 1540, presented to Henry VIII. by his 'loving, faithfull and obedient subject and daylye oratour, Anthony Marler of London, Haberdassher,' has the elaborate woodcut title-page carefully painted over by hand, but this is almost the only English book of which I can think in which colour was thus employed. In Germany its use was only too common, but for popular, not for artistic work, for at least two out of every three early German books with woodcut illustrations have the cuts garishly painted over in the rudest possible manner, to the great defacement of the outlines, which we would far rather see unobscured. It is tempting, indeed, to believe that in many cases this deplorable addition must have been the work of the 'domestic'[Pg 14] artist; it is certainly rare to find an instance in which it in any way improves the underlying cut.

In France and Italy, on the other hand, the early printers were confronted by many wealthy book-lovers, accustomed to manuscripts adorned with every possible magnificence, and in a few instances they found it worth while to cater for their tastes. For this purpose they employed the most delicate vellum (very unlike the coarse material used by the Germans for its strength) decorating the margins with elaborate borders, and sometimes prefixing a coloured frontispiece. In France this practice was begun by Guillaume Fichet and Jean Heynlyn, the managers of the press at the Sorbonne. Several magnificent copies of early Sorbonne books—so sober in their ordinary dress—are still extant, to which Fichet has prefixed a large miniature representing himself in his clerical garb presenting a copy of the book to the Pope, to our own Edward IV., to Cardinal Bessarion, or to other patrons. In some cases he also prefixed a specially printed letter of dedication, thereby rendering the copy absolutely unique. Some twenty years later this practice of preparing special copies for wealthy patrons was resumed by Antoine Vérard, whose enterprise has bequeathed to the Bibliothèque Nationale a whole row of books thus specially decorated for Charles VIII., and to the British Museum a no less splendid set commissioned by Henry VII. Nor were Vérard's[Pg 15] patrons only found among kings, for a record still exists of four books thus ornamented by him for Charles d'Angoulême, at a total cost of over two hundred livres, equivalent to rather more than the same number of pounds sterling of our present money.

Vérard's methods of preparing these magnificent volumes were neither very artistic nor very honest. The miniatures are thickly painted, so that an underlying woodcut, on quite a different subject, was sometimes utilised to furnish the artist with an idea for the grouping of the figures. Thus a cut from Ovid's Metamorphoses, representing Saturn devouring his children and a very unpleasing figure of Venus rising from the sea, was converted into a Holy Family by painting out the Venus and reducing Saturn's cannibal embrace to an affectionate fondling. This process of alteration and painting out was also employed by Vérard to conceal the fact that these splendid copies were often not of his own publication, but commissioned by him from other publishers. Thus Henry VII.'s copy of L'Examen de Conscience has the colophon, in which it is stated to have been printed for Pierre Regnault of Rouen, rather carelessly erased, and in Charles VIII.'s copy of the Compost et Kalendrier des Bergers (1493)[2] Guiot Marchant's device has been[Pg 16] concealed by painting over it the royal arms, while the colophon in which his name appears has been partly erased, partly covered over by a painted copy of Vérard's well-known device. Vérard's borders, also, are as a rule heavy, consisting chiefly of flowers and arabesques arranged in clumsy squares or lozenges. Altogether these princely volumes are perhaps rather magnificent than in good taste.

The custom of illuminating the cuts in vellum books was not practised only by Vérard. Almost all the French publishers of Books of Hours resorted to it—at first, while the illumination was carefully done, with very splendid effect, afterwards to the utter ruin of the beautiful designs which the colour concealed. Under Francis I. illumination seems to have revived, for we hear of a vellum copy of the De Philologia of Budæus, printed by Ascensius (1532), having its first page of text enclosed in a rich border in which appear the arms of the dukes of Orleans and Angoulême to whom it was dedicated. In another work by Budæus (himself a book-lover as well as a scholar), the De Transitu Hellenismi, printed by Robert Estienne in 1535, the portrait and arms of Francis I. are enclosed in another richly illuminated border, and the King's arms are painted in other books printed about this time. In a vellum copy of a French Bible printed by Jean de Tournes at Lyons in 1557, there are over three hundred miniatures, and borders to every page. Even by[Pg 17] the middle of the seventeenth century the use of illumination had not quite died out in France, though it adds nothing to the beauty of the tasteless works then issued from the French presses. One of the latest instances in which I have encountered it is in a copy presented to Louis XIV. of La Lyre du Jeune Apollon, ou la Muse naissante du Petit de Beauchasteau (Paris, 1657); in this the half-title is surrounded by a wreath of gold, and surmounted by a lyre, the title is picked out in red, blue, and gold, and the headpieces and tailpieces throughout the volume are daubed over with colour. By the expenditure of a vast amount of pains, a dull book is thus rendered both pretentious and offensive.

In Italy, the difference between ordinary copies of early books and specially prepared ones, is bridged over by so many intermediate stages of decoration that we are obliged to confine our attention to one or two famous examples of sumptuous books. The Italian version of Pliny, made by Cristoforo Landino and printed by Jenson in 1476, exists in such a form as one of the Douce books (No. 310) in the Bodleian Library. This copy has superb borders at the beginning of each book, and is variously supposed to have been prepared for Ferdinand II., King of Naples, and for a member of the Strozzi family of Florence, the arms of both being frequently introduced into the decoration. Still more superb are the three vellum copies of Giovanni Simoneta's Historia delle cose facte dallo invictissimo Duca Francesco Sforza,[Pg 18] translated (like the Pliny) by Cristoforo Landino, and printed by Antonio Zarotto at Milan in 1490. These copies were prepared for members of the Sforza family, portraits of whom are introduced in the borders. The decoration is florid, but superb of its kind, and provoked Dibdin to record his admiration of the copy now in the Grenville Library as 'one of the loveliest of membranaceous jewels' it had ever been his fortune to meet with. For many years in a case devoted to specimens of illuminated printed books in the King's Library the British Museum used to exhibit vellum copies of the Aldine Martial of 1501, and Catullus of 1502, and side by side with them, printed respectively just twelve years later, and also on vellum, an Aulus Gellius and Plautus presented by Giunta, the Florentine rival of Aldus, to the younger Lorenzo de' Medici.

The use of illumination in printed books was a natural and pleasing survival of the glories of the illuminated manuscript. Its discontinuance was in part a sign of health as testifying to the increased resources of the printing press; in part a symptom of the carelessness as to the form of books which by the end of the seventeenth century had become well-nigh universal throughout Europe. So long as a few rich amateurs cared for copies of their favourite authors printed on vellum, and decorated by the hands of skilful artists, a high standard of excellence was set up which influenced the whole of the[Pg 20] book-trade, and for this reason the revival of the use of vellum in our own day may perhaps be welcomed. It may be noted that the especially Italian custom of introducing the arms of the owner into the majority of illuminated designs left its trace in the blank shields which so frequently form the centre of the printed borders in Italian books from 1490 to 1520. Theoretically these shields were intended to be filled in with the owner's arms in colour, but they are more often found blank. Two examples of their use are here shown, one from the upper border of the Calendar, printed at Venice in 1476 (the first book with an ornamental title-page), the other from the lower border of the first page of text of the Trabisonda Istoriata, printed also at Venice in 1494. We may note also that the parallel custom of inserting the arms of the patron to whom a book was dedicated was carried on in Spain in a long series of title-pages, in which the arms of the patron form the principal feature.

From the Calendar of 1476.

From La Trabisonda Historiata of 1494.

In England, also, a patron's coat was sometimes printed as one of the decorations of a book. Thus on the third leaf of the first edition of the Golden Legend there is a large woodcut of a horse galloping past a tree, the device of the Earl of Arundel, the patron to whom Caxton owed his yearly fee of a buck in summer and a doe in winter. So, too, in the Morton Missal, printed by Pynson in 1500, the Morton arms occupy a full page at the beginning of the book. Under Elizabeth and James I. the practice became[Pg 21] fairly common. In some cases where the leaf thus decorated has become detached, the arms have all the appearance of an early book-plate, and the Bagford example of Sir Nicholas Bacon's plate has endured suspicions on this account. In this instance, however, the fortunate existence of a slight flaw in the block, which occurs also in the undoubtedly genuine gift-plate of 1574, offers a strong argument in favour of its having been in the possession of Sir Nicholas himself, and therefore presumably used by him as a mark of possession.

[1] In a copy of the edition of Suetonius, printed by Sweynheym and Pannartz at Rome in 1470, which belonged to William Morris, and is now in the Morgan collection at New York, there are nine excellent woodcut capitals used with a handsome border-piece, which do not appear in other examples. Dr. Lippmann found similar decorations in the 1465 edition of Lactantius, printed at Subiaco by the same firm. In this case the blocks probably belonged to the printers, but were used to decorate only a few copies.

[2] A full description of this copy will be found in Dr. Sommer's introduction to the facsimile and reprint of the English translations of Paris, 1503, and London, 1506 (Kegan Paul, 1892).

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As we have seen, the typical book during the first quarter of a century of the history of printing is one in which the printer supplied the place of the scribe and of the scribe alone. An appreciable, though not a very large, percentage of early books have come down to us in the exact state in which they issued from the press, with a blank space at their beginning for an illumination, blanks for the initial letters, blanks for the chapter headings, no head-lines, no title-page, no pagination, and no signatures to guide the binder in arranging the sheets in the different gatherings. Our task in the present chapter is to trace briefly the history of the emancipation of the printer from his dependence on handwork for the completion of his books. We shall not expect to find this emancipation effected step by step in any orderly progression. Innovations, the utility of which seems to us obvious and striking, occur as if by hazard in an isolated book, are then abandoned even by the printer who started them, and subsequently reappear in a number of books printed about the same time at different places, so that it is impossible to fix the chronology of the revived fashion.[Pg 23]

We have already noted how the anxiety of the earliest Mainz printers to rival at the very outset the best manuscripts with which they were acquainted, led them to anticipate improvements which were not generally adopted till many years afterwards. Among these we must not reckon the[Pg 24] use for the rubrics or chapter headings of red ink, which appears in the trial leaves of the 42-line Bible, and was to a greater or less extent employed by Schoeffer in most of his books. Although red ink has appeared sporadically, and still does so, on the title-page of a book here or there, more especially on those which make some pretence to sumptuousness, its use in the fifteenth century was a survival, not an anticipation. For legal and liturgical works it was long considered essential; for other books the expense of the double printing which it involves soon brought it into disfavour and has kept it there ever since.

example use of red ink and shield device printer's mark in the appendix to the colophon of Shoeffer's Bible of 1642

The use of a colophon, or crowning paragraph, at the end of a book, to give the information now contained on our title-pages, dates from the Mainz Psalter of 1457, and was continued by Schoeffer in most of his books. A colophon occurs also in the Catholicon of 1460, though it does not mention the printer's name (almost certainly Gutenberg). There is an admirably full one in rhyming couplets (set out as prose) to Pfister's Buch der vier Historien von Joseph, Daniel, Esther, und Judith, and the brothers Bechtermüntze, who printed the Vocabularius ex quo at Eltvil in 1467, are equally explicit. In many cases, however, no colophon of any sort appears, and the year and place of publication have to be deduced from the information given in other books printed in the same types, or from the chance entry by a purchaser or rubricator of the date at which the book came into or left his hands. We may claim[Pg 25] colophons as part of the subject of this book, because they early received decorative treatment. Schoeffer prints them, as a rule, in his favourite red ink, and it was as an appendix to the colophon that the printer's device first made its appearance. Schoeffer's well-known shields occur in this connection in his Bible of 1462. No other instance of a device is known until about 1470, when they became common, some printers, like Arnold ther Hoernen of Cologne, and Colard Mansion of Bruges, imitating Schoeffer in the modest size of their badges, while others, among whom some Dutch printers are prominent, made their emblem large enough, if need be, to decorate a whole page.

Of Schoeffer's coloured capitals enough has already been said. Woodcut initials for printing in outline, the outline being intended to be coloured by hand, were used by Günther Zainer at Augsburg at least as early as 1471, and involved him in a controversy to which we shall allude in our next chapter. Their use spread slowly, for it was about this date that the employment of hand-painted initials was given a fresh lease of life, by the introduction of the printed 'director,' or small letter, indicating to the illuminator the initial he was required to supply. The director had been used by the scribes, and in early printed books is frequently found in manuscript. It was, of course, intended to be painted over, but the rubrication of printed books was so carelessly executed that it often appears in the open[Pg 26] centre of the coloured letter. In so far as it delayed the introduction of woodcut letters, this ingenious device was a step backward rather than an improvement.

In the order of introduction, the next addition to a printer's stock-in-trade which we have to chronicle is the use of woodcut illustrations. These were first employed by Albrecht Pfister, who in 1461 was printing at Bamberg. Like Schoeffer's coloured initials, Pfister's illustrated books form an incident apart from the general history of the development of the printed book, and it will be convenient, therefore, to give them a brief notice here, rather than to place them at the head of our next chapter. They are six in number, or, if we count different editions separately, nine, of which only two have dates, viz.: one of the two editions of Boner's Edelstein, dated 1461, and the Buch der vier Historien von Joseph, Daniel, Esther, und Judith, dated 1462, with Pfister's name in the rhyming colophon already alluded to. The undated books are another edition of the Edelstein; the Belial seu consolatio peccatorum; a Biblia Pauperum; two closely similar editions of this in German; two editions of the Rechtstreit des Menschen mit dem Tode, also called Gespräch zwischen einem Wittwer und dem Tode. Attention was first drawn to these books by the Pastor Jacob August Steiner of Augsburg in 1792, and when the volume which he described was brought to the Bibliothèque Nationale, with other[Pg 27] spoils from Germany, a learned Frenchman, Camus, read a paper on them before the Institute in 1799. The three tracts which the volume contained were restored to the library at Wolfenbüttel in 1815, but the Bibliothèque has since acquired another set of three and a separate edition of the German Biblia Pauperum. The only other copies known are those in the Spencer Collection, one of the Belial at Nuremberg, and a unique example of the undated Edelstein at Berlin.[3]

These four books contain altogether no less than 201 cuts, executed in clumsy outline. One hundred and one of these cuts belong to the Edelstein, a collection of German fables written before 1330. The book which contains them is a small folio of 28 leaves, and with a width of page larger by a fourth than the size of the cuts. To fill this gap, Pfister introduced on the left of the illustration a figure of a man. In the dated copy, in which the cuts are more worn, this figure is the same throughout the book; in the undated there are differences in the man's headgear, and in the book or tablet he is holding, constituting three different variations. In the Buch der vier Historien the cuts number 55, six of which, however, are repeated, making 61 impressions. In the impossibility of obtaining access to the originals, while the Spencer Collection was in the course of removal, the careful copy of one of these, made for Camus in 1799, was chosen for repro[Pg 28]duction as likely to be less familiar than the illustrations from Pfister's other books given by Dibdin in his Bibliotheca Spenceriana. The subject is the solemn sacrifice of a lamb at Bethulia after Judith's murder of Holofernes. The Biblia Pauperum is in three editions, two in German, the third in Latin; each consists of 17 printed leaves, with a large cut formed of five separate blocks illustrating different subjects, but joined together as a whole, on each page.

From Pfister's Buch der vier Historien.

The last book of Pfister's we have to notice, the Complaint of the Widower against Death, is probably earlier than either of his dated ones. It contains 24 leaves, with five full-page cuts, showing (1) Death on his throne, and the widower and his little son in mourning; (2) Death and the widower, with a pope, a noble, and a monk vainly offering Death gold; (3) two figures of Death (one mounted) pursuing their victims; (4) Death on his throne, with two lower compartments representing monks at a cloister gate, and women walking with a child in a fair garden,—this to symbolise the widower's choice between remarriage and retiring to a monastery; (5) the widower appearing before Christ, who gives the verdict against him, since all mortals must yield their bodies to Death and their souls to God. The cuts in this book are larger and bolder than the other specimens of Pfister's work which we have noticed, but they are rude enough.

title page by Arnold ther Hoernen of Cologne

After the introduction of woodcut illustrations,[Pg 30] the next innovation with which we have to concern ourselves is the adoption of the title-page. What may be called accidental title-pages are found on both the Latin and the German edition of a Bull of Pope Pius II. printed by Fust and Schoeffer in 1463. After this Arnold ther Hoernen of Cologne appears to have been the first printer lavish enough to devote a whole page to prefixing a title to a book. A facsimile is here given, from which we see that this 'sermon preachable on the feast of the presentation of the most blessed Virgin' was printed in 1470 at the outset of ther Hoernen's career. The printer, however, seems to have understood no better than Schoeffer the commercial advantage of what he was doing, and the next title-page which has to be chronicled is another of the same kind, reading the 'Tractatulus compendiosus per modum dyalogi timidis | ac deuotis viris editus instruens non plus curam | de pullis et carnibus habere suillis quam quo modo | verus deus et homo qui in celis est digne tractetur. | Ostendens insuper etiam salubres manuductiones quibus | minus dispositus abilitetur,' etc. What we may call the business title of this book is much more sensibly set forth in the brief colophon: 'Explicit exhortacio de celebratione misse per modum dyalogi inter pontificem et sacerdotem, Anno Lxxʓ,' &c. Still, here also, the absence of an incipit, and of any following text must be taken as constituting a title-page. Three years later two Augsburg printers, Bernardus 'pictor' and Erhardus[Pg 32] Ratdolt, who had started a partnership in Venice with Petrus Löslein of Langenzenn in Bavaria, produced the first artistic title-page as yet discovered. This appears in all the three editions of a Calendar which they issued in Latin and Italian in 1476, and in German in 1478. The praises of the Calendar are sung in twelve lines of verse, beginning in the Latin edition:—

Aureus hic liber est: non est preciosior ulla Gemma kalendario quod docet istud opus. Aureus hic numerus; lune solisque labores Monstrantur facile: cunctaque signa poli.

Then follows the date, then the names of the three printers in red ink. This letterpress is surrounded by a border in five pieces, the uppermost of which shows a small blank shield (see p. 19), while on the two sides skilfully conventionalised foliage is springing out of two urns. The two gaps between these and the printers' names are filled up by two small blocks of tracery. It is noteworthy that this charming design was employed by printers from Augsburg, the city in which wood-engraving was first seriously employed for the decoration of printed books. But the design itself is distinctly Italian in its spirit, not German.

Like its two predecessors, the title-page of 1476 was a mere anticipation, and was not imitated. The systematic development of the title-page begins in the early part of the next decade, when the custom[Pg 33] of printing the short title of the book on a first page, otherwise left blank, came slowly into use.[4] The two earliest appearances of these label title-pages in England are (1) in 'A passing gode lityll boke necessarye & behouefull agenst the Pestilens,' by 'Canutus, Bishop of Aarhus,' printed by Machlinia, probably towards the close of his career [1486-90?]; and (2) in one of the earliest works printed by Wynkyn de Worde, Caxton's foreman, after his master's death. Here, in the centre of the first page, we find a three-line paragraph reading:

The prouffytable boke for mañes soule And right comfortable to the body and specially in aduersitee & tribulation, which boke is called The Chastysynge of goddes Chyldern.

Other countries were earlier than England both in the adoption of the label title-page and in filling the blank space beneath the title with some attempt at ornament. In France the ornament usually took the form of a printer's mark, more rarely of an illustration; in Italy and Germany usually of an illustration, more rarely of a printer's mark. Until the first quarter of the sixteenth century was drawing to a close the colophon still held its place at the end of the book as the chief source of information as to the printer's name and place and date of publication. The author's name, also, was often[Pg 34] reserved for the colophon, or hidden away in a preface or dedicatory letter. Title-pages completed according to the fashion which, until the antiquarian revival by William Morris of the old label form, has ever since held sway, do not become common till about 1520.

Perhaps the chief reason why the convenient custom of the title-page spread so slowly was that soon after 1470 the Augsburg printers began to imitate in woodcuts the elaborate borders with which the illuminators had been accustomed to decorate the first page of the text of a manuscript or early printed book. When they first appear these woodcut borders grow out of the initial letter with which the text begin, and extend only over part of the upper and inner margins. In other instances, however, they completely surround the first page of text, and this is nearly always the case with the very beautiful borders which are found, towards the close of the century, in many books printed in Italy. In these they are mostly preceded by a 'label' title-page. The use of borders to surround every page of text was practically confined[5] to books of devotion, notably the Books of Hours, whose wonderful career began in 1487 and lasted for upwards of half a century. Head-pieces are found in a few books, chiefly Greek, printed at Venice towards the close of the fifteenth century. In the absence of[Pg 35] any previous investigations on the subject, it is dangerous to attempt to say where tail-pieces first occur, but their birthplace was probably France.

Pagination and head-lines are said to have been first used by Arnold ther Hoernen at Cologne in 1470 and 1471; printed signatures by John Koelhoff at the same city in 1472. The date of Koelhoff's book, an edition of Nider's Expositio Decalogi, has been needlessly held to be a misprint, though it is a curious coincidence that we find signatures stamped by hand in one edition of Franciscus de Platea's De restitutionibus, Venice, 1473, and printed close to the text in the normal way in another edition issued at Cologne the following year. None of these small matters have any direct bearing on the decoration of books, but they are of interest to us as pointing to the printer's gradual emancipation from his long dependence on the help of the scribe. It is perhaps worth while, for the same reason, to take as a landmark Günther Zainer's 1473 edition of the De regimine principum of Aegidius Columna. This book is possessed of printed head-lines, chapter headings, paragraph marks, and large and small initial letters. From first page to last it is untouched by the hand of the rubricator, and shows that Zainer at any rate had won his independence within five years of setting up his press. Curiously enough, to this particular specimen of his work he did not give his name, though it is duly dated.

[3] A leaf of the Rechtstreit is in the Taylorian Institute at Oxford.

[4] It may be noted that in a few books, alike in Germany, Italy, and France, issued about 1490, a label title is printed on the back of the last leaf, either instead of, or in addition to, that on the recto of the first.

[5] They are found also in some Books of Emblems, and in a few books printed at Lyons in the middle of the sixteenth century.

[Pg 36]

From Ptolemy's Cosmographia, Ulm, 1482.

[Pg 37]



In the fifteenth century Augsburg was one of the chief centres in Germany for card-making and woodcut pictures. The cutters were jealous of their privileges, and when, in 1471, Günther Zainer, a native of Reutlingen, who had been printing in their town for some years (his first book was issued in March 1468), asked for admission to the privileges of a burgher, they not only opposed him, but demanded that he should be forbidden to print woodcuts in his books. The abbot of SS. Ulric and Afra, Melchior de Stamheim, who subsequently set up presses of his own, procured a compromise, and Günther was allowed to employ woodcuts freely, so long as they were cut by authorised cutters.

From Ingold's Guldin Spiel, Augsburg, 1472.

Zainer's first dated book with illustrations is a translation of the Legenda Aurea of Jacobus de Voragine, with a small cut prefacing each of the two hundred and thirty-four biographies. The first part of this was finished in October 1471, and the second in April 1472. In 1472 came also two editions of the Belial or 'processus Luciferi contra Jesum Christum,' in which thirty-two cuts help the under[Pg 38]standing of the extraordinary text, and to the same year belongs Ingold's Das guldin Spiel, a wonderful work, in which the seven deadly sins are illustrated from seven games. As a copy of this book is available, which has had the good fortune to escape the colourist, one of its twelve cuts—that showing card-playing, with which an Augsburg woodcutter would be especially familiar—is here reproduced. The face of the man at the far end of the table is perhaps the most expressive piece of drawing in all the series. In 1473 Zainer printed for the Abbot of SS. Ulric and Afra a Speculum Humanae Salvationis, with numerous Biblical woodcuts. He also issued two editions in 1473 and 1477 of a Bible, with large initial letters, into each of which is introduced a little picture. At the end of the second of these editions he adds the fine device, shown on p. 40, which it is strange that he should not have used more often. In 1474 he printed an account of the supposed murder of a small boy, named Simon, by the Jews, illustrated with some quite vivid pictures, and to about this time belongs his finest work, an undated edition of the Speculum Humanae Vitae, full of numerous delightful cuts illustrating various trades and callings. In 1477 he illustrated a German edition of the moralisation of the game of Chess by Jacobus de Cessolis, of which Caxton had helped to print an English version a year or two before.

Device of Günther Zainer.

During the ten or twelve years of his activity at[Pg 40] Augsburg, which was brought to a close by his death in 1478, Günther Zainer printed probably at least a hundred works, of which about twenty, mostly either religious or, according to the ideas of the time, amusing, have illustrations. Of the works printed during the second half of his career, the majority have woodcut initials, large or small, and a few also woodcut borders to the first page. The initials (which sometimes only extend through a part of a book, blanks being left when the stock failed), if seen by themselves, are rather clumsy,[Pg 41] but harmonise well with the remarkably heavy gothic type which Zainer chiefly used during this period of his career. If his engraved work cannot be praised as highly artistic, it was at least plentiful and bold, and admirably adapted for the popular books in which it mostly appeared.

Johann Bämler, who during twenty years from 1472 printed a long list of illustrated books at Augsburg, can hardly have set much store by originality, for in several of these, e.g. the Belial (1473), the Plenarium (1474), the Legenda Sanctorum, &c., the cuts are wholly or mainly copied from those in editions previously issued by Zainer.

Bämler began his own career as an illustrator with some frontispieces, as we may call them, which come after the table of contents, and facing the first page of text in the Summa Confessorum of Johannes Friburgensis, the Goldenen Harfen of Nider, and others of his early books. In 1474 he issued the first of his three editions of the Buch von den Sieben Todsünden und den Sieben Tugenden. The 'Sins and Virtues' are personified as armed women riding on various animals, with various symbolical devices on their shields, banners, and helmets. But the ladies' faces are all very much alike, and the armorial symbolism is so recondite, that a considerable acquaintance with medieval 'Bestiaries' would be required to decipher it. Far better than this conventional work are the cuts in the Buch der Natur, printed by Bämler in the next year. This is a[Pg 42] fourteenth-century treatise dealing with men and women, with the sky and its signs, with beasts, trees, vegetables, stones, and famous wells, and, as in Zainer's Spiegel des menschlichen Lebens, the artist drew from nature far better than from his imagination. In an edition of Königshofen's Chronik von allen Königen und Kaisern, printed in 1476, Bämler inserted four full-page cuts representing Christ in glory, the Emperor Sigismund dreaming in his bed, St. Veronica holding before her the cloth miraculously imprinted with the face of Christ, and the vision of Pope Gregory, when the crucified Christ appeared to him on the altar.

Of Bämler's later books, his edition (issued in 1482), of the History of the Crusades (Türken-Kreuzzüge), by Rupertus de Sancto Remigio, is perhaps the most noticeable. The large cut of the Pope, attended by a young cardinal, preaching to a crowd of pilgrims, whose exclamation of 'Deus Vult' is represented by a scroll between them and the preacher, is really a fine piece of work, though the buildings in the background, from whose windows listeners are thrusting their heads, have the usual curious resemblance to bathing-machines. Some of the smaller cuts also are good, notably one of a group of mounted pilgrims, which has a real out-of-door effect. After 1482, though he lived another twenty years, Bämler published few or no new works, being content to reprint his old editions.

Our next Augsburg printer is Anton Sorg, whose[Pg 43] first dated work with woodcuts is the Buch der Kindheit unseres Herrn (1476). In his Büchlein das da heisset der Seelen Trost, he produced the first series of illustrations to the Ten Commandments,—large full-page cuts, rudely executed. His Passion nach dem Texte der vier Evangelisten, first issued in 1480, ran through no less than five editions in twelve years. In 1481 he produced the first German translation of the Travels of Mandeville, illustrated with numerous cuts of some merit. By far his most famous work is his edition of Reichenthal's account of the Council of Constance, illustrated with more than eleven hundred cuts, chiefly of the arms of the dignitaries there present. The arms were necessarily intended to be coloured (the present system of representing the heraldic colours by conventional arrangements of lines and dots only dates from the seventeenth century), and this fate has also befallen the larger illustrations, whose workmanship is, indeed, so rude, that it could scarcely stand alone. These larger cuts represent processions of the Pope and his cardinals, the dubbing of a knight, a tournament, the burning of Huss for heresy, the scattering of his ashes (which half fill a cart) over the fields, and other incidents of the famous council. But the interest of the book remains chiefly heraldic.

After 1480, printers of illustrated books became numerous at Augsburg, Peter Berger, Johann Schobsser, Hans Schauer, and Lucas Zeissenmaier being rather more important than their fellows.[Pg 44] More prolific than these, but not more enterprising in respect to new designs, was the elder Hans Schoensperger, who began his long career in 1481. His chief claim to distinction is his printing of the Emperor Maximilian's Theuerdank, to which we shall refer in the next chapter. Erhard Ratdolt deserves mention for his ten years' stay at Venice, where, as we have seen, he issued in 1476 the Calendar, which is the first book with an ornamental title-page. In 1486 he returned to Augsburg at the invitation of Bishop Friedrich von Hohenzollern to print service-books, into which in future he put all his best work. His types and initial letters he brought with him from Italy; for his illustrations, he had recourse to German artists of no exceptional ability. A few of his service-books, however, are distinguished by some interesting, if not very successful, experiments in printing some of the colours in his woodcuts.

The foregoing sketch of the chief illustrated books published at Augsburg during the fifteenth century can hardly escape the charge of dullness. It has been worth while, however, to plod through with it, because it may serve very well as an epitome of the average illustrated work done between 1470 and 1490 throughout Germany. Some of the works we have mentioned remained to the end Augsburg books—e.g. the Buch der Kunst geistlich zu werden, the Buch der Natur, the Historie aus den Geschichten der Römer, were repeatedly published there and[Pg 45] nowhere else. Others, e.g. the Historie des Königs Apollonius, were shared between Augsburg and Ulm, chiefly, no doubt, through the relationship of the two Zainers. The Historia Trojana of Guido delle Colonne and the Geschichte des grossen Alexander enjoyed long careers at Augsburg, and were then taken up by Martin Schott at Strasburg. Eleven editions of the Belial of Jacobus de Theramo were shared fairly equally between the two cities. The Bible and the Legenda Aurea were of too widespread an interest to be monopolised by one or two places. A few books, like the Æsop and the De Claris Mulieribus of Boccaccio, which start from Ulm, or the early Fasciculus Temporum, of which more than half the early editions belonged to Cologne, trace their source elsewhere than to Augsburg. But it was at Augsburg that the majority of the popular illustrated books of the fifteenth century were first published, and the editions issued in other towns were mostly more or less servile imitations of them.

Next in importance to Augsburg in the early history of illustrated books in Germany, ranks the neighbouring city of Ulm, where the names of wood-engravers are found in the town registers from the early part of the century, and the printers had thus plenty of good material to call to their aid. The first illustrated book which we know with certainty to have been printed at Ulm is the De Claris Mulieribus of Boccaccio, issued by Johann Zainer, in a[Pg 46] Latin edition dated 1473, and in a German translation, with the same cuts, about the same time. This Johann Zainer was probably a kinsman of Günther Zainer of Augsburg, but very little is known of him. The De Claris Mulieribus begins with a fine engraved border extending over the upper and inner margins of the first page. It is not merely decorative but pictorial, the subject represented being the Temptation of Adam and Eve. Eve is handing her husband an apple from the Forbidden Tree, amid whose branches is seen the head of the serpent, his body being twisted into a large initial S, and then tapering away into the upper section of the border, where it becomes a branch, among the leaves of which appear emblems of the seven deadly sins. The numerous woodcuts in the text are quite equal to the average Augsburg work. Our illustration shows Scipio warning Massinissa to put away his newly married wife, and the hapless Sophonisba drinking the poison, which is the only marriage gift her husband could send her.

From Boccaccio De Clar. Mul., Ulm, 1473.

Zainer's most striking success was achieved by his edition of Steinhöwel's version of the Life and Fables of Æsop, of which no less than eleven editions were printed in various German towns before the end of the century, for the most part closely copied from the Ulm original. In this, there are altogether two hundred woodcuts, eleven of which belong to the story of Sigismund at the end of the book. The frontispiece is a large picture of Æsop,[Pg 49] who, here and throughout the chapters devoted to his imaginary 'life,' is represented as a knavish clown, a variant of Eulenspiegel or Marcolphus. Some of the illustrations to the fables are very good, notably those of the Sower and the Birds, the Huntsman, and King Stork, here reproduced from Sorg's reprint. The Æsop and the Boccaccio De Claris Mulieribus give Johann Zainer a high place among the German printers of illustrated books. His other work was unimportant and mostly imitative. His types are much smaller than those used in the early Augsburg books, and his initials less heavy and massive. They are not more than an inch high, and consist of a simple outline overlaid with jagged work.

King Log and King Stork, from the Ulm Æsop.

In 1482, Leonhard Holl printed at Ulm an edition of Ptolemy's Cosmographia, which contains the first woodcut map and fine initial letters, one of which, showing the editor, Nicolaus Germanus, presenting his book to the Pope, is given as a frontispiece to this chapter. In 1483 he issued the first of many editions of the Buch der Weisheit der alten Menschen von Anbeginn der Welt. The wisdom of the ancients chiefly takes the form of fables, which are illustrated with cuts, larger but much less artistic than those of Zainer's Æsop. From Conrad Dinkmuth we have the first illustrated editions of three notable works, the Seelenwurzgarten, or 'Garden of the Soul' (1483), Thomas Lirar's Schwäbische Chronik (1486), and the Eunuchus of Terence (1486). This last is[Pg 50] illustrated with fourteen remarkable woodcuts, over five inches by seven in size, and each occupying about three-fourths of a page. The scene is mostly laid in a street, and there is some attempt at perspective in the vista of houses. The figures of the characters are fairly good, but not above the average Ulm work of the time. Two later Ulm books, written by Gulielmus Caoursin and printed by Johann Reger in 1496, are of great interest, one giving the Stabilimenta or ordinances, of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, the other an account of the successful defence of Rhodes by its knights against the Turks. Both are richly illustrated with woodcuts of very considerable artistic merit.

From the Eunuchus, Ulm, 1486.

At Lübeck in 1475 Lucas Brandis printed, as his first book, a notable edition of the Rudimentum Noviciorum, an epitome of history, sacred and profane, during the six ages of the world. The epitome is epitomised at the beginning of the book by ten pages of cuts, mostly of circles linked together by chains, and bearing the name of some historical character. Into the space left by these circles are introduced pictures of the world's history from the Creation and the Flood down to the life of Christ, which is told in a series of nine cuts on the last page. The first page of the text is surrounded, except at the top, by a border in three pieces, into one section of which are introduced birds, and into another a blank shield supported by two lions. The inner margin of the first page of text bears a fine figure of a[Pg 52] man reading a scroll, and the two columns are separated by a spiral of leaves climbing round a stick. The cuts in the text are partly repeated from the preliminary pages, partly new, though extreme economy is shown in their use, one figure of a philosopher standing for at least twenty different sages. The large initial letters at the beginning of the various books have scenes introduced into them, the little battle-piece in the Q of the 'Quinta aetas' being the most remarkable. Altogether this is a very splendid and noteworthy book, and one which Brandis never equalled in his later work.

At Nuremberg in 1472, Johann Sensenschmidt, its first printer, issued a German Bible, introducing illustrations into the large initial letters. At Cologne first one printer and then another published illustrated editions (ten in all) of the Fasciculus Temporum, though the cuts in these are mostly restricted to a few conventional scenes of cities, and representations of the Nativity and Crucifixion and of Christ in glory. At Cologne also, about 1480, there appeared two great German dialect Bibles in two volumes, in the type and with borders which are found in books signed by Heinrich Quentel, to whose press they are therefore assigned. There are altogether one hundred and twenty-five cuts, ninety-four in the Old Testament (thirty-three of which illustrate the life of Moses), and thirty-one in the New. They are of considerable size, stretching right across the double-columned page, and are[Pg 53] the work of a skilful, but not very highly inspired, artist. They have neither the naïveté of the early Augsburg and Ulm workmen, nor the richness of the later German work. They were, however, immensely popular at the time. In 1483 Anton Koberger copied them at Nuremberg, omitting, however, the borders which occur on the first and third pages of the first volume, and at the beginning of the New Testament, and rejecting also nineteen of the thirty-one New Testament illustrations. The cuts were used again in other editions, and influenced later engravers for many years. Hans Holbein even used them as the groundwork for his own designs for the Old Testament printed by Adam Petri at Basel in 1523.

At Strassburg, illustrated books were first issued by Knoblochtzer in 1477, and after 1480, Martin Schott and Johann Prüss printed them in considerable numbers. Both these printers, however, were as a rule contented to reproduce the woodcuts in the different Augsburg books, and the original works issued by them are mostly poor. An exception may be made in favour of the undated Buch der Heiligen drei Könige of Johannes Hildeshemensis, printed by Prüss. This has a good border round the upper and inner margins of the first page of text woodcut initials, and fifty-eight cuts of considerable merit.[6]

At Mainz, Peter Schoeffer was very slow in introducing pictures into his books, making no use of them until he took to Missal printing in 1483, when a cut of the Crucifixion became almost obligatory. In 1479, however, a remarkable reprint of the Meditationes of Cardinal Turrecremata had been issued at Mainz by Johann Numeister or Neumeister, a wandering Mainz printer, who had previously worked at Foligno, and is subsequently found at Albi, but now while revisiting his native place published there reduced adaptations of the cuts in the editions printed by Hahn at Rome (see Chapter V), worked on soft metal instead of on wood.

In addition to the places we have mentioned, illustrated books were issued during this period by Bernhard Richel at Basel, by Conrad Fyner at Esslingen, and by other printers in less important German towns. But those we have already discussed are perhaps sufficient as representatives of the first stage of book-illustration in Germany. They have all this much in common that they are planned and carried out under the immediate direction of the printers themselves, each of whom seems to have had one or more wood-engravers attached to his office, who drew their own designs upon the wood and cut them themselves. There is a maximum of outline-work, a minimum of shading and[Pg 55] no cross-hatching. Every line is as direct and simple as possible. At times the effect is inconceivably rude, at times it is delightful in its child-like originality, and the craftsman's efforts to give expression to the faces are sometimes almost ludicrously successful. To the present writer these simple woodcuts are far more pleasing than all the glories of the illustrated work of the next century. They are in keeping with the books they decorate, in keeping with the massive black types and the stiff white paper. After 1500, we may almost say after 1490, we shall find that the printing and illustrating of books are no longer closely allied trades. An artist draws a design with pen and ink, a clever mechanic imitates it as minutely as he can on the wood, and the design is then carelessly printed in the midst of type-work, which bears little relation to it. Paper and ink also are worse, and types smaller and less carefully handled. Everything was sacrificed to cheapness, and the result was as dull as cheap work usually is. By the time that the great artists began to turn their attention to book-illustration, printing in Germany was almost a lost art.[Pg 56]

[6] Many of Knoblochtzer's books also have very pretentious borders, though the designs are usually coarse. A quarto border used in his Salomon et Marcolfus with a large initial letter, and a folio one in his reprint of Æsop perhaps show his best work. These are reproduced, with many other examples of his types, initials, and illustrations in Heinrich Knoblochtzer in Strassburg von Karl Schorbach und Max Spirgatis. (Strassburg, 1888.)[Pg 54]



The second period of book-illustration in Germany dates from the publication at Mainz in 1486 of Bernhard von Breydenbach's celebrated account of his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Two years previously Schoeffer had brought out a Herbarius in which one hundred and fifty plants were illustrated, mostly only in outline, and in 1485 he followed this up with another work of the same character, the Gart der Gesundheyt, which has between three and four hundred cuts of plants and animals, and a fine frontispiece of botanists in council. This in its turn formed the basis of Jacob Meidenbach's enlarged Latin edition of the same work, published under the title of Hortus Sanitatis, with additional cuts and full-page frontispieces to each part. These three books in the naïveté and simplicity of some of their illustrations, belong to the period which we have reviewed in our last chapter, but in other cuts a real effort seems to have been made to reproduce the true appearance of the plant, and the increased care for accuracy links them with the newer work. It is, however, the Opus transmarinae peregrinationis ad sepulchrum dominicum in Jherusalem[Pg 57] which opens a new era, as the first work executed by an artist of distinction as opposed to the nameless craftsmen at whose woodcuts we have so far been looking.

When Bernhard von Breydenbach went on his pilgrimage in 1483 he took with him the artist, Erhard Reuwich, and while Breydenbach made notes of their adventures, Reuwich sketched the inhabitants of Palestine, and drew wonderful maps of the places they visited. On their return to Mainz in 1484, Breydenbach began writing out his Latin account of the pilgrimage, and Reuwich not only completed his drawings, but took so active a part in passing the work through the press that, though the types used in it apparently belonged to Schoeffer, he is spoken of as its printer. The book appeared in 1486, and as its magnificence deserved, was issued on vellum as well as on paper. Its first page was blank, the second is occupied by a frontispiece, in which the art of wood-engraving attained at a leap to an unexampled excellence. In the centre of the composition is the figure of a woman, personifying the town of Mainz, standing on a pedestal, below and on either side of which are the shields of Breydenbach and his two noble companions, the Count of Solms and Sir Philip de Bicken. The upper part of the design is occupied by foliage amid which little naked boys are happily scrambling. The dedication to the Archbishop of Mainz begins with a beautiful, but by no means legible, R, in[Pg 58] which a coat of arms is enclosed in light and graceful branches. This, and the smaller S which begins the preface are the only two printed initials in the volume. All the rest are supplied by hand.

Saracens from Breydenbach.

The most noticeable feature in the book are seven large maps, of Venice, Parenzo in Illyria, Corfu, Modon, near the bay of Navarino, Crete, Rhodes, and Jerusalem. These are of varying sizes, from that of Venice, which is some five feet in length, to those of Parenzo and Corfu, which only cover a double-page. They are panoramas rather than maps, and are plainly drawn from painstaking sketches, with some attempt at local colour in the people on the quays and the shipping. Besides these maps there is a careful drawing, some six inches square, of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, headed 'Haec est dispositio et figura templi dominici sepulchri ab extra,' and cuts of Saracens (here shown), two Jews, Greeks, both seculars and monks, Syrians and Indians, with tables of the alphabets of their respective languages. Spaces are also left for drawings of Jacobites, Nestorians, Armenians, and Georgians, which apparently were not engraved.

After Breydenbach and his fellows had visited Jerusalem they crossed the desert to the shrine of St. Katharine on Mount Sinai, and this part of their travels is illustrated by a cut of a cavalcade of Turks in time of peace. There is also a page devoted to drawings of animals, showing a giraffe, a crocodile, two Indian goats, a camel led by a baboon with a[Pg 60] long tail and walking stick, a salamander and a unicorn. Underneath the baboon is written 'non constat de nomine' ('name unknown'), and the presence of the unicorn did not prevent the travellers from solemnly asserting,—'Haec animalia sunt veraciter depicta sicut vidimus in terra sancta!' At the end of the text is Reuwich's device, a woman holding a shield, on which is depicted the figure of a bird. The book is beautifully printed, in a small and very graceful gothic letter. It obtained the success it deserved, for there was a speedy demand for a German translation (issued in 1488), and at least six different editions were printed in Germany during the next twenty years, besides other translations.

Alike in its inception and execution Breydenbach's Pilgrimage stands on a little pinnacle by itself, and the next important books which we have to notice, Stephan's Schatzbehalter oder Schrein der wahren Reichthümer des Heils und ewiger Seligkeit and Hartmann Schedel's Liber Chronicarum, usually known as the Nuremberg Chronicle, are in every respect inferior, even the unsurpassed profusion of the woodcuts in the latter being almost a sin against good taste. Both works were printed by Anton Koberger of Nuremberg, the one in 1491, the other two years later, and in both the illustrations were designed, partly or entirely, by Michael Wohlgemuth, whose initial W appears on many of the cuts in the Schatzbehalter. Of these there are nearly a[Pg 61] hundred, each of which occupies a large folio page, and measures nearly seven inches by ten. The composition in many of these pictures is good, and the fine work in the faces and hair show that we have travelled very far away from the outline cuts of the last chapter. On the other hand, there is no lack of simplicity in some of the scenes from the Old Testament. In his anxiety, for instance, to do justice to Samson's exploits, the artist has represented him flourishing the jawbone of the ass over a crowd of slain Philistines, while with the gates of Gaza on his back he is casually choking a lion with his foot. In the next cut he is walking away with a pillar, while the palace of the Philistines, apparently built without any ground floor, is seen toppling in the air. In contrast with these primitive conceptions we find the figure of Christ often invested with real dignity, and the representation of God the Father less unworthy than usual. In the only copy of the book accessible to me the cuts are all coloured, so that it is impossible to give a specimen of them, but the figure of Noah reproduced from the Nuremberg Chronicle gives a very fair idea of the work of Wohlgemuth, or his school, at its best.

From the Nuremberg Chronicle.

The Chronicle, to which we must now turn, is a mighty volume of rather over three hundred leaves, with sixty-five or sixty-six lines to each of its great pages. It begins with the semblance of a title-page in the inscription in large woodcut letters on its first page, 'Registrum huius operis libri cronicarum cum[Pg 62] figuris et ymaginibus ab inicio mundi,' though this really amounts only to a head-line to the long table of contents which follows. It is noticeable, also, as showing how slowly printed initials were adopted in many towns in Germany, that a blank is left at the beginning of each alphabetical section of this table, and a larger blank at the beginning of the prologue, and that throughout the volume there are no large initial letters. This is also the case with the Schatzbehalter, the blanks in the British Museum copy being filled up with garish illumination. After the 'table' in the Chronicle there is a frontispiece of God in Glory, at the foot of which are two blank shields held by wild men. The progress of the work of creation is shown by a series of circles, at first blank, afterwards more and more filled in. In the first five the hand of God appears in the upper left-hand corner, to signify His creative agency. The two chief features in the Chronicle itself are its portraits and its maps. The former are, of course, entirely imaginary, and the invention of the artist was not equal to devising a fresh head for every person mentioned in the text, a pardonable economy considering that there are sometimes more than twenty of these heads scattered over a single page and connected together by the branches of a quasi-genealogical tree. The maps, if not so good as those in Breydenbach's Pilgrimage, are still good. For Ninive, for 'Athene vel Minerva,' for Troy, and other ancient places, the requisite imagination was[Pg 64] forthcoming; while the maps of Venice,[7] of Florence, and of other cities of Italy, France, and Germany, appear to give a fair idea of the chief features of the places represented. Nuremberg, of course, has the distinction of two whole pages to itself (the other maps usually stretch across only the lower half of the book), and full justice is done to its churches of S. Lawrence and S. Sebaldus, to the Calvary outside the city walls, and to the hedge of spikes, by which the drawbridge was protected from assault.

We shall have very soon to return again to Wohlgemuth and Nuremberg, but in the year which followed the production of the great Chronicle Sebastian Brant's Narrenschiff attracted the eyes of the literary world throughout Europe to the city of Basel, and we also may be permitted to digress thither. In the year of the Chronicle itself a Basel printer, Michael Furter, had produced a richly illustrated work, the Ritter vom Thurn von den Exempeln der Gottesfurcht und Ehrbarkeit, the cuts in which have ornamental borders on each side of them. Brant had recourse to Furter a little later, but for his Narrenschiff he went to Bergmann de Olpe, from whose press it was published in 1494. The engraver or engravers (for there seem to have[Pg 65] been at least two different hands at work) of its one hundred and fourteen cuts are not known, but Brant is said to have closely supervised the work, and may possibly have furnished sketches for it himself. Many of the illustrations could hardly be better. The satire on the book-fool in his library is too well known to need description; other excellent cuts are those of the children gambling and fighting while the fool-father sits blindfold,—of the fool who tries to serve two masters, depicted as a hunter setting his dog to run down two hares in different directions,—of the fool who looks out of the window while his house is on fire,—of the sick fool (here shown) who kicks off the bedclothes and breaks the medicine bottles while the doctor vainly tries to feel his pulse,—of the fool who allows earthly concerns to weigh down heavenly ones (a miniature city and a handful of stars are the contents of the scales),—of the frightened fool who has put to sea in a storm, and many others. The popularity of the book was instantaneous and immense. Imitations of the Basel edition were printed and circulated all over Germany: in 1497 Bergmann published a Latin version by Jacob Locher with the same cuts, and translations speedily appeared in almost every country in Europe. It is noteworthy that in the Narrenschiff we have no longer to deal with a great folio but with a handy quarto, and that, save for its cuts and the adjacent brokers, it has no artistic pretensions.[Pg 66]

The Sick Fool

In the same year (1494) as the Narrenschiff, Bergmann printed another of Brant's works, his poems 'In laudem Virginis Mariae' and of the Saints, with fourteen cuts, and in 1495 his [Pg 67]De origine et conservatione bonorum regum et laude civitatis Hierosolymae, which has only two, but these of considerable size. In the following year Brant transferred his patronage to Michael Furter, who printed his Passio Sancti Meynhardi, with fifteen large cuts, by no means equal to those of the Narrenschiff. In 1498 the indefatigable author employed both his printers, giving to Bergmann his Varia Carmina and to Furter his edition of the Revelatio S. Methodii, which is remarkable not only for its fifty-five illustrations, but for Brant's allusion to his own theory, 'imperitis pro lectione pictura est,' to the unlearned a picture is the best text. After 1498 Brant removed to Strassburg, where his influence was speedily apparent in the illustrated books published by Johann Grüninger, who in 1494 had issued as his first illustrated book an edition of the Narrenschiff, and in 1496 published an illustrated and annotated Terence. He followed these up with other editions of the Narrenschiff, Brant's Carmina Varia, and a Horace (1498), with over six hundred cuts, many of which, however, had appeared in the printer's earlier books. In 1501 he produced an illustrated Boethius, and in the next year two notable works, Brant's Heiligenleben and an annotated Virgil, each of them illustrated with over two hundred cuts, of which very few had been used before.

The year 1494 was notable for the publication not only of the Narrenschiff, but of a Low Saxon Bible printed by Stephan Arndes at Lübeck, where[Pg 68] he had been at work since 1488. The cuts to this book show some advance upon those in previous German Bibles, but they are not strikingly better than the work in the Nuremberg Chronicle, to whose designers we must now return. In 1496 we find Wohlgemuth designing a frontispiece to an Ode on S. Sebaldus, published by Conrad Celtes, a Nuremberg scholar, with whom he had previously entered into negotiations for illustrating an edition of Ovid, which was never issued. In 1501 Celtes published the comedies of Hroswitha, a learned nun of the tenth century, who had undertaken to show what charming religious plays might be written on the lines of Terence. By far the finest of the large cuts with which the book is illustrated is the second frontispiece, in which Hroswitha, comedies in hand, is being presented by her Abbess to the Emperor. The designs to the plays themselves are dull enough, a fault which those who are best acquainted with the good nun's style as a dramatist will readily excuse. Her one brilliant success, a scene in which a wicked governor, who has converted his kitchen into a temporary prison, is made to inflict his embraces on the pots and pans, instead of on the holy maidens immured amidst them, was not selected for illustration.

The woodcuts to the plays of Hroswitha were designed by Wohlgemuth or his scholars, and this was also the case with those in the Quatuor libri amorum, published by Celtes in 1502, to which[Pg 69] Albrecht Dürer himself contributed three illustrations. For three years, from St. Andrew's Day 1486, Dürer had served an apprenticeship to Wohlgemuth, and when he returned to Nuremberg after his 'Wanderjahre,' during which he seems to have executed a single woodcut of no great merit for an edition of the Epistles of S. Jerome, printed by Nic. Kesler, at Basel, in 1492, he too began to work as an illustrator. His first important effort in this character is the series of sixteen wood-engravings, illustrating the Apocalypse, printed at Nuremberg in 1498. The first leaf bears a woodcut title Die heimliche Offenbarung Johannis, and on the verso of the last cut but one is the colophon, 'Gedrücket zu Nurnbergk durch Albrecht Dürer maler, nach Christi geburt M.CCCC und darnach im xcviij iar.' It has also in one or more editions some explanatory text, taken from the Bible, but in spite of these additions it is a portfolio of engravings rather than a book, and as such does not come within our province. On the same principle we can only mention, without detailed description, the Epitome in Divae Parthenices Mariae historiam of 1511, the Passio Domini nostri Jesu, issued about the same date, and the Passio Christi, or 'Little Passion,' as it is usually called, printed about 1512. All these have descriptive verses by the Benedictine monk Chelidonius (though these do not appear in all copies), but they belong to the history of wood-engraving as such, and not to our humbler subject of book-[Pg 70]illustration. Still less need we concern ourselves with the 'Triumphal Car' and 'Triumphal Arch' of the Emperor Maximilian, designed by Dürer, and published, the one in 1522, the other not till after the artist's death. Besides these works and the single sheet of the Rhinoceros of 1513, Dürer designed frontispieces for an edition of his own poems in 1510, for a life of S. Jerome by his friend Lazarus Spengler in 1514, and for the Reformation der Stadt Nürnberg of 1521. In 1513 also he drew a set of designs for half-ornamental, half-illustrative borders to fill in the blank spaces left in the Book of Prayers printed on vellum for the Emperor Maximilian in 1514. By him also was the woodcut of Christ on the Cross, which appears first in the Eichstätt Missal of three years later. For us, however, Dürer's importance does not lie in these particular designs, but in the fact that he set an example of drawing for the wood-cutters, which other artists were not slow to follow.

In directing the attention of German artists to the illustration of books, the Emperor Maximilian played a more important part than Dürer himself. As in politics, so in art, his designs were on too ambitious a scale, and of the three great books he projected, the Theuerdank, the Weisskunig, and the Freydal, only the first was brought to a successful issue. This is a long epic poem allegorising the Emperor's wedding trip to Burgundy, and though attributed to Melchior Pfintzing was apparently, to[Pg 71] a large extent, composed by Maximilian himself. The printing was entrusted to the elder Hans Schoensperger of Augsburg, but for some unknown reason, when the book was completed in 1517, the honour of its publication was allowed to Nuremberg. A special fount of type was cut for it by Jost Dienecker of Antwerp, who indulged in such enormous flourishes, chiefly to any g or h which happened to occur in the last line of text in a page, that many eminent printers have imagined that the whole book was engraved on wood. The difficulties of the setting up, however, have been greatly exaggerated, for the flourishes came chiefly at the top or foot of the page, and are often not connected with any letter in the text. In the present writer's opinion it is an open question whether the type, which is otherwise a very handsome one, is in any way improved by these useless appendages. They add on an average about an inch at the top and an inch and a half at the foot to the column of the text, which is itself ten inches in height, and contains twenty-four lines to a full page. The task of illustrating this royal work was entrusted to Hans Schäufelein, an artist already in the Emperor's employment, and from his designs there were engraved one hundred and eighteen large cuts, each of them six and a half inches high by five and a half broad. The cuts, which chiefly illustrate hunting scenes and knightly conflicts, are not conspicuously better than those produced about the same time[Pg 72] by other German artists, but they have the great advantage of having been carefully printed on fine vellum, and this has materially assisted their reputation.

The Weisskunig, a celebration of Maximilian's life and travels, and the Freydal, in honour of his knightly deeds, were part of the same scheme as the Theuerdank. The two hundred and thirty-seven designs for the Weisskunig were mainly the work of Hans Burgkmair,[8] an Augsburg artist of repute; its literary execution was entrusted to the Emperor's secretary, Max Treitzsaurwein, who completed the greater part of the text as early as 1512. But the Emperor's death in 1519 found the great work still unfinished, and it was not until 1775 that it was published as a fragment, with the original illustrations (larger, and perhaps finer, than those in the Theuerdank), of which the blocks had, fortunately, been preserved. The Freydal, though begun as early as 1502, was left still less complete; the designs for it, however, are in existence at Vienna. The 'Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian,' another ambitious work, with one hundred and thirty-five woodcuts designed by Burgkmair, was first published in 1796.

The death of Maximilian in 1519 and the less[Pg 73] artistic tastes of Charles V. caused German illustrators to turn for work to the Augsburg printers, and during the next few years we find them illustrating a number of books for the younger Schoensperger, for Hans Othmar, for Miller, and for Grimm and Wirsung, all Augsburg firms. The most important result of this activity was the German edition of Petrarch's De Remediis utriusque Fortunae, for which in the years immediately following the Emperor's death an artist named Hans Weiditz, whose identity has only lately been re-established, drew no less than two hundred and fifty-nine designs. Owing to the death of the printer, Grimm, the book was put on one side, but was finally brought out by Heinrich Steiner, Grimm's successor, in 1532. In the interim some of the cuts had been used for an edition of Cicero De Senectute, and they were afterwards used again in a variety of works. Despite the excellence of the cuts the Petrarch is a very disappointing book. To do justice to the fine designs the most delicate press work was necessary, and, except when the pressmen were employed by an Emperor, the delicacy was not forthcoming; it may be said, indeed, that it was made impossible by the poorness and softness of the paper on which the book is printed. At this period it was only the skill of individual artists which prevented German books from being as dull and uninteresting as they soon afterwards became.

Books of devotion in Germany never attained to[Pg 74] the beauty of the French Horae, but they did not remain uninfluenced by them. In or before 1496 we find a Nouum B. Mariae Virginis Psalterium printed at Zinna, near Magdeburg, with very beautiful, though florid, borders. In 1513 there appeared at Augsburg a German prayer-book, entitled Via Felicitatis, with thirty cuts, all with rich conventional borders, probably by Hans Schäufelein, and we have already seen that in the same year Dürer himself designed borders for the Emperor's own Gebetbuch. In 1515, again, Burgkmair had contributed a series of designs, many of which had rich architectural borders, to a Leiden Christi, published by Schoensperger at Augsburg. In 1520 the same artist designed another set of illustrations, with very richly ornamented borders of flowers and animals, for the Devotissimae Meditationes de vita beneficiis et passione Jesu Christi, printed by Grimm. The use of borders soon became a common feature in German title-pages, especially in the small quartos in which the Lutherans and anti-Lutherans carried on their controversies; but it cannot be said that they often exhibit much beauty.

The innumerable translations of the Bible, which were another result of the Lutheran controversy, also provided plenty of work for the illustrators. The two Augsburg editions of the New Testament in 1523 were both illustrated, the younger Schoensperger's by Schäufelein, Silvan Othmar's by Burgkmair. Burgkmair also issued a series of twenty-one[Pg 75] illustrations to the Apocalypse, for which Othmar had not had the patience to wait.

Border attributed to Lucas Cranach.

At Wittenberg the most important works issued were the repeated editions of Luther's translation of[Pg 76] the Bible. Here also Lucas Cranach, who had previously (in 1509) designed the cuts for what was known as the Wittenberger Heiligthumsbuch, in 1521 produced his Passional Christi und Antichristi, in which, page by page, the sufferings and humility of Christ were contrasted with the luxury and arrogance of the Pope. At Wittenberg, too, the thin quartos with woodcut borders to their title-pages were peculiarly in vogue, the majority of the designs being poor enough, but some few having considerable beauty, especially those of Lucas Cranach, of which an example is here given. Meanwhile, at Strassburg, Hans Grüninger and Martin Flach and his son continued to print numerous illustrated works, largely from designs by Hans Baldung Grün, and a still more famous publisher had arisen in the person of Johann Knoblouch, who for some of his books secured the help of Urs Graf, an artist whose work preserved some of the old-fashioned simplicity of treatment. At Nuremberg illustrated books after Koburger's death proceeded chiefly from the presses of Jobst Gutknecht and Peypus, for the latter of whom Hans Springinklee, one of the minor artists employed on the Weisskunig, occasionally drew designs. At Basel Michael Furter continued to issue illustrated books for the first fifteen years of the new century, Johann Amorbach adorned with woodcuts his editions of ecclesiastical statutes and constitutions, and Adam Petri issued a whole series of illustrated books, chiefly of religion and theology.[Pg 77] To Basel Urs Graf gave the most and the best of his work, and there the young Hans Holbein designed in rapid succession the cuts for the New Testament of 1522, for an Apocalypse, two editions of the Pentateuch, and a Vulgate, besides numerous ornamental borders. Some of these merely imitate the rather tasteless designs of Urs Graf, in which the ground plan is architectural, and relief is given by a profusion of naked children, not always in very graceful attitudes. Holbein's best designs are far lighter and prettier. The foot of the border is usually occupied by some historical scene, the death of John the Baptist, Mucius Scævola and Porsenna, the death of Cleopatra, the leap of Curtius, or Hercules and Orpheus. In a title-page to the Tabula Cebetis he shows the whole course of man's life—little children crowding through the gate, which is guarded by their 'genius,' and the fortune, sorrow, luxury, penitence, virtue, and happiness which awaits them. The two well-known borders for the top and bottom of a page, illustrating peasants chasing a thieving fox and their return dancing, were designed for Andreas Cratander, for whom also, as for Valentine Curio, Holbein drew printers' devices. Ambrosius Holbein also illustrated a few books, the most noteworthy in the eyes of Englishmen being the 1518 edition of More's Utopia, printed by Froben. His picture of Hercules Gallicus, dragging along the captives of his eloquence, part of a border designed for an Aulus[Pg 78] Gellius published by Cratander in 1519, is worthy of Hans himself. While the German printers degenerated ever more and more, those of Basel and Zurich maintained a much higher standard of press-work, and from 1540 to 1560, when the demand for illustrated books had somewhat lessened, produced a series of classical editions in tall folios, well printed and on good paper, which at least command respect. They abound with elaborate initial letters, which are, however, too deliberately pictorial to be in good taste. In Germany itself by the middle of the sixteenth century the artistic impulse had died away, or survived only in books like those of Jost Amman, in which the text merely explains the illustrations. It is a pleasure to go back some seventy or eighty years and turn our attention to the beginning of book-illustration in Italy.

[7] Dr. Lippmann was of opinion that the map of Venice was adapted from Reuwich's; that of Florence from a large woodcut, printed at Florence between 1486 and 1490, of which the unique example is at Berlin; and that of Rome from a similar map, now lost, which served also as a model for the cut in the edition of the Supplementum Chronicarum, printed at Venice in 1490.

[8] Burgkmair had already done work for the printers, notably for an edition of Jornandes De Rebus Gothorum, printed in 1516, on the first page of which King Alewinus and King Athanaricus are shown in conversation, the title of the book being given in a shield hung over their heads.

[Pg 79]



Surrounded by pictures and frescoes, and accustomed to the utmost beauty in their manuscripts, the Italians did not feel the need of the cheaper arts, and for the first quarter of a century after the introduction of printing into their country, the use of engraved borders, initial letters, and illustrations was only occasional and sporadic. Perhaps not very long after the middle of the century an Italian block-book of the Passion had been issued, probably at Venice, as it was there that most of the cuts were used again in 1487 for an edition of the Devote Meditatione, attributed to S. Bonaventura. A copy of this is in the British Museum; of the block-book eighteen leaves are preserved at Berlin. Despite some ungainliness in the figures and rather coarse cutting, the pictures are vigorous and effective, but quite unlike any later Venetian work. Something of the same kind may be said of those in an edition of the Meditationes of Cardinal Turrecremata, printed by Ulrich Hahn at Rome in 1467,[Pg 80] the first work printed in Italy with movable type, in which woodcut illustrations were used. The cuts are thirty-four in number, and professed to illustrate the same subjects as the frescoes recently painted by the cardinal's order in the Church of San Maria di Minerva at Rome.[9] The execution is so rude, that it is impossible to say whether they are the work of a German influenced by Italian models, or of an Italian working to please a German master, nor is the point of the slightest importance. Thirty-three of the cuts were used again in the editions printed at Rome in 1473 and 1478, and it is from the 1473 edition that the accompanying illustration of the Flight into Egypt is taken. This in its original size is one of the best of the series, but the reduction necessary for its appearance on one of our pages has had a more than usually unfortunate effect, both on the cut itself and on the printer's type which appears below it.

From the Meditationes of Turrecremata, Rome, 1473.

In 1481, the courtier-printer, Joannes Philippus de Lignamine, issued an edition of the Opuscula of Philippus de Barberiis adorned with twenty-nine cuts representing twelve prophets, twelve sibyls, St. John the Baptist, the Holy Family, Christ with the Emblems of His Passion, the virgin Proba, and the philosopher Plato. Plato, Malachi, and Hosea are all represented by the same cut, another serves[Pg 81] for both Jeremiah and Zechariah, and two of the Sibyls are also made to merge their individualities. With the exception of the figure of Christ, which is merely painful, the cuts are pleasantly and even ludicrously rude. Nevertheless, they are not without vigour, and are, to my thinking, greatly preferable to the more conventional figures of the[Pg 82] twelve Sibyls and Proba which appeared shortly afterwards in an undated edition of the same book, printed by Sixtus Riessinger. In this edition the figures are surrounded by architectural borders, and we have also a border to the first page and several large initial letters, all in exact imitation of the interlacement work, which is the commonest form of decoration in Italian manuscripts of the time. Riessinger's mark, a girl holding a black shield with a white arrow on it, and a scroll with the letters S.R.D.A. (Sixtus Riessinger de Argentina), is found in the 'register' at the end of the book. To Riessinger we also owe a Cheiromantia, with figures of hands, which I have not seen, while from Lignamine's press there was issued an edition of the Herbarium of Apuleius Barbarus (who was, of course, confused with his famous namesake), which has rude botanical figures and, at the end of the book, a most man-like portrait of a mandrake, with a dog duly tugging at one of his fibrous legs. The list of illustrated books printed at Rome before 1490 also includes[10] some little editions, mostly by Silber or Plannck, of the Mirabilia Romae, a guidebook to the antiquities of the city, in which there are a few cuts of pilgrims gazing at the cloth of S. Veronica, of SS. Peter and Paul, of Romulus and[Pg 83] Remus, and other miscellaneous subjects. The interest of all these books is purely antiquarian.

If we turn from Rome to the neighbouring city of Naples, we shall find evidence of much more artistic work. In 1478 Sixtus Riessinger printed there for Francesco Tuppo an edition of Boccaccio's Libro di florio e di bianzefiore, or Philocolo, illustrated with forty-one woodcuts, of no great technical merit, but by no means without charm. Two years later a representation of the supposed origin of music by the figures of five blacksmiths working at an anvil occurs in an edition of the Musices Theoria of Francesco Gafori, printed in 1480 by Francesco di Dino. Much more important than this is a handsome edition of Æsop published in 1485 by Francesco Tuppo, and printed for him by an anonymous firm known to bibliographers as the 'Germain fidelissimi.' This contains eighty-seven large cuts heavily cut, but well drawn and with a massive vigour, one of which, representing the death of Æsop, occupies a full page. The cuts illustrating the fabulist's life have rather commonplace borders to them, but when the fables themselves are reached, these are replaced by much more important ones. Into an upper compartment are introduced figures of Hercules wrestling with Antæus, Hercules riding on a lion, and a combat between mounted pigmies. The fables have also a large border surrounding the first page of text, used again in the Hebrew Bible of 1488. The ground-work of all the borders is[Pg 84] black, but this has not always enabled them to escape the hand of the colourist. The book is also adorned by two large and two smaller printed initials. To the same artist as the illustrator of the Æsop must be attributed the title-cut of Granollach's Astrologia, issued in or about the same year. In 1486, again, Matthias Moravus printed one of the few Italian Horae, a charming little book, three inches by two, with sixteen lines of very pretty Gothic type, printed in red and black, to each of its tiny pages, and four little woodcuts, which in the only copy I have seen have been painted over. A daintier prayer-book can hardly be conceived.

When we turn from the south to the north of Italy, we find that an Italian printer at Verona had preceded the German immigrants in issuing an important work with really fine woodcuts as early in 1472. This is the De Re Militari of Robertus Valturius, written some few years previously, and dedicated to Sigismund Malatesta. In this fine book, printed by John of Verona, there are eighty-two woodcuts representing various military operations and engines, all drawn in firm and graceful outline, which could hardly be bettered. The designs for these cuts have been attributed to the artist Matteo de' Pasti, whose skill as a painter, sculptor, and engraver, Valturius had himself commended in a letter written in the name of Malatesta to Mahomet II. The conjecture rests solely on this[Pg 85] commendation, but seems intrinsically probable. The book has no other adornment save these woodcuts and its fine type. Another edition was printed in the same town eleven years later by Boninus de Boninis.

Besides the Valturius, the only other early Verona book with illustrations known to me is an edition of Æsop in the Italian version of Accio Zucco, printed by Giovanni Alvisio in 1479. This has a frontispiece in which the translator is seen presenting his book to a laurel-crowned person sitting in a portico, through which there is a distant view. This is followed by a page of majuscules containing the title of the book, but ending with a 'foeliciter incipit.' On the back of this is a tomb-like erection, bearing the inscription 'Lepidissimi Æsopi Fabellae,' which gives it the rank of the second ornamental title-page (see p. 32 for the first). Facing this is a page surrounded by an ornamental border, at the foot of which is the usual shield supported by the usual naked boys. Within the border are Latin verses beginning:

"Vt iuuet et prosit conatum pagina praesens Dulcius arrident seria picta iocis,"

the lines being spaced out with fragments from the ornamental borders which surround each of the pictures in the body of the book. These, on the whole, are not so good as those in the Naples edition of 1485, but were helped out, at least in some copies,[Pg 86] by rather pretty colouring. The chief feature in the book is the care bestowed upon the preliminary leaves.

In Florence, before 1490, we have no example of wood-engraving employed in book illustration, but in 1477, Nicolaus Lorenz of Breslau issued there the first of three books with illustrations engraved on copper. This is an edition of Bettini's Monte Santo di Dio with three plates, representing respectively (1) the Holy Mountain, up which a man is climbing by the aid of a ladder of virtues; (2) Christ standing in a 'mandorla' or almond-shaped halo formed by the heads of cherubs; and (3) the torments of Hell. This was followed in 1481 by a Dante with the commentary of Landino, with engravings illustrating the first eighteen cantos. Spaces were left for engravings at the head of the other cantos, but the plan was too ambitious, and they were never filled up. Some copies of the book have no engravings at all, others only two, those prefixed to Cantos 1 and 3, the first of which is most inartistically introduced on the lower margin of the page, tempting mutilation by the binder's shears. The other venture of Nicolaus Lorenz, which has engraved work, is the Sette Giornate della Geographia of Berlinghieri, in which he introduces numerous maps.

At Milan only two illustrated books are known to have been issued before 1490, both of which appeared in 1479. The rarer of these, which is seldom found in[Pg 87] perfect condition, is the Summula di pacifica Conscientia of Fra Pacifico di Novara, printed by Philippus de Lavagna, and illustrated with three copper-plates, one of which represents the virtues of the Madonna, the others containing diagrams exhibiting the prohibited degrees of consanguinity. The other book is a Breviarium totius juris canonici, printed by Leonard Pachel and Ulrich Scinzenceller, with a woodcut portrait of its author, 'Magister Paulus Florentinus ordinis Sancti Spiritus,' otherwise Paolo Attavanti.

The illustrated books printed in Italy which we have hitherto noticed are of great individual interest, but they led to the establishment of no school of book-illustration, and the value of wood engravings was as yet so little understood that the cuts in them often failed to escape the hands of the colourists. At Venice, on the other hand, where Bernhard Maler and Erhard Ratdolt introduced the use of printed initials and borders in 1476, we find a continuous progress to the record of which we must now turn. The border to the title-page of the Kalendars of 1476 has already been noticed: both the Latin and the Italian editions also contained printed initials of a rustic shape, resembling those in some early books in Ulm, but larger and better. The next year the partners made a great step in advance in the initials and borders of an Appian, and an edition of Cepio's Gesta Petri Mocenici. These were followed by an[Pg 88] edition of Dionysius Periegetes, and in 1478 by the Cosmographia of Pomponius Mela. Three distinct borders are used in these books, all of them with light and graceful floral patterns in relief on a black ground. The large initials are of the same character, and both these and the borders are unmistakably Italian. In 1478 Ratdolt lost the aid of Bernhard Maler, who up to that date seems to have been the leading spirit of the firm, and the books subsequently issued are much less decorative. In 1479 another German, Georg Walch, issued an edition of the Fasciculus Temporum with illustrations mostly poor enough, but with a quaint little attempt at realism in one of Venice. These cuts of Walch's, and also a decorative initial, Ratdolt was content to copy on a slightly larger scale in an edition of his own the next year. He also printed an undated Chiromantia, with twenty-one figures of heads, a reprint of which bearing his name and that of Mattheus Cerdonis de Windischgretz was issued at Padua in 1484. In 1482, came the Poetica Astronomica of Hyginus, with numerous woodcuts of the astronomical powers, those of Mercury (here very slightly reduced) and Sol being perhaps the best. To the same year belongs a reprint of the Cosmographia of Pomponius Mela with a curious map and a few good initials, also a Euclid with mathematical diagrams and a border and initials from the Appian of 1477.

Woodcut of mercury from the Hyginus of 1482. From the Hyginus of 1482.

After 1482 Ratdolt does not seem to have printed[Pg 90] any new illustrated books, and in 1486 he ceased printing at Venice and returned, as we have seen, to Augsburg. Subject to the doubt as to whether he has not been credited with praise which really belongs to Bernhard Maler, his brief Italian career entitles him to a place of some importance among the decorators of books, for though his illustrations were unimportant, his borders and initials are among the best of the fifteenth century.

In 1482 Octavianus Scotus printed three Missals with a rude cut of the Crucifixion, and these were imitated by other printers in 1483, 1485, and 1487.

The year 1486 was marked by the publication, by Bernardino de Benaliis, of an edition of the Supplementum Chronicarum of Giovanni Philippo Foresti of Bergamo, with numerous outline woodcuts of cities, for the most part purely imaginary and conventional, the same cuts being used over and over again for different places. Four years later a new edition was printed by Bernardino de Novara, in which more accurate pictures were substituted in the case of some of the more important towns, notably Florence and Rome. In both issues the first three cuts, representing the Creation, the Fall, and the sacrifice of Cain and Abel, are copied from those in the Cologne Bible.

The year after his edition of the Supplementum, Bernardinus de Benaliis printed an Æsop with sixty-one woodcuts adapted from those in the Veronese edition of 1479. Of this edition Dr. Lippmann, who[Pg 91] had the only known copy under his charge at Berlin, remarks that 'the style of engraving is, to a large extent, cramped and angular, and the entire appearance of the work is that of a genuine chapbook.'

In 1488 we arrive at the first of the numerous illustrated editions of the Trionfi of Petrarch. This[Pg 92] was printed by Bernardino de Novara, and has six full-page cuts, measuring some ten inches by six, and illustrating the triumphs of Love, of Chastity, Death, Fame, and Time, and of the true Divinity over the false gods. The designs are excellent, but the engraver had very imperfect control over his point, and his treatment of the eyes of the figures introduced is by itself sufficient to spoil the pictures. Curiously enough, the ornamental border of white figures on a black ground is certainly better cut than the pictures themselves.

From the Devote Meditatione, Venice, 1508 [1489].

The same inferiority of the engraver to the designer is seen in the illustrations to the 1489 edition of the Deuote Meditatione sopra la passione del nostro signore attributed to S. Bonaventura. The first illustrated edition of this book, with eleven illustrations taken (slightly cut down) from the block book of the Passion already mentioned, had been printed in 1487 by Ieronimo de Santis. The 1489 edition was printed by Matteo di Codecha (or Capcasa) of Parma, who republished the book no less than six times during the next five years, after which the cuts were used by other printers,—e.g. by Gregorio di Rusconi, from whose edition in 1508 our illustration of the mocking of Christ is taken. It is interesting to compare this Venetian series with the Florentine edition published a little later by Antonio Mischomini, whose engraver, while taking many hints from the designs of his predecessor, greatly improved on them. The next year witnessed the[Pg 94] first Venetian edition of another work in which the artists of the two cities were to be matched together. This is the Fior di Virtù, whose title-cut of Fra Cherubino da Spoleto gathering flowers in the convent garden shows a great advance on previous Venetian work. Unfortunately the British Museum copy has been slightly injured, so that I am obliged to take my reproduction from the second of two similar editions published by Matteo Codecha in 1492, 1493. These have each thirty-six vignettes in the text, illustrating the examples in the animal world of the virtues which the author desired to inculcate.

From the Fior di Virtù, Venice, 1493.

We must now turn to the first illustrated edition of Malermi's Italian version of the Bible, printed in 1490. After the woodcut basis for the six little illuminations in the Spencer copy of Adam of Ammergau's edition of 1471, the first Biblical woodcuts at Venice are a series of thirty-eight small vignettes which decorate an edition of the Postilla or sermons, of Nicolaus de Lyra, printed for Octavianus Scotus in 1489. In the Bible itself, printed the next year by Giovanni Ragazzo for Lucantonio Giunta, the illustrations are on a very lavish scale, numbering in all three hundred and eighty-three, of which a few are duplicates, and about a fourth are adapted in miniature from the cuts in the Cologne Bibles, which formed a model for so many other editions. Some of the best cuts in this and other Venetian books are signed with[Pg 95] a small b, which by some writers has been supposed to stand for the name of the artist who designed them, but is more probably to be referred to the workshop at which they were engraved. The craftsmen employed on the New Testament were quite unskilled, but many of the illustrations to the Old Testament are delightful. The first page of the Bible is occupied by six somewhat larger cuts, illustrating the days of Creation, joined together within an architectural border. Other editions containing the same cuts, with additions from other books, were issued in 1494, 1498, and 1502. A rival edition, printed by Guglielmo de Monteferrato, with a new set of cuts of a similar character appeared in 1493.

These three religious works, the Meditatione, the Postilla, and the Malermi Bible thoroughly established the use of vignettes, or small cuts worked into the text, as an alternative to full-page illustrations, like those in the Petrarch, and it was natural that this method of decoration should soon be applied to the greatest of Italian works, the Divina Commedia. In producing an illustrated Dante, Venice had been anticipated not only by the Florentine edition of 1481, though the engravings in this are only found in the first few cantos, but by a very curious edition published at Brescia in 1487, with full-page cuts, surrounded by a black border with white arabesques. These large cuts, which measure ten inches by six, are very coarsely executed, and[Pg 96] have no merit save what the earlier ones derive from their imitation of those in the Florentine edition. In the course of the year 1491 two illustrated Dantes were published at Venice, the first on March 3rd by Bernardino Benali and Matteo [Codecha] da Parma, the second on November 18th by Pietro Cremonese. The earlier edition has a fine woodcut frontispiece illustrating the first canto, but the vignettes which succeed it are so badly cut as to lose all their beauty. In the later edition the same designs appear to have been followed, but the vignettes are larger and much better cut, so that they are at least somewhat less unworthy of their subject. Both editions have printed initials, but of the poorest kind, and in both the text is hidden away amid the laborious commentary of Landino.

After Dante's Divina Commedia it is natural to expect an edition of Boccaccio's Decamerone, and this duly followed the next year from the press of Gregorius de Gregoriis. The first page is occupied by a woodcut of the ten fine ladies and gentlemen who tell the stories, seated in the beautiful garden to which they had retired from the plague which was raging around them. Beneath this are seventeen lines of text, with a blank left for an initial H, and woodcut and text are surrounded by an architectural border, at the foot of whose columns little boys standing on the heads of lions are blowing horns, while in the lower section of the[Pg 97] design the usual blank shield is approached from either side by cupids riding on rams. The blank for the initial is a great blot on the page, as any coloured letter would have destroyed the delicacy of the whole design. In the body of the work each of the ten books is headed by a double cut, in one part of which the company of narrators is standing in front of a gateway, while one of their number is playing a guitar; in the other they are all seated before a fountain, presided over by a wreath-crowned master of the story-telling. The vignettes which illustrate the different tales vary very much in quality, though some, like the little cut of the Marquis and his friends approaching Griselda as she brings water from the well, could hardly be bettered.

The Boccaccio of 1492 heralded a long series of illustrated books from the press of Gregorius de Gregoriis and his brother John. Most of these were devotional in their character, e.g. the Zardine de Oratione, the Monte dell' Oratione, the Vita e Miracoli del Sancto Antonio di Padova, the Passione di Cristo, &c. The Novellino of Masuccio Salernitano formed a pendant to the Boccaccio, and was published in the same year. To the Gregorii we also owe the magnificent border, in white relief on a black ground, to the Latin Herodotus of 1494, repeated again in the second volume of the works of S. Jerome published in 1497-98. Equally famous with any of these is the same printer's series of editions of the Fascicolo de Medicina of Johannes Ketham. In the first of[Pg 98] these, printed in 1491, the illustrations are confined to cuts of various dreadful-looking surgical instruments; but in 1493 large pictures were added, each occupying the whole of a folio page, and representing a dissection, a consultation of physicians, the bedside of a man struck down by the plague. The dissection was printed in several colours, but this experiment was abandoned, and a new block was cut for the subsequent editions. In some of his later books Gregorius repaired the mistake of the Boccaccio, and used excellent woodcut initials.

The Herodotus of 1494 has only its magnificent border by way of illustration, but other classical authors received much more generous treatment during this decade. An Italian Livy, with numerous vignettes, was printed in 1493 by Giovanni di Vercelli, and a Latin one in 1495 by P. Pincio, Lucantonio Giunta in each case acting as publisher.[11] In 1497 Lazarus de Soardis printed for Simon de Luere a Terence with numerous vignettes; and in the same year there appeared an illustrated edition, several times reprinted, of the Metamorphoses of Ovid, the printer being Giovanni Rossi and the publisher once more Lucantonio Giunta. The cuts in this work measure something over three inches by five, and have little borders on each side of them; but the fineness of the designs is lost by[Pg 99] poor engraving. Some of them are signed ia, others N.

We now approach one of the most famous books in the annals of Venetian printing, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili printed by Aldus in 1499, at the expense of a certain Leonardo Crasso of Verona, 'artium et iuris Pontificis consultus,' by whom it was dedicated to Guidobaldo, Duke of Urbino. The author of the book was Francesco Colonna, a Dominican friar, who had been a teacher of rhetoric at Treviso and Padua, and was now spending his old age in the convent of SS. Giovanni e Paolo in Venice, his native city. Colonna's authorship of the romance is revealed in an acrostic formed by the initial letters of the successive chapters, which make up the sentence, 'Poliam Frater Franciscus Columna peramavit': 'Brother Francesco Colonna greatly loved Polia.' Who Polia was is a little uncertain. In the opening chapter she tells her nymphs that her real name was Lucretia, but she has been identified with a Hippolita Lelio, daughter of a jurisconsult at Treviso, who entered a convent after having been attacked by the plague, which visited Treviso from 1464 to 1468. On the other hand, it is plausibly suggested that Polia (πολια), 'the grey-haired lady,' is only a symbol of Antiquity, and at the beginning of the book there is at least a pretence of an allegory, though this is not carried very far.

From the Hypnerotomachia, Venice, 1499.

In the story Polifilo, a name intended to mean[Pg 100] 'the lover of Polia,' imagines himself in his dream as passing through a dark wood till he reaches a little stream, by which he rests. The valley through which it runs is filled with fragments of ancient architecture, which form the subjects of many illustrations. As he comes to a great gate he is frightened by a dragon. Escaping from this, he meets five nymphs (the five senses), and is brought to the court of Queen Eleuterylida (Free Will). Then follows a description of the ornaments of her palace and of four magnificent processions, the triumphs of Europa, Leda, and Danaë, and the festival of Bacchus. After this we have a triumph of Vertumnus and Pomona, and a picture of nymphs and men sacrificing before a terminal figure of Priapus. Meanwhile Polifilo has met the fair Polia, and together they witness some of the ceremonies in the Temple of Venus, and view its ornaments and those of the gardens round it. The first book, which is illustrated with one hundred and fifty-one cuts, now comes to an end. Book II describes how the beautiful Polia, after an attack of the plague, had taken refuge in a temple of Diana; how, while there, she dreamt a terrifying dream of the anger of Cupid, so that she was moved to let her lover embrace her, and was driven from Diana's temple with thick sticks; lastly, of how Venus took the lovers under her protection, and at the prayer of Polifilo caused Cupid to pierce an image of Polia with his dart, thereby fixing her affections as[Pg 102] firmly on Polifilo as he could wish—if only it were not all a dream! This second book is illustrated with only seventeen woodcuts, but as these are not interrupted by any wearisome architectural designs, their cumulative effect is far more impressive than those of the first, though many of the pictures in this—notably those of Polifilo in the wood and by the river, his presentation to Eleuterylida, the scenes of his first meeting with Polia, and some of the incidents of the triumphs—are quite equal to them. Unfortunately, the best pictures in both books are nearly square, so that it is impossible to reproduce them in an octavo except greatly reduced.

The woodcuts of the Polifilo have been ascribed to nearly a dozen artists, but in every case on the very slenderest grounds. Some of the cuts, like some of those in the Mallermi Bible, are marked with a little b; but this, as has been said, is almost certainly indicative of the engraver's workshop from which they proceeded, rather than of the artist who drew the designs. The edition of 1499 is a handsome folio; the text is printed in fine Roman type, with three or four different varieties of beautiful initial letters. The title and headings are printed in the delicate majuscules which belong to the type, and have a very graceful appearance. A second edition of the Polifilo was published in 1545, with, for the most part, the same cuts. This was followed in the next year by a[Pg 103] French translation by Jean Martin, printed at Paris by Jacques Kerver, and republished three times during the century. For the French editions the cuts were freely imitated, the rather short, plump Italian women reappearing as ladies of even excessive height. In England in 1592 Simon Waterson printed an abridged translation with the pretty title, Hypnerotomachia, or the Strife of Love in a Dreame, with a few cuts copied from the Italian originals. The book, now extremely rare, was apparently not well received, for Waterson, abandoning all hope of a second edition, speedily parted with his wood-blocks. Four of the cuts are found amid the most incongruous surroundings in the Strange and wonderful tidings happened to Richard Hasleton, borne at Braintree in Essex, in his ten yeares trauailes in many forraine countries, though this egregious work was printed by A. I. for William Barley in 1595, only three years after the Strife of Love in a Dreame.

As we have noted, Aldus printed the Hypnerotomachia on commission, and save for two discreditably bad cuts in his Musaeus and a rather fine portrait of S. Catherine of Siena in his edition of her Letters printed in 1500, he troubled himself with no other illustrations. In his larger works he revived the memory of the stately folios of Jenson, and in his popular editions sought no other adornment than the beauty of his italic type. If pictures were needed to make a book more acceptable to a[Pg 104] rich patron, he did not disdain to have recourse to the illuminator. Some of his Greek books have most beautiful initial letters, and in the Aristotle of 1497 he employs good head-pieces, though these fall far short of the large oriental design, printed in red, placed by his friendly rival, Zacharias Kaliergos, at the top of the first page of the Commentary of Simplicius on Aristotle of 1499.

Example woodcut, use of red ink and printer's mark of Lucantonio Giunta.

The influence of Aldus certainly helped to widen the gulf which already existed between the finely printed works intended for scholars and wealthy book-lovers and the cheaper and more popular ones in which woodcuts formed an addition very attractive to the humbler book-buyers. Perhaps this in part accounts for the great deterioration in Italian illustrated books after the close of the fifteenth century. The delicate vignettes and outline cuts only appear in reprints, and in new works their place is taken by heavily shaded engravings, mostly of very little charm. The numerous liturgical works published by Lucantonio Giunta and his successors perhaps show this work at its best. They are mostly printed in Gothic type with an abundant use of red ink, and the heaviness of the illustrations is thus all the better carried off. But as the century advanced Venetian printing deteriorated more and more rapidly: partly from excessive competition; partly, as Mr. Brown has shown in his The Venetian Printing Press, from too much interference on the part of the Government;[Pg 106] partly, we must suppose, simply from the decline of good taste, though it is noticeable that between 1540 and 1560, when the insides of books had become merely dull, is a brilliant period in the history of Venetian binding. Whatever the cause, within a few years after the close of the fifteenth century the glories of Venetian printing had disappeared.

[9] The title of the book, printed in red, beneath the first woodcut, reads: 'Meditationes Rever[=e]dissimi patris dñi Johannis de turre cremata sacros[~c]e Romane eccl'ie cardinalis posite & depicte de ipsius m[~a]dato [~i] eccl'ie ambitu Marie de Minerva, Rome.'

[10] Maps hardly come under the head of illustrations, but we may note the appearance in 1478 of the edition of Ptolemy's Cosmographia, by Arnold Buckinck, with maps engraved by Conrad Sweynheim, the partner of Pannartz.

[11] In the intervening year Giunta had published the Santa Catharina, printed by Matteo Codecha, some copies of which have the false date MCCCCLXXXIII.

[Pg 107]

From the Epistole of Pulci, Florence, c. 1495.

[Pg 108]



We must now return from Venice to Florence, where, after the experiments with engravings on copper in 1477 and 1481, no illustrated books had been published until on March 27, 1490, Francesco di Dino (whom we have already seen at work at Naples ten years earlier) brought out an edition of the Specchio di Croce of Domenico Cavalca, with a frontispiece representing the Crucifixion. In September of the same year an edition of the Laudi of Jacopone da Todi (the Franciscan author of the Stabat Mater), was printed by Francesco Buonaccorsi, which contains on the verso of its eighth leaf a most beautiful outline woodcut,[12] St. Jacopone kneeling by a little lectern, his book on the ground, while above him is a vision of the Madonna enshrined in a 'mandorla,' supported below by three cherubs and above by four maturer angels. In 1491 we make the acquaintance of Lorenzo di[Pg 109] Morgiani and Giovanni Tedesco da Maganza, or Johann Petri of Mainz, from whose press some of the most important of the Florentine illustrated books were issued. The first result of their activity was a new edition of Bettini's Monte Santo di Dio, in which the three copperplates of the edition of 1477 were freely imitated upon wood. In the same year they printed a little treatise on Arithmetic, written by Philippo Calandro and dedicated to Giuliano dei Medici. This is the most delightful of all arithmetic books. It has a title-cut of 'Pictagoras Arithmetice Introductor,' and the earlier pages of the book are surrounded by a characteristic Renaissance border. Towards the end of the work there is a series of illustrated problems, only a little more absurd than those which still occur in children's school-books. One of these, however, is so good that we must permit ourselves a little digression to quote it in a free translation:—

"A squirrel flying from a cat climbed to the top of a tree 26¾ arm's-lengths (braccia) in height. The cat, wanting to seize the squirrel, began to climb the tree, and each day leaped up half an arm's length, and each night descended a third of one. The squirrel, on its part, believing that the cat had gone away, wanted to get down from the tree, and each day descended a quarter of an arm's length, and each night went back one-fifth of one: I want to know in how many days the cat will reach the said squirrel?"

The answer is 121 days; but the picture must have been taken on the first or second, for the cat[Pg 110] is still very plump, and so large in proportion to the tree that if he had but stood on his hind legs he ought to have reached the top! Others of the pictures are without this charming touch of absurdity, perhaps the most perfect being a little cut of a traveller on horseback, as to the expenses of whose journey the teacher was anxious for some information from his young friends. These little cuts are all about an inch square, and drawn in outline. Another edition of the Arithmetic, in Roman type instead of black letter, but otherwise very similar, was issued in 1518 by Bernardo Zucchetta.

From an undated Savonarola tract, Florence, c. 1495.

With the year 1492 we come to the first dated editions of the illustrated Savonarola tracts, which play no inconsiderable part in the history of book illustration in Italy. Their existence is in itself the best refutation of the popular belief that the reformer's influence was wholly hostile to the interests of art, though the number of artists who reckoned themselves, formally or informally, among his followers should have sufficed to prevent the belief growing up. These tracts, save for the cuts with which they are adorned, are insignificant in appearance, being for the most part badly printed, and with few and poor initial letters. The woodcuts, seldom more than two in a tract, are, however, charming, and have won for them much attention.

The first publisher of these tracts seems to have[Pg 112] been Antonio Mischomini, who on June 26, 1492, issued a

Amore Di Iesu Christo Composto
da frate Hieronymo da Ferrara del
de frati
tori pri
ore di San
Marcho di

with the title arranged cross-wise, as here shown. On the back of the title is a picture of the Crucifixion, with the Blessed Virgin and S. John standing by the Cross. This was followed on June 30th by the Tractato della humilta, with a large title-cut representing the dead Christ before His Cross, an angel supporting each arm. Neither of these cuts shows typical Florentine work, for the blank spaces have all to be cleared away by the engraver, and there is an abundance of shading. The first design was clearly spoilt in the cutting, the second is of great beauty. The typical Florentine work, in which white lines are cut out from a black ground, as well as black lines from a white, appears in the Tractato ouero Sermone della oratione, finished by Mischomini on October 20th. Here the title-cut shows the scene at Gethsemane: the three disciples asleep in the foreground, Christ in prayer, and the[Pg 113] hands of an angel holding a cup appearing in a corner above. The picture, as always in distinctively Florentine work, is surrounded by a little border or frame, in which a small white pattern is picked out from a black ground.

The other illustrated Savonarola tracts bearing an early date, with which I am acquainted, are the De Simplicitate Christianae Vitae, printed 'impensis Ser Petri Pacini,' August 28th, 1496, and the Predica dell arte del bene Morire, preached on Nov. 2 of that year, taken down at the time by Ser Lorenzo Violi, and doubtless published immediately afterwards. The De Simplicitate has on its first page a picture of a Dominican friar writing in his cell, a sand-glass at his side, a crucifix in front of his desk, and books and his gown scattered on a table. The illustrations to the Arte del bene Morire comprise a hideous outline cut of Death, scythe on shoulder, flying over ground strewn with corpses (this is enclosed in a large black border used by Mischomini in 1492), and cuts of Death showing a young man Heaven and Hell,[13] of a sick man with his good and bad angels watching him and Death standing without the door, and of a dying man attended by a friar, Death sitting now at his bed's foot, and the angels watching as before.

Turning now to the undated tracts, we find that the Expositione del Pater Noster contains (1) a very[Pg 114] beautiful variant of the representation of the scene on Gethsemane, the angel appearing on the left instead of the right,[14] (2) a cut of S. James writing at a table, (3) a small cut of David in prayer, and some still smaller pictures of prophets and of the Crucifixion. At the end of the book is an Epistola a una devota donna Bolognose, which is headed and ended by a cut of a Dominican preaching in the open air to a congregation of nuns. An undated edition of the Tractato della Humilta has Images of Pity at the beginning and end, the former surrounded by a black border. Yet another edition has an outline cut of Christ holding His Cross, while blood streams from His hand into a chalice. An edition of the Tractato dello Amore di Iesu has two outline cuts, one large, one small, showing the Blessed Virgin and S. John standing by the Cross. A tract on self-examination, addressed to the Abbess of the Convent of the Murate at Florence, shows an aged friar being welcomed at the convent. Other tracts have pictures of a priest elevating the Host, a man praying before an altar, a man and woman praying, &c. One of the rarest is the superb cut to the Dyalogo della Verita prophetica, in which a friar is preaching to seven questioners arranged in a half-circle under a tree, a view of Florence occupying the background. Cuts in other books show Savonarola[Pg 116] meeting a devil and an astrologer, and represent him preaching to an intent congregation. With these tracts we must join the defence of Savonarola by his follower Domenico Benivieni, who appears in the title-cut in earnest disputation with a group of Florentines, while later on in the book there is a full-page illustration of the reformer's vision of the regeneration of the world and the Church, in which the stream of Christ's blood as He hangs on the Cross is being literally used for the washing away of sins. This book was published by Francesco Buonaccorsi in 1496.

From Savonarola's Operetta sopra i dieci commandamenti di Dio, 1495.

Florentine book-illustration reached its highest in an edition of the Epistole e Evangelii,[15] or liturgical Gospels and Epistles, printed in 1495 by Lorenzo Morgiani and Johann Petri at the instance of the Ser Piero Pacini da Pescia, who for the next fourteen or fifteen years seems to have been an active promoter of illustrated books. Only two copies of the edition of the Epistole e Evangelii are known to exist, but the owner of one of them, Mr. C. W. Dyson Perrins, has reproduced all the woodcuts in it in very finely executed facsimile, together with a reprint of the text, for presentation to the Roxburghe Club, so that the illustrator's work can now be studied with comparative ease. The title-page shows S. Peter and S. Paul standing in a circle enclosed in an arabesque border of white floral ornaments and dolphins on a black ground. At the corners of the border are figures of the four[Pg 118] Evangelists. In the text there are twelve dozen large woodcuts and two dozen half-length figures of prophets, evangelists, and epistle-writers. Of the larger cuts eleven represent S. Paul writing and one S. Peter, most of the rest scenes from the life of Christ, several of those representing the Passion having previously appeared in an undated edition of the Meditatione attributed to S. Bonaventura from the press of Mischomini. The cuts form a treasure-house of Florentine art, and were frequently drawn upon by the printers of the later Rappresentationi, at which we shall soon have to look.

From the Giuocho delli Scacchi, Florence, 1493.

We must return now to Antonio Mischomini, who published many other illustrated books besides the Savonarola tracts. In 1492 he printed an edition of Cristoforo Landino's Formulare di lettere e di orationi uolgari, with a large title-cut of a very young teacher addressing a class, and at the end of the book his mark (a cross-surmounted M within two squares and a circle), surrounded by the arabesque border which we have already noticed in the Arte del bene Morire of 1496. The next year (i.e. 1493) he printed the Libro di Giuocho delli Scacchi of Jacobus de Cessolis, with a large title-cut (repeated at the end of the book) representing courtiers playing in the presence of a king, and thirteen smaller cuts personifying the various pieces. These comprise a king and queen, a judge, a knight, a 'rook,' or vicar of the king to visit in his stead all parts of the realm, and the eight 'popolari' or pawns, a labourer,[Pg 119] smith, wool-merchant, money-changer, physician, tavern-keeper (here shown), city-guard, and a runner to be at the rook's service. Chess-players may be interested to know that the pawns actually in use in 1493, as shown on the board in the title-cut, had already lost this excessive individuality, and resemble those of our own day.

From the Fior di Virtù, Florence, 1498.

In 1494 Mischomini printed the commentary on the Ten Commandments by Frate Marco dal Monte Sancta Maria, which has a title-cut of the friar preaching, and three full-page allegorical illustrations freely copied from those in an edition printed at Venice. The first of these represents 'la figura della vita eterna' by a picture of the glories of heaven,[16] and the earthly devotions by which they are to be attained; the second, which is in three divisions, the traversing of the Desert of Sin; and the third, Mount Sinai, up which Moses is seen climbing. In the same year, 1494, Mischomini also published a catechism known as the Lucidario, to which he prefixed a title-cut showing Damocles at his feast, the sword hanging over his head, and in another compartment some little rabbits running happily in a wood. Damocles and the rabbits have nothing whatever to do with the Catechism, and the occurrence of the cut proves that before this date Mischomini must have printed[Pg 120] an edition of the Fior di Virtù, to which it rightfully belongs. We have already looked at the Venetian editions of this book, and shall not be surprised to find that the Florentine printers had the good sense to copy their charming title-cut, though they did not improve it by their addition of an incongruous border of pilasters, a vernicle, and an Image of Pity. The first Florentine edition of this book, with which I am acquainted, has a fitfully rhyming colophon, adapted from that of the Venetian edition of 1493, showing that it was printed at Florence in 1498, and ought, at any rate, to be read on feast-days. To entice readers to persevere in this task, there are thirty-five illustrations, some of which, like the one in the Lucidario, are[Pg 121] divided into two parts, so as to secure a contrast or comparison between an animal and a man—as, for example, between a humble sheep and a proud general riding in triumph, or, as shown in our illustration, between the constancy of the phœnix, who permits herself to be burnt to ashes rather than quit her nest, and that of an Emperor Constantine who (by a gross plagiarism upon Solon) quitted his country for ever, after making his counsellors swear to observe his laws unaltered until his return. The book was printed yet a third time, probably about 1515, by Gian Stephano da Pavia, at the request of Bernardo Pacini. The printer of the 1498 edition is not known; it cannot have been Mischomini, who seems to have brought his brilliant career to a close about 1495. The foregoing notice of his illustrated books is by no means exhaustive. Passing mention has been made in the chapter on Venice of one other important one, the undated Meditatione, attributed to S. Bonaventura, with cuts of peculiar interest, from the opportunity they afford of comparing the different styles in vogue in the two cities.

Three other Florentine books issued during the fifteenth century remain to be mentioned, none of which I have seen. The first of these, an undated edition of Domenico Capranica's Arte di bene Morire (not to be confounded with Savonarola's), published by Morgiani and Johann Petri about 1495, contains twelve large cuts and twenty-two small ones. The larger cuts are interesting, because ten of them are[Pg 122] based on those found in the old block books of the Ars Moriendi, the other two coming from Savonarola's book of the same name. The smaller ones seem brought together rather at haphazard. The other two books, an Æsop, printed in 1495 by Francesco Buonaccorsi for Piero Pacini, and the Morgante Maggiore (a long poem on the adventures of Orlando) of Ludovico Pulci, printed in 1500, both exist only in single copies in foreign libraries, but a good many illustrations from both have been reproduced by Dr. Kristeller.

Of illustrated books printed at Florence after 1500, the most important is an edition of the Quatriregio del decorso della vita humana of Federico Frezzi, printed, this also, 'ad petitione di Ser Piero Pacini di Pescia,' as late as 1508, though there is ground for believing that this may really be a reprint from a fifteenth century edition now no longer extant. Like the author of the Hypnerotomachia, Frezzi was a Dominican, and was consecrated Bishop of Foligno, his native place, in 1403. He attended the Council of Constance, and died there in 1416. He was a man of great learning and a book-collector, but rather a dull poet. His Quatriregio is an imitation of Dante's Divina Commedia, and is divided into four books treating successively of the kingdoms 'of the god Cupid,' 'of Satan,' 'of the Vices,' and 'of the goddess Minerva and of Virtue.' It was first printed in 1481, and went through three other editions before[Pg 124] it was honoured with illustrations. The importance of this illustrated edition has perhaps been overrated. Taken individually, the best of the cuts are not superior to those in earlier Florentine books of less pretensions, while the cumulative effect of the series of one hundred and twenty-six (several of which, it should be said, are duplicates) is seriously diminished, partly by the monotonous recurrence of the same figure in every cut, partly by the coarseness and angularity with which most of the blocks have been engraved. It must be mentioned that the cut on the first page of the poem is signed with the initials L. V., which were at one time interpreted as standing for Luca Egidio di Venturi, i.e. Luca Signorelli, whose recognised signature, however, was L. C. (Luca di Cortona).

Two other great series of Florentine illustrated books still remain to be considered. The first of these is the Rappresentazioni, sacred and secular, which enjoyed a life extending over two centuries, and must be reckoned as the most artistic of chapbooks. In 1852 M. Colomb de Batines published at Florence a bibliography of these 'Antiche Rappresentazioni Italiane,' to which I am indebted for the following details concerning their chief authors. The plays are almost uniformly written in ottava rima, and poorly printed in double columns. A large number of them, at least a score, were written and printed during the fifteenth century, but these earliest editions are, as a rule, not illustrated.[Pg 125] Maffeo Belcari (1410-1484) apparently was the first author who obtained the honours of print. His play of Abraham appeared in 1485, after which it was reprinted some twenty times, the latest known edition belonging to the eighteenth century. Belcari also wrote on the Annunciation, on S. John the Baptist visited by Christ in the Desert, and on S. Panuntius. Lorenzo de' Medici himself wrote a play of S. John and S. Paul, Bernardo Pulci (d. 1501) produced one on the legend of Barlaam and Josaphat, while his wife Antonia was quite a prolific dramatist, claiming as her own plays on S. Domitilla, S. Guglielma, the Patriarch Joseph, S. Francis, and the Prodigal Son. During the fifteenth century anonymous plays were written on the Nativity, on the life of Queen Hester, on the Angel Raphael, on the conversion of three robbers by S. Francis, and on S. Eustachio, S. Antony, and S. Antonia. Plays on the Last Judgment, on S. Agatha, S. Agnes, S. Catharine, S. Cecilia, S. Christina, &c., also appeared at an early date. An angel, as a rule, acts as Prologue, and the action of the drama is divided between numerous characters. Most of the plays were, doubtless, intended to be acted on the feast-day of the Saint whose life they celebrate, and in a church bearing the Saint's name, but the multiplicity of the editions show that they also won the favour of a reading public.

A few undated editions of these little books, from the types used in their press work, may be[Pg 126] assigned to the end of the fifteenth century. The first printer who is known to have made a specialty of the Rappresentazioni is Francesco Benvenuto, who began printing them in 1516, and enjoyed a career of thirty years. M. Colomb de Batines mentions several of his editions, but they are very scarce, and I have only myself seen a Raphael of 1516 with a title-cut of Tobit and the Angel enclosed in a border, partly the same as that of the Fior di Virtù of 1498, a Barlaam and Josafat, also of 1516, with six illustrations (including our friend Damocles and the Rabbit, whose fate seems to have been to be lugged in inappropriately), and a Miracolo di Tre Peregrini che andauano a sancto Iacopo di Galitia, with a solitary cut of the Saint rescuing one of the pilgrims who is being unjustly hanged. The great majority of the extant Rappresentazioni were printed between 1550 and 1580, mostly anonymously, though Giovanni Baleni and a printer 'Alle Scale di Badia' were responsible for a great many of them. Of course, in many cases the cuts were sadly the worse for wear, but they held on wonderfully, and even in the seventeenth century editions a tolerable impression is sometimes met with. Many of them, also, were recut, sometimes skilfully, so that it is not uncommon to find a better example in a later edition than in an earlier. The illustrations here shown are from an undated edition of Lorenzo de' Medici's Rappresentatione di San Giovanni e Paulo, the careful printing of which[Pg 128] is an argument for its belonging to the beginning of the sixteenth century, and a picture of the martyrdom of S. Dorothea from an edition of her Rappresentatione printed in 1555.

Martyrdom of S. Dorothea.

With these religious Rappresentazioni M. Colomb de Batines joins a few secular poems, whose title to be considered dramatic is not very clear. Of those which he mentions, the earliest is the Favola d' Orfeo, by Angelo Politiano, which forms part of La Giostra di Giuliano di Medici, printed without name or date, probably about 1495, with ten excellent cuts, that of Aristeo pursuing the flying Eurydice being, perhaps, the best. La Giostra di Lorenzo di Medici, celebrated by Luigi Pulci, has only a single cut, but that a fine one—a meeting of knights in an amphitheatre. Among other secular chapbooks which enjoyed a long popularity was a series of 'contrasti,'[17] the contrast of Carnival and Lent, of Men and Women, of the Living and the Dead, of the Blonde and the Brunette, and of Riches and Poverty. I give here the first of the two cuts of the Contrasto di Carnesciale e la Quaresima, undated, but probably early. With these little poems we must join the metrical Novelle and Istorie, now chiefly known through the discovery in the University Library at Erlangen of a little collection of twenty-one tracts, all undated, and[Pg 130] without any indication of their printers, but which may mostly be assigned to the end of the fifteenth century. Among them are the Novella di Gualtieri e Griselda, the Novella di due Preti et un Cherico, the Novella della Figliuola del Mercatante, &c.

Woodcut and text from a chapbook Contrasto di Carnesciale e la Quaresima

The charm of these little Florentine books is so great, and of late years has won such steadily increasing recognition, that I do not think an apology is needed for the length at which they have here been treated. None the less, we must remember that they were essentially popular books, and that the wealthy book lovers of the time probably regarded them very slightly. Mischomini himself did not turn his attention to them till he had been printing nearly a dozen years, and even after 1492 his more expensive books, the great Plotinus, for instance, issued in that year, kept strictly to the traditions of twenty years earlier, and were wholly destitute of ornament, even of printed initials. The two classes of books—those on good paper and in a large handsome type, and those on poor paper with small type carelessly printed, but with delightful woodcuts—were issued side by side, but the beauties of the two were never combined, and the Florentine printers would doubtless have been greatly surprised if they had been told that it was the chapbooks which were to win the day. Even in the little italic editions issued by the Giuntas, in imitation of Aldus, which appealed to an intermediate class of purchasers, woodcuts[Pg 131] occur but rarely, and the only instance I can call to mind is a Dante, printed by Philippo Giunta in 1506, which, besides some plans of the Inferno, &c., has a single cut illustrating the first canto.

We have devoted so much space to Venice and Florence that the illustrated books of other towns must be noticed with rather unfair brevity. Brescia may be taken as an example of a town at which the native artist did his best. We have already remarked the publication there of a Dante in 1487. The same year witnessed the appearance of an Æsop, rudely imitated from the Verona edition, and in 1491 Baptista da Farfengo printed another book in which we have been interested, a Fior di Virtù, with a title-cut of a student, head on hand, reading at a desk. On a ledge on the wall are two flower-pots, the flowers in which reach up to a very decorative ceiling. This is quite a nice example of Brescian art, but the productions of the town have not been specially studied, and further research might show that they deserve more serious praise. At Ferrara artists of the schools of Venice and Florence appear to have combined in the production of some very notable books. Two of these were published by Lorenzo di Rossi in 1497. The first is an edition of the Epistles of S. Jerome, with numerous vignettes and three frontispieces, the third of which, somewhat in the style of the Venetian Boccaccio, bears the date 1493, divided between its two columns. This frontispiece appears[Pg 132] also in the other work, the De pluribus claris selectisque mulieribus of Philippus Bergomensis, the illustrations in the text of which show Florentine influence in their black backgrounds. This book has a title-page printed in large Gothic letters cut in wood, similar to that of the Nuremberg Chronicle.

No illustrated books appear to have been issued at Milan during the eighties, but in 1492 Philippo Mantegazza printed the Theorica Musice of Gafori with some coarse cuts, and this was followed in 1494 by the Triumfi of Petrarch, printed by Antonio Zaroto with the usual six full-page illustrations. As befits the reputation of Milan as a musical centre, the works of Gafori were often printed there. In 1496 Guillaume Le Signerre of Rouen printed there the first edition of the Practica Musice, with a curious title-page representing the relations of the Muses and the heavenly bodies, and fine ornamental borders to two pages of text. At the base of one of these are little scenes of choir-boys practising and a music-mistress giving a lesson. The style of the borders is distinctly Venetian. In another work of Gafori's printed at Milan, the De Harmonia Instrumentorum of 1518 (reprinted two years later at Turin), the cuts exhibit the heavy Milanese shading, one of them representing a lesson on the organ, and the other a performer playing.

In 1496 Le Signerre printed a devotional work, the Specchio di Anima of Besalii, with seventy-eight full-sized cuts to its eighty-eight pages. Most of[Pg 133] the cuts relate to the passion of Christ, and they are described by Dr. Lippmann as 'vigorously executed in coarse thick outlines, with scarcely any shading.' Some of these cuts reappear three years later in the same printer's Tesauro Spirituale, of which the unique copy is in the Berlin Print-Room. In 1498 Le Signerre printed an Æsop, the cuts in which are surrounded by small black borders relieved in white. The illustrations themselves are poor. At the end of the book is the printer's mark, a crowned stork in a shield within a circle, on either side of which stand a fox and a monkey. In this[Pg 134] same year Le Signerre transferred his press to Saluzzo, where in 1499 he issued the Tesauro Spirituale, and four years later an edition of the De Veritate Contricionis of Vivaldus, with a fine frontispiece representing S. Jerome in the desert. The border shows typical Milanese ornament, and recalls the illumination to the Sforziada, mentioned in our first chapter. In 1507 a still finer work, an edition of the Opus Regale, also by Vivaldus, was printed at Saluzzo by Jacobus de Circis. This contains a fine picture of Saint Louis of France in prayer, and[Pg 135] also a large portrait of the Marquis of Saluzzo, Louis II., whose taste has won for the town its little niche in the history of printing.

Mark of Bazalerius de Bazaleriis.

Mark of Stephanus Guillireti.

Mark of Francis de Mazalis.

Italian printers' devices are very decorative and interesting, and may now be studied in Dr. Paul Kristeller's 'Die italienischen Buchdrucker- und Verlegerzeichen,' which gives nearly a complete collection of those in use before 1525, to the number of between three and four hundred. In the great majority of devices the ground is black, with a simple design, mostly including a circle and a cross, outlined in white. The mark of Bazalerius de Bazaleriis of Bologna and Reggio, taken from a copy of the Epistolae of Philelphus, printed by him in 1489, shows this class of design in almost its[Pg 136] simplest form. In that of Stephanus Guillireti, who printed at Rome from 1506 to 1524, we have the addition of a shield (the arms on which, unluckily, have not been identified) and floral sprays. These floral sprays become the chief feature in the design of Franciscus de Mazalis of Reggio, who printed from 1493 to 1504; though the initials, circle, and cross of the simpler devices are all retained. An even more beautiful example of this[Pg 137] class of mark was used by Egmont and Barrevelt, the printers of the Sarum Missal, who added to its attractiveness by the use of red ink, instead of black. Red ink also adds immensely to the effect of the well-known mark of Nikolaos Blastos, which occurs in a copy of the Commentary of Simplicius upon Aristotle, printed by Zacharias Kaliergos at Venice in 1499. The delicate tracery of this design is unsurpassed by any work of the time. The mark of Nicolaus Gorgonzola, who printed at Milan from 1504 to 1533, in its floral ornaments, is very similar in style to those of Mazalis and Egmont, but, as in the mark of Blastos, the cross and circle[Pg 138] have disappeared, and the name is set out in full, instead of by its initials.

Mark of Nicholaus Gorgonzola

Mark of Simon de Gabiis dictus Bevilaqua

Mark of Niccolo Zoppino.

Purely ornamental designs, of the styles illustrated in these five examples, form the majority among Italian devices, but more pictorial ones were by no means unknown. One of the best of these was that used by 'Simon de Gabiis dictus Bevilaqua,' who printed at Venice from 1485 to about 1512. Another good device is that of Ser Piero di Pacini of Pescia, the publisher of so many of the Florentine illustrated books. This consists of a crowned dolphin on a black ground, with sometimes a smaller device of a bird, placed on each side of it.[Pg 139]

Mark of Hieronymus Francisci Baldassaris.

[Pg 140] As examples of later styles, though not very beautiful in themselves, we add here the rather clumsy woodcut of S. Nicholas adopted by Niccolò d'Aristotele da Ferrara, called 'il Zoppino,' who printed at Venice from 1508 to about 1536, and the very florid device of Hieronymus Francisci Baldassaris, a printer at Perugia from about 1526 to 1550. The arms there shown are those of the city of Perugia, while the F. and the cross above it reproduce the mark used by the printer's father, Francesco, the founder of the firm. The Aldine anchor and the fleur-de-lys of Lucantonio Giunta and his successors are too well known to need reproduction or comment, though both stand rather apart from the ordinary run of Italian marks.

[12] This, and nearly all the Florentine illustrations mentioned here, will be found reproduced in Dr. Paul Kristeller's Early Florentine Woodcuts, published in 1897, after this chapter was written.

[13] There are two variants of this cut, the smaller introducing a little landscape background.

[14] There is yet a third variant, which may be recognised by the angel appearing on the right, but showing his whole body, not the hands only, as in the 1492 cut.

[15] A reprint was issued in 1515.

[16] In contrast to the prevailing anthropomorphism of the time, the First Person of the Trinity is represented by a 'loco tondo et vacuo,' a blank circle, with a halo of angels round it. On either side of this circle stand Christ and the Blessed Virgin.

[17] El Contrasto di Carnesciale e la Quaresima; El Contrasto degli Huomini e delle Donne; El Contrasto del Vivo e del Morto; El Contrasto della Bianca e della Brunetta; La Contenzione della Poverta contra la Richezza, &c.

[Pg 141]

[Pg 142]



The earliest productions of the French press will not bear comparison with those of either the German or the Italian: they have neither the massive dignity of the one, nor the artistic grace of the other. The worthy professors at the Sorbonne, who called to their aid the Swiss or German printers, Crantz Gering and Friburger, bestowed, as we have seen in our first chapter, considerable trouble on the decoration by hand of special copies for presentation to influential friends or patrons, but in other respects, their books were wholly destitute of ornament. When, after little more than two years, they gave up their press, the three printers started again on their own account with a rather ugly gothic type, nor did Gering, who afterwards worked both by himself and in combination with other printers, produce a really handsome book until about 1480. The semi-gothic types of another firm of German printers in Paris, Peter Caesaris and Stoll, are much more attractive, but the average French work during the seventies is dull.

The first attempt at decoration appears to have been made, not at the capital, but at Lyons, where,[Pg 143] in August 1478, an anonymous printer, probably Martin Husz, completed a double-column edition of Le Miroir de la redemption humaine, translated from the Latin by Julien Macho, with cuts previously used in a German edition of the Speculum, printed at Basel in 1476. In 1478, also, Barthélemy Buyer printed an edition of the romance of Baudoin, Comte de Flandre, with no cuts, but with rude printed initials. In an edition of Les Quatre Filz Aymon, unsigned and undated, but printed at Lyons about 1480, the first page bears four grotesque woodcuts representing the reception of the youths by Charlemagne, the buffet which the Emperor's son gave one of them over a game of chess, the fatal blow with the golden chess-board by which the buffet was returned, and then the four youths fighting amid a crowd. On the next page a larger picture shows their expulsion from Charlemagne's court. Throughout the book are curious woodcut initials, interwoven with grotesque faces. About 1481 Ortuin and Schenck produced (anonymously) an edition of the Roman de la Rose with eighty-six small woodcuts, which were imitated in later editions both at Lyons and Paris, and were not without a certain rude merit. In 1483 Mathieu Husz and Pierre Hongre issued a Légende dorée, with large pictures of Christ in Glory on the Last Day, and of the Crucifixion, and numerous very rough cuts at the head of the different chapters. In the same year, Husz published, in conjunction with Jean Schabeler,[Pg 144] an illustrated translation of Boccaccio's De Casibus illustrium virorum ('Du dechier des nobles hommes et femmes'). Meanwhile, at Albi, in Languedoc, of all places in the world, Neumeister had reprinted in 1481 an illustrated edition of the Meditationes of Turrecremata, which he had produced two years previously at Mainz. In 1484 we hear of illustrated books in three other towns. At Rennes, Pierre Bellescullée and Josses printed the Coutumes de Bretagne, with a woodcut of the arms of Brittany, used again the next year in the same printers' Floret en francoys, a book noticeable for having a woodcut title printed in white on a black ground. At Vienne, Pierre Schenck printed another edition, in double-columns, of L'Abuzé en court, with small cuts at the chapter headings. At Chambéry, Antoine Neyret finished, on July 6th, an edition of the Exposition des Évangiles en romant of Maurice de Sully, and in the following November the romance of Baudoin comte de Flandre. The Bishop's sermons have, on the first page, a large initial I and a very rough cut of the disciples loosing the ass and her colt for Christ's use. With their other illustrations I am not acquainted. The romance of Count Baldwin has a full-page cut of the Count riding on a gaily-decked charger, and thirteen smaller illustrations of his adventures, of which, however, several are repeated. The execution of them all is as rude as can well be conceived. Two years later, Neyret printed the first edition of a very famous book, [Pg 145]Le Livre du Roi Modus et de la reine Ratio, 'lequel fait mencion commant on doit deviser de toutes manières de chasses.' The cuts in this are numerous, and their representations of the various hunting scenes are more than sufficiently grotesque.

The list of books we have named could certainly be extended, especially as regards those printed at Lyons, but it is sufficiently full to enable us to draw some useful conclusions from it. The illustrations are, almost without exception, poor in design and badly cut, and are mostly accompanied by inferior types and press-work. Some of them are imitated from the books of foreign printers, and they contain little evidence of the growth of any French school of illustrators. On the other hand, they testify to the spread of a demand for illustrated books, at least in the provinces, which local printers were doing their best to satisfy. At Paris the demand, apparently, had not yet arisen. In the first dated book which bears the name of Jean du Pré, a Missale ad usum ecclesiae Parisiensis, printed by him in conjunction with Didier Huym in September 1481, there is a large woodcut of God the Father and the Crucifixion, illustrating the Canon. Two months later Du Pré printed a Verdun missal with a really fine metal cut of a priest at Mass, and a little figure rising up to represent his soul in prayer. In February 1483-4 appeared his first illustrated secular work, De la ruine des nobles hommes, another translation from Boccaccio's De Casibus, with a[Pg 146] woodcut of varying merit at the head of each book. These have a special interest for English students, as some years later they were borrowed by Pynson to illustrate his edition of Lydgate's version of the same work.

In May 1484 Jacques Bonhomme issued Millet's L'Histoire de la destruction de Troye la Grant, with numerous woodcuts of battles, frequently used in later works; and the following year Guyot Marchant produced the first of numerous editions of a Danse Macabre illustrated with a wonderful series of pictures, full of grotesque vigour and skilfully cut, showing Death as a grinning skeleton seizing on his prey in every class of society. Marchant followed this up with a Danse Macabre des femmes (somewhat less good) in 1491, and also with a Compost et Calendrier des Bergers, which was no less successful.

Meanwhile the greatest Paris publisher of the century, Antoine Vérard, had come on the scene. Although some of the innumerable works which bear his name are said to have been printed 'par Antoine Vérard,' it is clear that the expression must not be taken too literally, and that he was a 'libraire,' i.e. a bookseller or publisher, rather than a printer. His first dated book is an edition, enriched with a single woodcut, of Laurent du Premier Fait's French version of the Decamerone, and the colophon tells us that it was printed for Antoine Vérard, 'libraire, demeurant sur le Pont Notre Dame, à l'image de[Pg 147] Saint Jean l'Evangéliste,' on November 22, 1485. The types used in the book have been identified as belonging to Jean du Pré, and the association of the two men seems to have led to important results. The next year we find Du Pré printing an edition of S. Jerome's Vie des anciens saintz Pères, with a delightful frontispiece of the saint preaching from a lectern in the open air, numerous smaller cuts, and initial letters with interwoven faces. During 1486 also, he assisted Pierre Gérard (who earlier in the year had printed by himself an edition of Boutillier's La Somme Rurale with a single cut), in producing at Abbeville the first really magnificent French illustrated book, S. Augustine's Cité de Dieu, in which paper and print and woodcuts of artistic value all harmonise.[18] Two years later he joined with another provincial printer, Jean le Bourgeois, in producing a still more splendid book, the romance of Lancelot du Lac, the first volume of which was finished by Le Bourgeois at Rouen on November 24th, and the second by Du Pré at Paris on September 16th. In 1488 also, Du Pré produced his first 'Book of Hours,' but the French Horae form so important an episode in the history of the decoration of books, that we must reserve their treat[Pg 148]ment for a separate chapter, in which, besides those of Du Pré and Vérard, we shall have to speak of the long series inaugurated by Philippe Pigouchet and Simon Vostre in 1491.

At starting, Vérard's resources were probably small, and for a year or two he produced little beyond his Horae. In 1487, however, he published a French Livy, with four small cuts, representing a battle, a siege, a king and his court, and some riders, whose hats have a very ecclesiastical shape, entering a town. The next year produced a work entitled L'art de Chevalerie selon Végèce, really an edition of the Faits d'arme et de chevalerie of Christine de Pisan. This has a single large cut representing a king and his court. The Livre de Politiques d'Aristote, published in 1489, has a large frontispiece of the translator, Nicholas Oresme, presenting his book to Charles VIII, in which the characteristic style of Vérard's artist is fully developed. In 1490, an edition of Lucain, Suetone et Saluste, which I have not seen, was printed for Vérard by Pierre Le Rouge. To 1491 probably belongs his French Seneca, and in this year he must have obtained the aid of the king or of some very rich patron, for his activity from 1492 to the end of the century is quite amazing. It is from about 1493, also, that we may date the production of those magnificent special copies on vellum, enriched with elaborate, if not very artistic, miniatures, to which we have already alluded in our first chapter.[Pg 149]

The chief book of 1492 was undoubtedly the series of treatises making up the Art de bien vivre et de bien mourir, of which a detailed description will be given later on. These treatises were printed for Vérard by Cousteau and Menard, the first part being finished on July 18th, the last on December 19th. Next to them in importance is a Josephus de la bataille judaique, one of Vérard's large folios, with columns of printed text, not reckoning any margin, nearly twelve inches long. The frontispiece is a fine cut of a triumphal entry of a king who should be French, since he wears the lilies. The design, however, must have been made for this book, for a label in the middle of the picture bears the name 'Josephus,' while in the Gestes Romaines and Lancelot, in both of which the cut reappears, the label is left blank. The 'Entry' is also used again, three times in the Josephus itself, at the beginning of the fourth, fifth, and seventh books. An entry of a different kind, that of Joshua and his staff into Jericho, is depicted in the cut (here reproduced) which heads the prologue. This is faced by the first page of text, headed by a cut of an author presenting his book to an ecclesiastic. Both pages are surrounded by fine borders of flowers, women, and shield. The head-cut to the second book shows a monk handing a book to a king; that used for the third and sixth (repeated again in the Lancelot of 1494) shows a king on his throne surrounded by his courtiers, a sword of justice is in his hand, and[Pg 150] a suppliant kneels before him. Small cuts, fitting into the columns, head the different chapters in each book, but are of no great merit. Occasionally a border about an inch wide runs up the side of one of the columns of text, usually on the outer margin, but sometimes on the inner. Altogether the book is a very notable one.

From Vérard's Josephus, 1492. (Much reduced.)

In 1493, Vérard's activity was still on the increase, and we have at least eight illustrated books of his bearing the date of this year. In the romance of Le Jouvencel and Bonnor's Arbre des Batailles, both in 4to, the cuts, all of them small, are nearly identical, and are repeated again and again in each book. Much more important than these are the editions of the Chronicques de France (printed for Vérard by Jehan Maurand), and a translation of the Metamorphoses of Ovid, issued under the very taking title of La Bible des Poetes. This is another of Vérard's great folios, with profuse illustrations, large and small, and in its vellum edition is a very gaudy and magnificent book. In 1494 Vérard published his Lancelot; and in 1495, a Légende Dorée and S. Jerome's Vie des Pères en françois. This last book was finished on October 15, but its appearance was preceded by that of the first volume of the publisher's most ambitious undertaking, an edition of the Miroir Historial of Vincent de Beauvais. This enormous chronicle is in thirty-two books, which Vérard divided between five great folio volumes, averaging about three hundred[Pg 152] and twenty leaves, printed in long double columns. The whole work thus contains about the same amount of matter as some fifty volumes of the present series, yet it was faultlessly printed on the finest vellum, and with innumerable woodcuts, subsequently coloured, in considerably less than a year. The first volume was finished on September 29, 1495, and the colophon which announces the completion of the last, 'à l'honneur et louenge de nostre seigneur iesucrist et de sa glorieuse et sacrée mere et de la court celeste de paradis,' bears date May 7th, 1496. In the face of such activity and enterprise, I feel ashamed of having girded at the good man for having used some of the Ovid cuts as a basis to his illuminations in this gigantic work.

After 1496 to the end of the century, Vérard's dated books are very few. The only one I have met with myself is a Merlin of 1498. It is possible that he produced less (the Miroir may not have proved a financial success), but it is quite as likely that he merely discontinued his wholesome practice of dating his books, and that the Boethius, the Roman de la Rose, the Gestes Romaines, the romances of Tristram and Gyron, and other undated works, whose colophons show that they were printed while the Pont Notre Dame was still standing, i.e. before October 25th, 1499, belong to these years. After 1500 Vérard's enterprise certainly seems less. He continued to issue editions of poets and romances, but they are much less sumptuous than of yore,[Pg 153] and in place of his great folios we have a series of small octavos, mostly of works of devotion, with no other ornament than the strange twists of the initial L, which adorns their title-pages. The example here given is from an undated and unsigned edition of the Livre du Faulcon, but the letter itself frequently occurs in Vérard's undoubted books. The first hint for this grotesque form of ornament may have been found in the small initials of Du Pré's 1486 edition of S. Jerome's Vie des anciens saintz Pères, and variants of the L were used by other publishers besides Vérard, e.g. by Jacques Maillet at Lyons, and Pierre Le Rouge and Michel Le Noir at Paris. The most noticeable examples of the L, besides the one here given, are the man-at-arms L of the 1488 edition of the Mer des Histoires (P. Lerouge), the monkey-and-bagpipes L, here shown, from Maillet's 1494 edition of the Recueil des Histoires Troyennes, a St. George-and-the-Dragon L in a Lyons reprint of the Mer des Histoires, and the January-and-May L which, I believe, was first used by Vérard for a 1492 edition of the Matheolus, or 'quinze joies du mariage,' but of which a counterpart existed at Lyons.

[Pg 154]

Initial L used by Vérard.

[Pg 155]

Initial L used by Maillet.

It seems probable that the attention which Vérard paid to his vellum editions, in which the woodcuts were only useful as guides to the illustrator, made him less careful than he would otherwise have been to secure the best possible work in his ordinary books. Certainly I think his most interesting cuts[Pg 156] are to be found not in his later books but in the collection of six treatises which he had printed by Gillet Cousteau and Jehan Menard in 1492, and republished, somewhat less sumptuously, the next year, under the collective title L'art de bien vivre et de bien mourir, the reprint coming from the press of Pierre Le Rouge. The cuts in this collection have a special interest for us, because some of them were afterwards used in English books, and we may therefore be allowed to examine them at some length.

From Vérard's Art de bien vivre. (Reduced.)

In the 1492 edition the first title-page Le liure intitule lart de bien mourir heralds only the first work, an adaptation of the old Ars Moriendi showing the struggle between good and bad angels for the possession of the dying soul. The devils tempt the sufferer to hasten his end ('interficias teipsum' one of them is saying, the words being printed on a label), they remind him of his sins ('periuratus es'), tempt him to worldly thoughts ('intende thesauro'), persuade his physicians to over-commiseration ('Ecce quantam penam patitur'), or flatter him with undeserved praise ('coronam meruisti'). To each of these assaults his good angels have a 'bonne inspiracion' by way of answer, and the devils have to confess 'spes nobis nulla' and to see the little figure of the soul received into heaven. The second treatise is called at the beginning L'eguyllon de crainte divine pour bien mourir, but on the title-page placed on the back of the last leaf 'les paines[Pg 157] denfer et les paines de purgatoire.' Its illustrations consist of large cuts in which devils are inflicting excruciating and revolting tortures on their victims. Its colophon gives the printers' names and the date July 18, 1492. The next three parts of the book are Le Traité de l'avenement de l'Antechrist, Les Quinze Signes, or Fifteen Tokens of Judgment, and Les Joies du Paradis. The printing of these was finished on October 28. Only the middle treatise is much illustrated, but here the artist had full play for his powers in representing the fish swimming on the hills, the seas falling into the abyss, the sea-monsters covering the earth, the flames of the sea, the trees wet with blood, the crumbling of cities, the stones fighting among themselves, and the other[Pg 158] signs of the Last Day. Perhaps the best of this set of cuts is that representing the 'esbahissement' or astonishment of the men and women who had hidden themselves in holes in the earth, when at last they ventured forth. But in the last treatise, the Art de bien vivre, quaintness and horror are replaced by really beautiful work. The cuts here are intended to illustrate the Ave Maria, Lord's Prayer, Creed, Ten Commandments, and Seven Sacraments. Those in the last series are the largest in the book, each of them occupying a full page. The Creed has a series of smaller cuts of inferior work. But the picture which precedes this, representing the twelve apostles, and the pictures of the Angelic Salutation, of the Pope invoking the Blessed Virgin (here shown), and of Christ teaching the Apostles, show the finest work, outside the Horae, in any French books during the fifteenth century. These blocks appear also in two English books printed at Paris, in 1503, The Traytte of god lyuyng and good deyng, and The Kalendayr of Shyppars, and in many of the English editions of the latter work from Pynson's in 1506 onward.

Pierre Lerouge, one of Vérard's printers, produced at least one fine book quite independently of him. This is the first illustrated edition of La Mer des Hystoires, the French version of the Rudimentum Noviciorum (see p. 50), the general plan of which it follows, though not slavishly. Pierre Lerouge printed his edition for a publisher named Vincent[Pg 160] Commin. It is in two tall folios, with the man-at-arms L to decorate its title-pages, and splendid initials P, I, and S, the first having within it a figure of a scribe at work, the S being twisted into the form of a scaly snake, and the body of the I containing a figure of Christ. The cuts and borders of the book are not very remarkable. In 1498 Vérard published a new edition of it, having obtained the use of the old blocks. A Lyons reprint was issued about 1500, and other editions during the sixteenth century. Two other printers who cannot be said to have learnt anything from Vérard are Jean Bonhomme, who as early as 1486 printed an illustrated edition of a very popular book, Le livre des profits champêtres, translated from the Latin of Petrus Crescentius, and Germain Bineaut, who in 1490 printed a Pathelin le grant et le petit which is said to have woodcuts. Guyot Marchant's series of editions of the Danse Macabre or 'danse des Morts,' has been already mentioned. An edition of the same work, printed at Lyons, February 18, 1499 (no printer's name), a copy of which is among the books which entered the British Museum under the bequest of Mr. Alfred Huth, is especially interesting as containing cuts of the shops of a printer and a bookseller, at both of which Death is at work.

From a Lyons Danse Macabre, 1499. (Much reduced.)

Another edition of the Danse was printed by Nicole de la Barre at Paris in 1500, and others of the same character in the early years of the next century. We shall have to recur to the book again[Pg 161] both with reference to the Horae and for the later Lyons editions, the cuts in which followed designs by Holbein.

The only other Paris printer whom we have space here to mention is Jean Trepperel, whose career began in 1492, in which year, according to Hain, he issued a Histoire de Pierre de Provence et de la belle Maguelonne, probably illustrated. In 1493 he published an edition of the Chroniques de France, with four cuts, one of the founding of a town, another of an assault, and two battle scenes. They are good of their kind, especially that which serves for all the founders of cities from Æneas and Romulus to S. Louis, but their repetition becomes a little wearisome. In an undated issue of Jehan Quentin's Orologe de Devotion the cuts are all different, but fall into two series, one badly drawn and infamously engraved, the other showing really fine work, and having all the appearance of having been originally designed for a Book of Hours.

The only other fifteenth century book of Trepperel's with which I am acquainted is a charming quarto edition of the romance of Paris et Vienne, a copy of which is in the Morgan collection. It is undated, but was printed while the Pont Notre Dame was still standing. The title-cut shows signs of breakage, and may possibly have been designed for the earlier edition by Denis Meslier mentioned by Brunet as having a single cut. The rest of the large cuts in the book have all the appearance of having been[Pg 162] specially designed for the new edition, and are equal to the best work in the Horae. Meanwhile at Lyons the rude cuts of the books which heralded illustrated work in France had been replaced by far more artistic productions. In 1488 Michelet Topie de Pymont and Jacques Herrnberg produced a French version (by Nicole Le Huen) of Breydenbach's Peregrinatio (see p. 57) with copies of some of the original cuts, the smaller ones cut on wood, the large maps engraved on copper. The next year Jacques Maillet brought out a rival version (by Frere Jehan de Hersin) for which he acquired the original Mainz woodblocks themselves. To Maillet, also, we owe passable imitations of some of the less sumptuous books of Vérard's. Lastly, Jean Trechsel struck out a new line in a profusely illustrated Terence of 1493. At Rouen the Missal and Breviary printed by Martin Morin were adorned with a curious initial M and B in the same style as some of the more frequent Ls, and Pierre Regnault did work which Vérard found worthy of his vellum. Paris, however, having once gained the predominance in illustrated work, had as yet no difficulty in maintaining her position.

It remains for us to notice briefly the printers' devices in early French books. These are so numerous that it is possible to divide them into rough classes. The largest of these is formed by the marks which have as their central ornament a tree with a shield or label hung on the trunk, with supporters[Pg 163] varied according to the owner's fancy, and which are not always easy to assign to their right place in the animal creation. Durand Gerlier preferred rams, Michel Tholoze wild men, Denys Janot a creature which looks like a kangaroo, Hemon Le Fevre dancing bears duly muzzled and chained, Simon Vostre leopards, Thielmann Kerver unicorns, Felix Baligault rabbits, Robert Gourmont winged stags, Jehan Guyart of Bordeaux dolphins. Most of these devices have a dotted background, and they are sometimes found printed in red ink, which adds greatly to their decorative effect. Another class, to which Vérard's well-known device belongs, showed in their upper part the French lilies crowned and supported by angels. Jean Le Forestier combined this with the tree of knowledge, choosing lions as its supporters, but adding also the sacred lamb (for his name 'Jean'), and similar variations were adopted by other printers. In another large class the French printers, especially those of Lyons, followed the simple cross and circle so common in Italy. This was mostly printed in white on a black ground, as by Pierre Levet, Matthieu Vivian of Orleans, and Le Tailleur. Less often, as in the marks of Berthold Rembolt and Georges Wolf, the ground is white and the design black. Guillaume Balsarin who, as was very common, had two devices, had one of each kind. Outside these classes the special designs are too many to be enumerated. The successive Le Noirs punned on their names in[Pg 164] at least six different devices of black heads, and Deny de Harsy with less obvious appropriateness selected two black men with white waistbands to uphold his shields. Guyot Marchant's shoemakers, with the bar of music to complete his pious motto Sola fides sufficit, form one of the earliest and best known of French marks. Pierre Regnault showed excellent taste in his flower-surrounded P, in which the letters of his surname may also be deciphered. The scholar-printer Badius Ascensius chose a useful, if not very pretty, design of printers at work, the two variants of which first appear respectively in 1507 and 1521. All these devices and countless others will be found roughly figured in Silvestre's Marques Typographiques, many of them appear also in Brunet's Manuel du Libraire, and those of the chief fifteenth century printers have been reproduced with absolute fidelity in M. Thierry-Poux's Monuments de l'imprimerie française. Only the mark of Du Pré and one of those used by Caillaut are therefore given here, the first (on p. 141) in honour of a pioneer in French illustration, the second, as perhaps the most beautiful of any which the present writer has seen.[Pg 165]

Mark of Antoine Caillaut.

The first Greek book printed in France appeared in 1507, and the awakening of classical feeling was accompanied, as in other countries, by the putting away of the last remnants of mediæval art and literature as childish things. The old romances[Pg 166] continued to be published, chiefly by the Lenoirs, but in a smaller and cheaper form, and for the most part with old cuts. Vérard diminished his output, and the publishers of the Horae turned in despair to German designs in place of the now despised native work. Soon only some little octavos remained to show that there was still an unclassical public to be catered for. These were chiefly printed by Galliot du Pré, with titles in red and black, and sometimes with little architectural borders in imitation of the more ambitious German ones. When they disappear we say farewell to the richness and colour which distinguishes the best French books of the end of the fifteenth century. Instead of the black letter and quaint cuts we have graceful but cold Roman types, or pretty but thin italics, with good initial letters, sometimes with good head-and tail-pieces, but with few pictures, and with only a neat allegoric device on the title-page instead of the rich designs used by the earlier printers.

Geoffroy Tory of Bourges was the first important printer of the new school. His earliest connection with publishing was as the editor of various classical works, but he returned from a visit to Italy full of artistic theories as to book-making, which he proceeded to carry out, partly in alliance with Simon Colines, for whom he designed a new device representing Time with his scythe. Tory's own device of the 'pot cassé,' a broken vase pierced by a toret or auger, is said to refer to his desolation on[Pg 167] the death of his only daughter. Devices of other printers have been ascribed to him on the ground of the appearance in them of the little cross of Lorraine, which is found in some of Tory's undoubted works. It is certain, however, that the cross was not his individual signature, but only that of his studio.

After the Horae, which we shall notice in our next chapter, Tory's most famous book was his own Champfleury, 'auquel est contenu l'art et science de la vraie proportion des lettres antiques,' printed in 1529. This is a fantastic work, interesting for the prelude in which he speaks of his connection with the famous Grolier, and for the few illustrations scattered about the text. The best of these are the vignettes of 'Hercules Gallicus,' leading in chains the captives of his eloquence, and of the Triumphs of Apollo and the Muses. The specimen alphabets at the end of the book also deserve notice. They show that Tory was better than his theories, for his attempt to prove, by far-fetched analogies and derivations, that there is an ideal shape for every letter, is as bad in art as it is false in history.

Tory was succeeded in his office of royal printer by Robert Estienne, and during the rest of the century the classical editions of this family of great printers form the chief glories of the French press. Their books, both large and small, are admirably printed, and in excellent taste, though with no other ornaments than their printer's device, and[Pg 168] good initials and head-pieces. But it must be owned that from the reign of Francis I. onwards, the decoration of the text of most French books is far less interesting than the superb bindings on which the kings and their favourites began to lavish so much expense.

Only two more Paris books need here be mentioned, both of them printed in 1546, and both with cuts imitated from the Italian—Jacques Gohary's translation of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and the Amour de Cupido et de Psiché translated from Apuleius. The first of these was published by Jacques Kerver, the second by Jeanne de Marnef. Of original Paris work of any eminence we have no record after the death of Tory.

Meanwhile at Lyons a new school of book-illustration was springing up. From the beginning of the century the Lyons printers had imitated, or pirated, the delicate italic books printed by Aldus. The luckless Étienne Dolet added something to the classical reputation of the town, and by the middle of the century the printers there were turning out numerous pocket editions of the classics, which they sold to their customers in 'trade bindings' of calf stamped with gold, and often painted over with many-coloured interlacements. The fashion for small books was set, and when illustrations were fitted to them the result was singularly dainty.

Before considering the editions of Jean de Tournes and his rivals we must stop to notice the appear[Pg 169]ance at Lyons in 1538 of the belated first edition of Holbein's Dance of Death, the woodcuts for which, the work of H. L., whose identity with Hans Lützelburger has been sufficiently established, are known to have been in existence as early as 1527, and were probably executed two or three years before that date. Several sets of proofs from the woodcuts are in existence, with lettering said to be in the types of Froben of Basel, who may have abandoned the idea of publishing them because of the vigour of their satire on the nobles and well-to-do. The Trechsels, the printers of the French edition, are known to have had dealings with a Basel woodcutter with initials H. L., who died before June 1526, and may have purchased the blocks directly from him, or at a later date from Froben. In 1538 they issued forty-one woodcuts with a dedication by Jean de Vauzelles, and a French quatrain to each cut either by him or by Gilles Corrozet, giving to the book the title Les Simulachres et historiees faces de la mort. Its success was as great as it deserved, and ten more cuts were added in subsequent editions.

In the same year as the Dance of Death the Trechsels issued another series of upwards of a hundred cuts after designs by Holbein, the Historiarum Veteris Testamenti Icones, with explanatory verses by Gilles Corrozet. These, though scarcely less beautiful, and at the time almost as successful as those in the Dance of Death, are not quite so well known,[Pg 170] and I therefore select one of them, taken from the reprint of the following year, as an illustration.

From Historiarum Veteris Testamenti Icones, Lyons, 1539.

The success of these two books invited imitation, and during the next twenty years many dainty illustrated books were issued by Franciscus Gryphius, Macé Bonhomme, Guillaume Roville, and Jean de Tournes. In 1540 Gryphius issued a little Latin Testament, with thirty-four lines of dainty Roman type to a page, which only measures 3½ in. × 2, and in which are set charming cuts. Bonhomme's chief success was an edition, printed in 1556, of the first three books of the Metamorphoses translated into French verse by Clément Marot and Barthélemy Aneau. This has borders to every page, and numerous vignettes measuring only 1½ in. × 2. In the following year this was capped by Jean de Tournes with another version of the Metamorphoses, with borders and vignettes attributed to Bernard Salomon, usually called 'le petit Bernard,' and the success of the book caused it to be re-issued in Dutch and Italian. The borders are wonderfully varied, some of them containing little grotesque figures worthy of our own Doyle, others dainty lacework, and others less pleasing architectural essays. This, like most of the best books of its kind, was printed throughout in italics, and the attempt about this time of Robert Granjon, another Lyons printer, to supersede the italic by a type modelled on the French cursive hand, the 'caractères de civilité,' was only partially successful. In 1563, and possibly[Pg 172][Pg 171] in other years, Jean de Tournes published an almanack and engagement-book, a Calendrier historial, with tiny vignettes representing the occupations appropriate to the seasons, and alternate pages for the entry of notes by any purchasers barbarous enough to deface so charming a book with their hasty handwriting. When the brief blaze of pretty books at Lyons died out, French printing fast sinks into dulness, and the attempt of a Frenchman at Antwerp to revive its glories was only partially successful, though he has left behind him a great name. Jean Plantin was born at Tours in 1514, and after trying to earn a living first at Paris and then at Caen, set up a bookseller's shop at Antwerp in 1549, and six years later printed his first book, the Institution d'une fille de noble maison. He was soon in a position to give commissions to good artists, Luc de Heere, Pierre Huys, Godefroid Ballain, and others, and issued the Devises Héroiques of Claude Paradin (1562), and the Emblems of Sambucus (1564), of Hadrianus Junius (1565), and Alciati (1566), with illustrations from their designs. His Horae, printed in 1566 and 1575, with florid borders, and his Psalter of 1571, attempted to revive a class of book then going out of fashion. Besides the great Antwerp Polyglott, whose printing occupied him from 1568 to 1573, and nearly brought him to ruin, Plantin printed some other Bibles, one in Flemish in 1566, and a 'Bible royale' in 1570, being noticeable for their ambitious decoration.[Pg 173] He published also some great folio missals, more imposing than elegant. He had numerous sets of large initials, one specially designed for music books being really graceful, and a long array of variations on the device of the hand and compass which he adopted as his mark. The title-pages of his larger books are surrounded with heavy architectural borders, some of which were engraved on copper. At his death, in 1589, he had attained labore et constantia, as his motto phrased it, to a foremost position among the printers of his day, but his florid illustrated books have very little real beauty, and mark the beginning of a century and a half of bad taste from which only the microscopic editions of the Elzevirs are wholly free.

[18] The only other Abbeville illustrated book is the 1487 Triomphe des Neuf Preux, with conventional portraits of most of the heroes (their legs wide apart), and a bullet-headed Du Guesclin, based on authentic tradition. In a 1508 reprint by Michel le Noir at Paris, while some of the old cuts were retained this Du Guesclin was replaced by a much more showy figure.

[Pg 174]



In the course of the fourteenth century the Hours of the Blessed Virgin superseded the Psalter as the popular book of devotions for lay use. Throughout the fifteenth century magnificently illuminated manuscript copies were produced in France in great numbers, and it is thus not surprising that it was in illustrated editions of this book that French printers and publishers achieved their most noteworthy success.

Each of the Hours, we are told, had its mystical reference to some event in the lives of the Blessed Virgin and our Lord. Lauds referred to the visit of Mary to Elizabeth, Prime to the Nativity, Terce to the Angels' Message to the Shepherds, Sext to the Adoration by the Magi, Nones to the Circumcision, Vespers to the Flight into Egypt, Compline to the Assumption of the Virgin. The subsidiary Hours of the Passion naturally suggested the Crucifixion or, less frequently, the Invention or finding of the Cross by the Emperor Constantine, and those of the Holy Spirit the Day of Pentecost. We have here the subjects for nine pictures, which were almost invariably heralded by one of the Annunciation, and might easily be increased by a[Pg 175] representation of the Adoration by the Shepherds, of the Murder of the Innocents, and the Death of the Virgin. Moreover, the contents of Books of Hours were gradually enlarged till they deserved the title, which has been given them, of the Lay-Folk's Prayer-Book. A typical Book of Hours would contain—

(i.) A Kalendar (one picture).

(ii.) Passages from the Gospels on the Passion of Christ. (One to three pictures.)

(iii.) Private Prayers.

(iv.) The Hours themselves—Horae intemeratae beatae Mariae Virginis—with the subsidiary Hours of the Passion and of the Holy Ghost. (Nine to thirteen pictures.)

(v.) The Seven Penitential Psalms. (One or two pictures.)

(vi.) The Litany of the Saints.

(vii.) The Vigils of the Dead. (One to four pictures.)

(viii.) Seven Psalms on Christ's Passion.

The Kalendar usually contained poetical directions for the preservation of health, and was therefore preluded by a rather ghastly anatomical picture of a man. The passages from the Gospel, which began with the first chapter of S. John, were illustrated by a picture of the evangelist's martyrdom, and the Passion by one of the Kiss of Judas, or of the Crucifixion. To the Penitential Psalms were sometimes prefixed pictures of Bathsheba[Pg 176] bathing on her housetop, and of the death of Uriah, or, more rarely, of an angel appearing to David with weapons in his hand, signifying the three punishments between which he must choose for his sin in numbering the people. The Litany of the Saints offered too wide a field for full-page cuts to be assigned it, but was often illustrated by smaller ones set in the text. To the Vigils of the Dead the commonest illustrations at first were those of 'Les Trois Vifs et Les Trois Morts,' three gay cavaliers meeting their own grinning corpses. 'Dives and Lazarus' was first joined with these and afterwards superseded them. We also find pictures of the Day of Judgment, the Entombment, and in one instance of a funeral. Two illustrations in honour of the Eucharist are also of common occurrence—one of angels upholding a chalice,[19] the other of the Vision of S. Gregory, when he saw the crucified Christ appearing on the altar. If we add to these a picture of the Tree of Jesse, and another of the Church in heaven and on earth, we shall have exhausted the list of subjects which appear with any frequency, though pictures of the Creation and Fall, of David and Goliath, of the Descent from the Cross, and perhaps one or two others may occasionally be found. It should be mentioned that the[Pg 177] illustrations to the Psalms on the Passion are usually repeated from others previously used, but putting these on one side, it will be found that we have accounted for the subjects of some five-and-twenty pictures, and this is in excess of the number found in any one book, which varies from six to twenty-two.

In some of the earlier Horae, as we shall see, the printers contented themselves with these large illustrations, and in others surrounded the text with purely decorative borders of flowers and birds. But in a typical edition the borders consist of a number of small blocks or plates, the figures in which reinforced the teaching of the main illustrations. In an edition printed by Jean Du Pré in February 1488-9, five pages are devoted to an explanation of these vignettes, and it will not be a waste of space to quote a few lines:

¶Cest le repertoire des histoires & figures de la bible tant du vieilz testament que du nouueau contenues dedens les vignettes de ces presentes heures imprimees en cuyure. En chascune desquelles vignettes sont contenues deux figures du vieilz testament signifians une vraye histoire du nouueau. Comme il appert par les chapitres cottez et alleguez au propos tant en latin que francoys en chascune desdits figures et histoires. ¶Et premierement en la pagee [sic] ensuyuante listoire de lannunciation est prefiguree la natiuite nostre dame. comme il appert par les deux figures de iesse et balaan. prouue par le liure de isaye, xi chapitre et des nombres xxiiii. chap. ¶Item en lautre pagee ensuyuante par Rebecca et Sara est entendu comme nostre dame fut espousee a ioseph. ainsi qu'on lit en genese xxiiii. c. & tho. vi.

[Pg 178]

Thus we see that, as first planned, the border vignettes formed a continuous series illustrating historically the teaching of the Horae by reference to Old Testament types, with chapter and verse for their significance. It will be noticed also that it is distinctly stated that the vignettes in this edition were 'imprimées en cuyvre,' printed on copper. Two months later, in an edition published by Antoine Vérard (April 5, 1489), the same table was reproduced with very slight alterations. The words 'en cuyvre' were then omitted, but 'imprimées' was left in, awkwardly enough. There can be no doubt that the omission was deliberate, and we have thus two statements which reinforce the opinion of the best experts, that both wood and copper were employed in engraving different editions of these designs.

These Old Testament types do not appear to have long retained their popularity, and were soon superseded by a less continuous form of illustration. The Calendar offered an excuse for introducing one series of vignettes of the sports and occupations of each month, another of the signs of the zodiac, and a third giving pictures of the saints in connection with the days on which they were commemorated. The Gospels of the Passion were illustrated by vignettes on the same subject; the Hours themselves by a long series on the lives of Christ and of the Blessed Virgin. The Dance of Death was brought in to illustrate the Vigils of the Dead, and[Pg 179] relief was given by some charming scenes of hunting and rural life, which formed the border to the Private Prayers and the Litany of the Saints. In addition to these, we have representations of the Prophets and Sibyls, of the Cardinal Virtues, and the Lives of the Saints, and an admixture of purely decorative or grotesque designs. Between the vignettes spaces were often left, which were filled in, sometimes with illustrative texts, sometimes with a continuous prayer or exhortation, either in French or Latin. Thus in the preliminary leaves of some of the Horae the text read:

Tout bon loyal et vaillant catholique qui commencer aucune euure ymagine doit inuoquer en toute sa pratique premierement la puissance diuine par ce beau nom iesus qui illumine tout cueur humain & tout entendement. Cest en tout fait ung beau commencement:

and when we turn to the Gospels of the Passion we find a prayer beginning 'Protecteur des bons catholiques donne nous croire tellement les paroles euangeliques,' &c. In Vérard's earlier editions the book would have to be turned round to read the words on the lower border, but in Pigouchet's this defect was remedied, so that we are left free to imagine that the prayer was meant for devotional use, and not merely as a decoration.

The chief firms employed in the production of these beautiful prayer-books during the fifteenth century were (i.) Jean du Pré; (ii.) Antoine Vérard; (iii.) Philippe Pigouchet, working chiefly for Simon[Pg 180] Vostre, a publisher, but also for De Marnef, Laurens Philippe, and occasionally on his own account; (iv.) Thielman Kerver. The proportion of dated and undated editions is about equal, and with careful study it ought to be possible to trace the career of each of the important firms, noting when each new illustration or vignette makes its first appearance. Unfortunately great confusion has been introduced into the bibliography of Horae by the presence in them of calendars, mostly for twenty years, giving the dates of the moveable feasts. All that these calendars show is that the edition in which they occur must have been printed before, probably at least five or six years before, the last year for which they are reckoned. The fact that, e.g., the editions printed by Pigouchet in August and September 1498 have the 1488 to 1508 calendar is by itself sufficient to prove that they cannot do more than this. Unluckily a connection has often been assumed between the first year of the calendar and the year of publication—e.g. undated Horae with the calendar for 1488-1508 are frequently ascribed on that ground only to 1488, or with perverse ingenuity to 1487; as if a calendar of the moveable feasts were like an annual almanac, and must necessarily be printed in readiness for the new year. Great confusion has thus been caused, so that it is impossible to trust any conjectural date for an Horae unless we know the grounds on which it is based.[Pg 181]

The earliest dated French Horae was finished by Antoine Vérard on August 21, 1486, and followed by another the next year dated July 7, 1487; but the cuts in both of these are small and rude, mere guides to an illuminator, and as Vérard's later editions bring him into connection with other publishers, it will be convenient to consider first three editions by Jean Du Pré, all of which are of great interest. The one which we must rank as the earliest is an undated Hore ad vsum Romanum, signed 'Jo. de Prato' (i.e. J. Du Pré) which can be shown to have been issued some little time before Feb. 19, 1488-9, the date of a Psalter printed by Antoine Cayllaut in which one of the cuts appears in a more worn condition. The text measures 4½ in. by 3¼. This is the only one of the three which was known to Brunet, whose list of Horae in the fifth volume of his Manuel du Libraire, long as it is, is very incomplete. Its text, including the borders, measures 5-5/8 in. by 3-5/8, and in addition to Du Pré's mark and the anatomical man is illustrated by nineteen engravings. Nine of these are the usual illustrations to the Hours themselves, and the subsidiary Hours of the Passion and of the Holy Ghost. The Penitential Psalms are illustrated by David's Bathsheba and the Death of Uriah, and the Vigils of the Dead by a figure of Death. In addition to these we have the Fall of Lucifer, Descent from the Cross, with emblems of the four evangelists, a figure of the Trinity, the Virgin and Child in glory,[Pg 182] S. Christopher, S. Mary Magdalen, and the Vision of S. Gregory, with small pictures from the life of Christ and figures of the Saints. The borders carry out the plan of the table of vignettes, containing three scenes from the Bible and three heads, with explanatory text, on each page throughout the greater part of the book. Towards the end these are replaced by figures of saints and angels. The artist's designs have been rather spoilt by the engraver, whose strokes are frequently much too black.

The second of Du Pré's editions is a very interesting book, for the illustrations are printed in three colours—blue, red, and green. It is dated 1490, but without the mention of any month. It has some unusual illustrations—e.g. the three Maries with the body of Christ, David and Goliath, Lazarus in Abraham's bosom and Dives in torment, and S. Christopher. Many of the pages are without vignettes, and where these occur they are not joined neatly together to form a continuous border, but set, rather at haphazard, about the margin. Pictures and vignettes are printed sometimes in the same, sometimes in different colours. The page of text measures 5½ in. by 4, or without borders, 4 by 2½.

The last edition known to me by Du Pré is undated, and has a Latin title-page, Hore ad usum Romanum. Jo. de Prato. The text with borders measures 4½ in. by 3½. Its borders are similar to those of the large folios of the period, having a floral[Pg 183] groundwork, into which birds, figures of men and women, angels and grotesques are introduced. To make up for the lack of vignettes there are seven small illustrations of the Passion set in the text. For the larger illustrations, which appear to be woodcuts, Du Pré again varied his subjects, introducing for the only time in these three editions Les Trois Vifs et Les Trois Morts, reduced reproductions of which are here given.

Les Trois Vifs.
From a Horae of Jean Du Pré. (Reduced.)

Les Trois Morts.
From a Horae of Jean Du Pré. (Reduced.)

It was not to be expected that so enterprising a publisher as Vérard would rest content with the very unpretentious Horae he produced in 1486 and 1487, but the precise date at which he first made a more ambitious essay is not easy to fix. The undated edition of his Grandes Heures for the use of Rome is constantly assigned to 1488, for no other reason than that it contains the 1488-1508 Almanac, though the breaks in the borders suffice to show that this was not the first appearance of the blocks. At the library at Toulouse there is said to be a Vérard Horae ad usum Romanum dated April 3, 1488, that is, as the French year at this time began, at Easter, 1489, and this may be the first of Vérard's new editions. This was followed the next year by the first edition of his Grandes Heures, with thirteen woodcuts and a frontispiece. I have not been fortunate enough to see a copy of either of these editions, but three undated Horae in the British Museum, printed by Vérard, seem to belong to the same type as the Grandes Heures. In addition to a poorly cut[Pg 184] Vision of Heaven, the Anatomical Man, and the Chalice, they contain, in varying order, fourteen large woodcuts—(i.) The Fall of Lucifer; (ii.) the history of Adam and Eve; (iii.) a double picture, the upper half showing the strife between Mercy, Justice, Peace, and Reason in the presence of God, and the lower half the Annunciation, which followed the triumph of Mercy; (iv.) the Marriage of Joseph and Mary; (v.) the Invention of the Cross; (vi.)[Pg 185] the Gift of the Spirit; (vii.) a double picture of the Nativity and the Adoration by the Shepherds; (viii.) the Adoration by the Magi; (ix.) a double picture of the Annunciation to the Shepherds and of peasants dancing round a tree; (x.) the Circumcision; (xi.) the Killing of the Innocents; (xii.) the Crowning of the Virgin; (xiii.) David entering a castle, with the words 'Tibi soli peccavi,'—against Thee only have I sinned,—issuing from[Pg 186] his mouth; (xiv.) a funeral service, the hearse standing before the altar. The cut of the Message to the Shepherds here shown will give a fair idea of the characteristics of this series, as well as of the borders by which they were accompanied.[20] A full list of the larger subjects has been given because some of them often occur in later editions joined with other pictures of the school of Pigouchet, and it is useful to be able to fix their origin at a glance.[21] Six of them form the only large illustrations in the little Horae, printed for Vérard, April 5, 1489, in which, as we have already noted, the words 'on copper' appear to have been deliberately omitted from the table of the vignettes. The size of the Grandes Heures is 8 in. by 5, that of the edition of April 1489, 6 in. by 4. Brunet enumerates altogether thirty editions of Horae printed by Vérard, the last of which bearing a date belongs to the year 1510. So far as I am acquainted with them these later editions have few distinguishing characteristics, but are mostly made up with illustrations designed for other firms.

From a Grandes Heures of Antoine Vérard.

We come now to the most celebrated of all the series of Horae, those printed by Pigouchet, chiefly for Simon Vostre. Brunet in his list rightly dis[Pg 188]credits the existence of an edition by this printer dated as early as January 5, 1486. He accepts, however, and briefly describes as if he had himself seen, one of September 16, 1488, and mentions also an edition printed April 8, 1488-9. No copy of either of these editions has come to light during the twenty years in which the present writer has been interested in Horae, and it seems fairly certain that Pigouchet's first illustrated work is to be found in an edition Ad usum Parisiensem, dated December 1, 1491. The large cuts in this are fairly good, but a little stiff; the small border-cuts include a long set of incidents in the life of Christ with Old Testament types after the manner of the Biblia Pauperum. A Horae of May 8, 1492, substitutes floral borders for these little pictures. In another set of editions in which Pigouchet was concerned, apparently between 1493 and 1495, the borders are made up of vignettes of very varying size, which may be recognised by many of them being marked with Gothic letters, mostly large minuscules. Sometimes one, sometimes two, vignettes thus lettered occur on a page, and we may presume that the lettering, which is certainly a disfigurement, was intended to facilitate the arrangement of the borders. In these Horae, also, the designs are comparatively coarse and poor. Some of the large illustrations are divided into an upper compartment, containing the main subject, and two lower compartments, containing its 'types.'[Pg 189]

Dives and Lazarus, from Pigouchet's Horae, 1498. (Reduced.)

[Pg 190]

Certainly by 1496, and possibly in earlier editions which I have not seen, Pigouchet had arrived at his typical style, of which a good specimen-page is given in our illustration from the edition of August 22, 1498. His original idea appears to have been for editions with a page of text measuring 5½ in. by 3½, such as he issued on April 17, 1496, and January 18, 1496-97. But at least as early as November 4, 1497, he added another inch both to the height and breadth of his page by the insertion of the little figures, which will be noticed at the left of the lower corner and on the right at the top. The extra inch was valuable, for it enabled him to surround his large illustrations with vignettes, but the borders themselves are not improved by them, for they mar the rich effect of the best work in which the backgrounds are of black with pricks of white.

These same dotted backgrounds, which we have already noticed as present in some of the finest of the printers' marks, appear also in three plates, which are found in the 1498 editions, and thenceforward, but, as far as I can ascertain, not earlier. These three plates illustrate (i.) the Tree of Jesse; (ii.) the Church Militant and Triumphant; (iii.) the Adoration of the Shepherds. All three plates are of great beauty, and the last is noticeable for the names—'Mahault,' 'Aloris,' 'Alison,' 'Gobin le Gay,' and 'le beau Roger'—which are assigned to the shepherds and their wives, and which are the same as those by which they are known in the French[Pg 191] mystery-plays. The artists who used these dotted backgrounds evidently viewed the Horae rather from the mystery-play standpoint. They cared little for the 'types' which Vérard and Du Pré so carefully explained in their early editions, but delighted in the Dance of Death and in scenes of hunting and rural life, or failing these in grotesques. They placed their talents at the disposal of religion, but they bargained to be allowed to introduce a good deal of humour as well.

The best French Horae were all published within about ten years. During this decade, which just overlaps the fifteenth century, the only serious rival of Pigouchet was Thielman Kerver, who began printing in 1497, and by dint of close imitation approached very near indeed to Pigouchet's success. With the lessening of Pigouchet's activity about 1505, there came an after-flood of bad taste, which swept everything before it. The old French designs were displaced by reproductions of German work utterly unsuited to the French types and ornaments, and along with these there came an equally disastrous substitution of florid Renaissance borders of pillars and cherubs for Pigouchet's charming vignettes and hunting scenes. Thielman Kerver, who had begun with better things, soon made his surrender to the new fashion, and his firm continued to print Horae, for which it is difficult to find a good word until about 1556. His activity was more than equalled by Gilles Hardouyn, who[Pg 192] with his successors was responsible for some seventy editions during the first half of the sixteenth century. Guillaume Eustace, Guillaume Godard, and François Regnault were less formidable competitors, and besides these some thirty or forty editions are attributable to other printers.

From Tory's Horae, 1525. (Reduced.)

On January 16th (or to use the affected style of the colophon itself, 'xvii. Kal. Febr.'), 1525, Geoffroy Tory, the scholar, artist, and printer, in conjunction with his friend Simon Colines, brought out a Horae, which is certainly not open to the charge of bad taste. The printed page measures 6¼ in. by 3¾, the type used is a delicate Roman letter with a slight employment of red ink, but no hand work, the borders are in the most delicate style of the Renaissance. The illustrations number twelve, of which one, that of the Annunciation, occupies two pages. There are no unusual subjects, except that in the picture of the Crucifixion Tory displays his classical pedantry by surrounding the central picture with four vignettes illustrating Virgil's 'Sic vos non vobis' quatrain, on the sheep, the bees, the birds, and the oxen, whose life enriches others but not themselves. In the picture of the Adoration by the Magi, here given, Tory obtains an unusually rich effect by the figure of the negro. He repeats this, on a smaller scale, in the black raven, croaking Cras, Cras, in the picture of the Triumph of Death. The tone of the other illustrations is rather thin, and the length of the faces[Pg 194] and slight angularity in the figures (effects which Tory, the most affected of artists, no doubt deliberately sought for) cause them just to fall short of beauty. Compared, however, with the contemporary editions of other printers, Tory's Horae seem possessed of every beauty. We know of five editions before his death or retirement in 1533, and of some seven others before the close of the half century. After 1550 the publication of Horae in France almost entirely ceased, but some pretty editions were issued at Antwerp by the French printer Christopher Plantin in 1565 and 1575, and perhaps in other years. The decree of Pope Pius V. making the use of the Office no longer obligatory on the clergy seems to have been preceded by a great falling off of the popularity of the Hours among the laity, in whom the booksellers had found their chief customers, and after 1568 a very few editions sufficed to supply the demand of those who were still wedded to their use.

[19] I join this with the other illustration as having a Eucharistic significance, but in one of Vérard's editions the full explanation is given: 'Cest la mesure de la playe du coste de notre seigneur iesucrist qui fut apportee de Constantinople au noble empereur Saint Charlemaine afin que nulz ennemys ne luy peussent nuire en bataille.'

[20] The defects in this reproduction appear also in the original, from which it is reduced.

[21] e.g., in an edition printed by Jean Poitevin, May 15, 1498, the illustrations for Terce, Sext, Nones, Vespers, and Compline are from Vérard; the others, including the printer's device, were imitated from Pigouchet.

[Pg 195]



Thirty years ago, under the title The Woodcutters of the Netherlands (a little suggestive of a story for boys on life in a Dutch forest) Sir Martin Conway wrote a treatise on the early book-illustrations of the Low Countries, which is still the standard work on the subject, and only needed plenty of facsimiles to make it completely illuminating. Unfortunately in 1884 the process block was still in its infancy, and in the absence of this cheap method of reproduction the book was issued without a single picture. Written some nine years later the present chapter epitomises so much of Sir Martin's treatise as the rather scanty stock of Low Country illustrated books in England enabled me to visualise, and for lack of an intervening pilgrimage to Dutch libraries comparatively little can now be added to it.

Sir Martin Conway divided his book into three parts, the first giving the history of the woodcutters, the second a catalogue of the cuts, and the third a list of the books containing them. Putting on one side the blocks imported or directly copied from France and Germany, he attributes the illustrations in fifteenth century Dutch books to some five-and-[Pg 196]twenty different workmen and their apprentices. His first group is formed of—

(i.) A Louvain woodcutter who worked for John and Conrad de Westphalia, for whom he cut two capital little vignette portraits of themselves, and for Veldener, for whom he executed the nine illustrations in an edition of the Fasciculus Temporum, published on December 29, 1475.

(ii.) A Utrecht woodcutter, whose most important works are a set of cuts to illustrate the Boeck des gulden throens, published by a mysterious printer, Gl., in 1480, some additional cuts for a new edition by Veldener of the Fasciculus Temporum, and a set of thirty-nine cuts, chiefly on the life of Christ, for the same printer's Epistolen ende ewangelien of 1481.

(iii.) A Bruges woodcutter, possibly the printer himself, who illustrated Colard Mansion's French edition of the Metamorphoses of Ovid (1484); and

(iv.) A Gouda woodcutter, by whose aid Gerard Leeu started on his career as a printer of illustrated books with the Dialogus Creaturarum (of which he printed six editions between June 3, 1480, and August 31, 1482), and the Gesten van Romen, Vier Uterste, and Historia Septem Sapientum.

Of these books, whose illustrations are grouped together as all executed in pure line work, the most interesting to us are the Metamorphoses and the Dialogus. The former is handsomely printed in red and black in Mansion's large type, and has[Pg 197] seventeen single-column cuts of gods and goddesses and as many double-column ones illustrating the Metamorphoses themselves. The larger cuts are the more successful, and are certainly superior to the average French work of the day, to which they bear a considerable resemblance. Uncouth as they are, they were thought good enough by Antoine Vérard to serve as models for his own edition of 1493. The Metamorphoses, Mansion's first illustrated book, was also the last work issued from his press; and part of the edition was not published till after his disappearance from Bruges. The hundred and twenty-one cuts in Leeu's Dialogus Creaturarum are the work of a far more inspired, if very child-like, artist. With a minimum of strokes the creatures about whom the text tells its wonderful stories are drawn so as to be easily recognisable, and we have no reason to suppose that the humour which pervades them was otherwise than intentional.

We come now to the best period of Dutch illustration, which centres round the presses of Leeu at Gouda and Antwerp, and of Jacob Bellaert at Haarlem, whose business was probably only a branch of Leeu's. During his stay at Gouda, Leeu commissioned an important set of sixty-eight blocks, thirty-two of which were used in the Lijden ons Heeren of 1482, and the whole set in a Devote Ghetiden, which Sir Martin Conway conjectures to have been published just after the printer's removal[Pg 198] to Antwerp in the summer of 1484. Fifty-two of them were used again, in conjunction with other cuts, in the Boeck vanden leven Christi of Ludolphus in 1487, and the history of many of them can be traced in other books to as late as 1510. Thus they were evidently popular, though neither their design nor their cutting calls for much praise. Another set of seven cuts, to each of which is joined a sidepiece showing a teacher and a scholar, appears in Leeu's last Gouda book, the Van den Seven Sacramenten of June 19, 1484, and evinces a much greater mastery over his tools on the part of the engraver. The little sidepiece, which was added to bring the breadth of the cuts up to that of Leeu's folio page (5½ in.), is particularly good.

After Leeu's removal to Antwerp his activity as a printer of illustrated books suffered a temporary check, and our interest is transferred to the office of Jacob Bellaert at Haarlem, who, after borrowing some of Leeu's cuts for a Lijden ons Heeren, issued in December 1483, in the following February had printed under the name of Der Sonderen troest a Dutch version of the Belial of Jacobus de Theramo. This has altogether thirty-two cuts, the first of which occupies a full page, and represents in its different parts the fall of Lucifer and of Adam and Eve, the Flood, the Passage of the Red Sea, and the Baptism of Christ. Six half-page cuts represent incidents of the Harrowing of Hell, the Ascension, and the Day of Pentecost. The other[Pg 200] illustrations at a hasty glance seem to be of the same size (5 in. by 3¾), but are soon discovered to be separable into different blocks, usually three in number. Eight blocks of 2½ in. each, and seventeen of half this width, are thus arranged in a series of dramatic combinations. Thus we are first shown the different persons who answer the citation of Solomon, whose judgment hall is the central block in thirteen illustrations; then the controversy in heaven before Christ as the judge; then scenes in a Royal Council Chamber, &c. Our illustration is taken from the opening of Solomon's Court, with Belial appearing to plead on one side, and Christ answering the summons of the messenger, Azahel, on the other.

From Leeu's edition of Der Sonderen troest, Antwerp, 1484.

In October of the same year, 1484, Bellaert printed an edition of the Boeck des gulden throens, in which four cuts, representing the soul, depicted as a woman with flowing hair, being instructed by an elder, serve as illustrations to all the twenty-four discourses. In 1485 we have first of all two romances, the Historie vanden vromen ridder Jason and the Vergaderinge der Historien van Troyen, both translated from Raoul le Fèvre, and illustrated with half-folio cuts, which I have not seen. At the end of the year came a translation of Glanville's De Proprietatibus Rerum, with eleven folio cuts, of which the most interesting are the first, which shows the Almighty seated in glory within a circle thrown up by a black background, and the sixth,[Pg 201] which contains twelve little medallions, representing the pleasures and occupations of the different months. During 1486 Bellaert printed three illustrated books, an Epistelen ende Euangelien, Pierre Michault's Doctrinael des tyts, an allegory, in which Virtue exhibits to the author the schools of Vice, and a Dutch version of Deguileville's Pélerinage de la vie humaine. The ten cuts in the second of these three books are described by Sir Martin Conway as carefully drawn, the more numerous illustrations in the others showing hasty work, probably produced by an inferior artist.

After 1486 Bellaert disappears, and most of his cuts and types are found in the possession of Gerard Leeu, who, since his removal to Antwerp, had lacked the help of a good engraver. He apparently secured the services of Bellaert's artist, and now printed French and Dutch editions of the romance of Paris and Vienne (May 1487), an edition of Reynard the Fox, of which only a fragment remains, the already-mentioned edition of Ludolphus, for which he used cuts both new and old, a Kintscheyt Jhesu (1488), Dutch and Latin versions of the story of the Seven Wise Men of Rome, who saved the young prince from the wiles of his step-mother, and numerous religious works. At the time of his death, in 1493, he was engaged on an edition of the Cronycles of England, which has on its title-page a fine quarto cut showing the shield of England supported by angels.[Pg 202]

In 1485 Leeu had copied (Sir Martin Conway says, 'borrowed,' but this is a mistake) blocks from Anton Sorg, of Augsburg, for an edition of Æsop, and in 1491, in his Duytsche Ghetiden, he employed a set of woodcuts imitated from those in use in the French Horae. Sir Martin assigns these directly to a French wood-cutter, but the work, both in the cuts and the borders, appears to me sufficiently distinctive to be set down rather as an imitation than as produced by a foreign artist. Its success was immediate, and the designs appear in half a dozen books printed by Leeu during the next two years, and in nine others issued by Lieseveldt, their purchaser, between 1493 and the end of the century.

We must now look very briefly at some of the illustrated books printed in other Dutch towns. At Zwolle, from 1484 onwards, Peter van Os issued a large number of devotional works, the cuts in many of which were copied from sets made for Leeu. This, however, is not the case with a folio cut of the Virgin manifesting herself to S. Bernard, which is given as a frontispiece to three editions of the Saint's Sermons (1484, &c.), and is of great beauty. At Delft, Jacob van der Meer also copied Leeu's books; in 1483 he produced an original set of illustrations to the ever-popular Scaeckspul of Jacobus de Cessolis, and three years later, a Passionael, with upwards of ninety cuts, which were used again and again in more than a score of similar[Pg 203] works or editions. He was succeeded by Christian Snellaert, who, in 1491, endeavoured to imitate Leeu's French cuts in an edition of the Kerstenen Spieghel. John de Westphalia continued to work at Louvain until 1496, but his illustrated books were few and unimportant. At Gouda, Gotfrid de Os, after borrowing blocks from Leeu, when the latter had departed for Antwerp, issued a few books with woodcuts, notably the romance of Godfrey of Boulogne (Historie hertoghe Godeuaerts van Boloen), and Le Chevalier Délibéré by Olivier de Lamarche, with sixteen large and very striking woodcuts, which have been reproduced in facsimile by the Bibliographical Society from the reprint issued about the end of the century at Schiedam.

At Deventer, Jacobus de Breda and Richard Paffroet, from 1486 onwards, printed a large number of books with single cuts, none of any great importance. In the last decade of the century, Hugo Janszoen commissioned several sets of crude religious cuts, while the illustrated books issued at Antwerp by Godfrey Back, who had married the widow of an earlier printer, Mathias van der Goes, do not seem to have been much better. This decline of good work Sir Martin Conway attributes chiefly to the influence of the French woodcuts introduced by Leeu. 'The characteristic quality,' he says, 'of the French cuts is the large mass of delicately cut shade lines which they contain. The workmen of the Low Countries finding these foreign[Pg 204] cuts rapidly becoming popular, endeavoured to imitate them, but without bestowing upon their work that care by which alone any semblance of French delicacy could be attained. From the year 1490 onwards, Dutch and Flemish cuts always contain large masses of clumsily cut shade. The outlines are rude; the old childishness is gone; thus the last decade of the fifteenth century is a decade of decline.'

When we pass from the illustrations to the other decorations in early Dutch books, we find that large borders of foliage, boldly but rather coarsely treated, were used by Veldener in his Fasciculus Temporum of 1480, and in Gerard Leeu's edition of the Dyalogus Creaturarum the following year. Veldener's is accompanied by a fine initial O, in which the design of the border is carried on. Leeu's page contains a rather heavy S, and the woodcut of the faces of the sun and moon.

In 1491, as we have seen, Leeu printed a Psalter of the Blessed Virgin, by S. Bernard, in imitation of the French Horae. This has very graceful little floral borders in small patterns on grounds alternately black and white. After Leeu's death, they passed into the possession of Adrian van Lieseveldt, who used them for a Duytsche Ghetyden in 1495.

The most noteworthy initial letters are the five alphabets, printed in red, used by John of Westphalia. In the smallest the letters are a third of an inch square, in the largest about an inch and a[Pg 206] quarter. This and the next size are picked out with white scroll-work, somewhat in the same way as Schoeffer's. Peter van Os at Zwolle used a large N, four inches square, with intertwining foliage. He had also a fount of rustic capitals, almost undecipherable. Leeu, besides his large S, had several good alphabets of initials. A very beautiful D, reproduced by Holtrop from the Vier Uterste (Quatuor novissima) of 1488, is much the most graceful letter in any Dutch book. No other initials of the same style have been found. Eckert van Hombergh also had some good initials, in which the ground is completely covered with a light floral design. Gotfrid van Os at Gouda, M. van der Goes at Antwerp, Jacob Jacobsoen at Delft, and Lud. de Ravescoet at Louvain, were the chief other possessors of initials, the use of which continued for a long time to be very partial.

Mark of Jacob Bellaert.

Several of the devices of the Dutch printers are very splendid. The borders which surrounded the unicorn of H. Eckert van Hombergh and the eagle of Jacob Bellaert give them special magnificence. The Castle at Antwerp was used as a device by Gerard Leeu, and subsequently by Thierry Martens, and a printer at Gouda placed a similar erection on an elephant, perhaps as a pun between howdah and Gouda. Peter van Os at Zwolle had a large device of an angel holding a shield; M. van der Goes at Antwerp a still larger one of a ragged man flourishing a club, while his shield displays a white lion on a[Pg 207] black ground. Another Antwerp printer, G. Back, used several varieties of bird-cages as his marks, in one of which the Antwerp castle is introduced on a shield hanging from the cage. Several printers—e.g. Colard Mansion at Bruges, Jacob Jacobsoen at Delft, and Gerard Leeu at Gouda, contented themselves with small devices of a pair of shields braced together. Leeu, however, while at Gouda, used also a large device of a helmeted shield supported by two lions.

[Pg 208]

From the romance of Tirant lo Blanch, Valentia, 1490.

[Pg 209]



Since the first edition of this book appeared knowledge both of Spanish incunabula and the types in which they are printed has been greatly increased, thanks to the researches of Professor Haebler. These have dealt incidentally, but only incidentally, with the illustration and decoration of early Spanish books, and the present writer must still confine himself mainly to the little handful of illustrated books which have come under his own notice.

The book-hand in use in Spain's manuscripts during the fifteenth century was unusually massive and handsome, and the same characteristics naturally reappear in the majority of the types used by the early printers in Spain. A considerable proportion of these were Germans, whose tradition of good press-work was very fairly maintained by their immediate successors, so that throughout a great part of the sixteenth century Spanish books retain much of the primitive dignity which we are wont to associate only with 'incunabula.' From a very early period, also, they are distinguished by the excellence of their initial letters, which are[Pg 210] almost as plentiful as they are good; the great majority of books printed after 1485, which I have seen, being fully provided with them. The prevailing form of initial exhibits very delicate white tracery on a black ground. In a few instances, as in a Seneca printed by Meinardo Ungut and Stanislao Polono, at Seville, in 1491, some of the initials are in red, and have a very decorative effect. A fine capital L and A appear in a work of Jean de Mena, issued by these printers in 1499, and a good M in their Claros Varones of Pulgar in the following year. A Consolat, printed, it is said, by Pedro Posa at Barcelona in 1494, is very remarkable for its profusion of fine initials. Engraved borders are not of common occurrence in Spanish books, though I shall have to notice two striking instances of their use in books printed at Zamora and Valencia. Borders are found, also, on the title-pages of various laws printed at Barcelona during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, but these are of no great beauty, and some of the pieces of which they are composed are poor copies from the French Horae.

As a rule, Spanish title-pages are handsome and imposing. During the last few years of the fifteenth century and the beginning of its successor, the titles of books were often printed in large woodcut letters. A Spanish Livy, printed at Salamanca in 1497, a Vocabulary of Antonio Lebrixa, printed by Kromberger at Seville in 1506, and a Mar de Istorias printed at Valladolid in 1512, supply[Pg 211] examples of this practice. In an Obra a llaors del benauenturat lo senyor sant Cristofol, printed at Valencia in 1498, the woodcut title is in white on a black ground, which is also relieved by a medallion of the saint fording the stream. Pictures were also used in connection with the more ordinary woodcut titles in black—e.g. in Juan de Lucena's Tratado de la vita beata, printed by Juan de Burgos in 1502, we have a cut of a king, bearing his sword of justice and surrounded by his counsellors; and in a Libro de Consolat tractant dels fets maritims of the same year, printed by Johan Luschner at Barcelona, beneath the woodcut title there is a large figure of a ship up whose masts sailors are climbing, apparently in quest of a very prominent moon.

Woodcut pictures of the hero decorate the title-pages of the romances of Spain as of other countries, and these pictorial title-pages are found also, though less frequently, in works of devotion and in plays. Such pictures are less common in Spain than elsewhere, because of the great popularity there of the heraldic title-page, in which the arms of the country, or of the hero or patron of the work, form a singularly successful method of ornament. These heraldic title-pages are found in a few books, printed before 1500, and were in common use throughout the sixteenth century.

The earliest Spanish illustrated book with which I am acquainted is the Libro delos Trabajos de Hercules of the Marquis Enrique de Villena, printed[Pg 212] by Antonio de Centenera at Zamora, on January 15th, 1483 (1484). This has eleven woodcuts, illustrating the hero's exploits, and so rudely executed that they are plainly the work of a native artist. Far more interesting than these 'prentice cuts are the illustrative initials, apparently engraved on soft metal, in a Copilacion de Leyes, promulgated in 1485, and supposed to have been printed by Centenera in the same year. These initials are nine in number, and must have been designed and executed by finished artists, whose work is so fine that the printer in most instances has failed to do justice to it. On the first page of text an initial P contains within it figures of a king and queen, Ferdinand and Isabella. This page has at its foot a border containing a hunting scene, with a blank shield in its centre. The rest of the page is surrounded by a text, printed decoratively, so as to form an open-work border. The first section of the laws, treating of 'la Santa Fe,' has an initial E, showing God the Father upholding the crucified Christ. The second section sets forth the duty of the king to hear causes two days a week, and begins with an L, here reproduced, in which the king is unpleasantly close pressed by the litigants.

Initial L from a Copilacion de Leyes, Zamora, c. 1485.

Two knights spurring from the different sides of an S head the laws of chivalry; a Canonist and his scholars in an A preside over Matrimony; money-changers in a D over Commerce, while a luckless wretch being hanged in the midst of a T[Pg 213] warns evil-doers of what they may expect under the criminal law. The pages containing these initials are enriched also by a border in two pieces, the lower part of which shows a shield, with a device of trees, supported by kneeling youths. The perpendicular piece running up the outer margin bears a floral design. All the letters, while directly illustrating the subjects of the chapters which they begin, are at the same time essentially decorative, and they are certainly the best pictorial initials I have ever seen, though it must be reckoned against them that they were unduly difficult to print with the text.

The page here reproduced, unfortunately only about one-third of its original size, from the famous romance of Tirant lo Blanch, gives us another[Pg 214] example of this peculiar style of engraving. It is taken from the edition printed at Valencia in 1490, and may fairly be reckoned as one of the most decorative pages in any fifteenth-century book. The rest of the volume has no other ornament than some good initials.

The first Spanish book with woodcuts of any artistic merit with which I am acquainted is an edition of Diego de San Pedro's Carcel d'Amor, printed at Barcelona in 1493. This has sixteen different cuts, some of which are several times repeated. The title-cut, showing love's prison, is here reproduced, and gives a very good idea of a characteristic Spanish woodcut. The other illustrations show the lover in various attitudes before his lady, a meeting in a street, the author at work on his book, &c. Another edition of the Carcel d'Amor, with the same woodcuts, was printed at Burgos in 1496 by Fadrique Aleman.

Title-page of Diego de San Pedro's Carcel d'Amor, Barcelona, 1493.

Most of the other Spanish incunabula with woodcuts, which I have seen, were printed at Seville by Meinardo Ungut and Stanislao Polono. The first of these, Gorricio's Contemplaciones sobre el Rosario de nuestra señora, issued in 1495, has some good initials, two large cuts nearly the full size of the quarto page, and fifteen smaller ones, with graceful borders mostly on a black ground. The small cuts illustrate the life of Christ and of the B. Virgin, and are, to some extent, modelled on the pictures in the French Horae. In the same year, the same[Pg 216] printers published Ayala's Chronica del Rey don Pedro, with a title-cut of a young king, seated on his throne, and also the Lilio de Medicina of B. de Gordonio with a title-cut of lilies. In 1496, a firm of four printers, 'Paulo de Colonia, Juan Pegnicer de Nuremberg, Magno y Thomas,' published an edition of Juan de Mena's Labirinto or Las CCC (so called from the number of stanzas in which it is written) with a title-cut of the author (?) kneeling before a king. Three years later, still at Seville, Pedro Brun printed in quarto the romance of the Emperor Vespasian, with fourteen full-page cuts of sea voyages, sieges, the death of Pilate, &c. Against these books printed at Seville, during the last decade of the century, I have only notes of one or two books issued at Salamanca, Valencia, and Barcelona, with unimportant title-cuts, and a reprint at Burgos of the Trabajos de Hercules (1499) with poor illustrations fitted into the columns of a folio page. But it is quite possible that my knowledge is as one-sided as it is limited, and I must, therefore, refrain from building up any theory that Seville, rather than any other town, was the chief home of illustrated books in Spain. After 1500 the Spanish books which I have met have no important illustrations beyond the cuts which appear on some of their title-pages. But here, also, I should be sorry to make my small experience the basis of a general statement.

The devices of the Spanish printers were greatly[Pg 217] influenced by those of their compeers of Italy and France. The simple circle and cross, in white on a black ground, with the printer's initials in the semicircles, is fairly common, while Diego de Gumiel and Arnaldo Guillermo Brocar varied it, according to the best Italian fashion, with very beautiful floral tracery. The tree of knowledge and pendant shields, beloved of the French printers, appear in the marks of Meinardo Ungut and Stanislao Polono, and of Juan de Rosembach. Arnaldo Guillermo had another and very elaborate mark, showing a man kneeling before the emblems of the Passion, and two angels supporting a shield with a device of a porcupine. One of the quaintest of all printers' marks was used by a later printer of the name Juan Brocar, whose motto 'legitime certanti' is illustrated by a mail-clad soldier grasping a lady's hair while he himself is being seized by the devil![Pg 218]

From the Canterbury Tales, 2nd edition.

[Pg 219]



By E. Gordon Duff

The art of the wood-engraver may almost be said to have had no existence in England before the introduction of printing, for there are not probably more than half a dozen cuts now known, if indeed so many, that are of an earlier date. The few that exist are devotional prints of the type known as the 'Image of Pity,' in which a half-length figure of Christ on the cross stands surrounded with the emblems of the Passion.

It may be taken, I think, for granted that at the time Caxton set up his press at Westminster, that is, in the year 1476, there was no wood-engraver competent to undertake the work of illustrating his books. We see, for instance, that in the first edition of the Canterbury Tales there are no woodcuts, while they appear in the second edition; and it is not likely that Caxton would have left a book so eminently suited for illustration without some such adornment had the necessary craftsmen been available. As it was, it was not till 1480 that woodcuts first appeared in an English printed book,[Pg 220] the Mirror of the World. In this there are two series of cuts. One, consisting of diagrams, is found in most of the MSS. of the book; the other, which represents masters teaching their scholars or at work alone, was a new departure of Caxton's. It is quite probable that they were intended for general use in books, indeed we find some used in the Cato, but they do not appear to have been employed elsewhere. The diagrams are meagre and difficult to understand, so much so that the printer has printed several in their wrong places. The necessary letterpress occurring within them is not printed (Caxton had not then a small enough type), but is written in by hand, and it is worth noticing that this is done in all copies in the same hand, and so must have been done in Caxton's office, some are fond enough to suppose by Caxton himself.

In the next year appeared the second edition of the Game of Chesse, with a number of woodcuts. The first edition, printed at Bruges by Caxton and Mansion, had no illustrations. The cuts are coarsely designed and roughly cut, but serve their purpose; indeed, they are evidently intended as illustrations rather than ornaments. Some controversy has at different times arisen as to whether these cuts were executed in England or abroad, but Mr. Linton has very justly decided in favour of England. The work, he says, is so poor that any one who could hold a knife could cut them, therefore there was no necessity to send abroad.[Pg 221]

About 1484 we have two important illustrated books, the Canterbury Tales and the Æsop; the former with 28 illustrations, the latter with 186.

The cuts of the Canterbury Tales depict for the most part the various individuals of the Pilgrimage, and there is also a bird's-eye view of all the pilgrims seated at an immense round table at supper, which was used afterwards by Wynkyn de Worde for the 'Assembly of Gods.' The copies of German cuts in the Æsop, with the exception of the full-page frontispiece (known only in the copy in the Windsor Library), are smaller, and are the work of two, if not three, engravers. One cut seems to have been hurriedly executed in a different manner to the rest, perhaps to take the place of one injured at the last moment. It is not worked in the usual manner with the outlines in black—i.e. raised lines on the wood-block, but a certain amount of the effect has been produced by a white line on a black ground—i.e. by the cut-away lines of the wood-block.

The Golden Legend, which was the next illustrated book to appear, contains the most ambitious woodcuts which Caxton used. Those in the earlier part are the full width of a large folio page, and show, especially in their backgrounds, a certain amount of technical skill. The later part of the book contains a number of small cuts of saints very coarsely executed, and the same cut is used over and over again for different saints.

In 1487 Caxton first used his large woodcut device,[Pg 222] which is probably, though the contrary is often asserted, of English workmanship. It is entirely un-French in style and execution, and was probably cut to print on the Missal printed by Maynyal for Caxton in order that the publisher might be brought prominently into notice.

About this time (1487-88) two more illustrated books were issued,—the Royal Book and the Speculum Vite Christi. The series cut for the Speculum are of very good workmanship, though the designs are poor, but all of them were not used in the book. One or two appear later in books printed by W. de Worde, manifestly from the same series. The Royal Book contains only seven cuts, six of which are from the Speculum. Some of the cuts occur also in the Doctrinal of Sapience and the Book of Divers Ghostly Matters.

It is impossible not to think when examining Caxton's books that the use of woodcuts was rather forced upon him by the necessities of his business, than deliberately preferred by himself. He seems to have wished to popularise the more generally known books, and only to have used woodcuts when the book absolutely needed them. He did not, as some later printers did, simply use woodcuts to attract the unwary purchaser.

What cuts Caxton possessed at the end of his career it is hard to determine. The set of large Horae cuts which W. de Worde used must have been Caxton's, for we find one of them, the Crucifixion,[Pg 223] used in the Fifteen O'es, which was itself intended as a supplement to a Horae, now unknown. In the same way there must have been a number of cuts for use in the 8vo Horae, but as that is known only from a small fragment, we cannot identify them. From similarity of style and identity of measurement we can pick out a few from Wynkyn de Worde's later editions, but many must be passed over.

On turning to examine the presses at work at the same time as Caxton's one cannot but be struck by the scarcity of illustrations. Lettou and Machlinia, though they produced over thirty books, had no ornaments that we know of beyond a border which was used in their edition of the Horae ad usum Sarum, and passed into the hands of Pynson. They seem to have been without everything except type, not having even initial letters.

The St. Alban's press was a step in advance. A few cuts were used in the Chronicles, and the Book of St. Alban's contains coats of arms, produced by a combination of wood-cutting and printing in colour.

The Oxford press was the most ambitious, and was in possession of two sets of cuts, in neither case intended for the books in which they were used. One set was prepared for a Golden Legend, but no such book is known to have been issued at the Oxford press. One of these cuts appears as a frontispiece to Lyndewode's Constitutions. It represents Jacobus de Voragine writing the [Pg 224]Golden Legend, so that it did equally well for Lyndewode writing his law-book. Others of the series are used in the Liber Festialis of 1486, but as that was a small folio and the cuts were large, the ends were cut off, and they are all printed in a mutilated condition. The other cuts used in the Festial are small, and form part of a set for a Horae, but no Horae is known to have been printed at the Oxford press. It would be natural to suppose in this case that these cuts had been procured from some other printer who had used them in the production of the books for which they were intended; but the most careful search has failed to find them in any other book. Besides these cuts the Oxford press owned a very beautiful border, which was used in the commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle by Alexander de Hales and the commentary on the Lamentations of Jeremiah by John Lattebury, printed in 1481 and 1482. The printers owned nothing else for the adornment of their books but a rudely cut capital G, which we find used many times in the Festial.

The poverty of ornamental letters and borders is very noticeable in all the English presses of the fifteenth century. Caxton possessed one ambitious letter, a capital A, which was used first in the Order of Chivalry, and a series of eight borders, each made up of four pieces, and found for the first time in the Fifteen O'es. They are of little merit, and compare very unfavourably with French work of the period.[Pg 225] The best set of borders used in England belonged to Notary and his partners when they started in London about 1496. They are in the usual style, with dotted backgrounds, and may very likely have been brought from France. Pynson's borders, which he used in a Horae about 1495, are much more English in style, but are not good enough to make the page really attractive; in fact almost the only fine specimens of English printing with borders are to be found in the Morton Missal, which he printed in 1500. In this book also there are fine initial letters, often printed in red. It is hard to understand why, as a rule, English initial letters were so very bad; it certainly was not from the want of excellent models, for those in the Sarum missals, printed at Venice by Hertzog in 1494, and sold in England by Frederic Egmont, contain most beautifully designed initials, as good as can be found in any early printed book.

Wynkyn de Worde, when he succeeded in 1491 to Caxton's business, found himself in possession of a large number of cuts, a considerably larger number than ever appeared in the books of Caxton's that now remain to us. The first illustrated book he issued was a new edition of the Golden Legend, in which the old cuts were utilised. This was printed in 1493. In 1494 a new edition of the Speculum Vite Christi was issued, of which only one complete copy is known, that in the library at Holkham. It[Pg 226] probably contains only the series of cuts used by Caxton in his edition, for the few leaves to be found in other libraries have no new illustrations. About the same time (1494) De Worde issued several editions of the Horae ad usum Sarum, one in octavo (known from a few leaves discovered in the binding of a book in the library of Corpus Christi College, Oxford) and the rest in quarto. In the quarto editions we find the large series of pictures, among which are the three rioters and three skeletons, the tree of Jesse, and the Crucifixion, which occur in Caxton's Fifteen O'es. It is extremely probable that all the cuts in these editions had belonged to Caxton. The two cuts in the fragment of the octavo edition, however, are of quite a different class, evidently newly cut, and much superior in style and simplicity to Caxton's. It is much to be regretted that no complete copy of the book exists, for the neat small cuts and bold red and black printing form a very tasteful page.

A curious specimen of engraving is to be found in the Scala Perfectionis, by Walter Hylton, also printed in 1494. It represents the Virgin and Child seated under an architectural canopy, and below this are the words of the antiphon beginning, 'Sit dulce nomen d[=n]i.' These words are not printed from type, but cut on the block, and the engraver seems to have treated them simply as part of the decoration, for many of the words are by themselves quite unreadable and bear only[Pg 227] a superficial resemblance to the inscription from which they were copied.

An edition of Bartholomaeus' De proprietatibus rerum issued about this time has a number of cuts, not of very great interest; and the Book of St. Albans of 1496 has an extra chapter on fishing, illustrated with a picture of an angler at work, with a tub, in the German fashion, to put his fish into. It has also a curiously modern diagram of the sizes of hooks. In 1498 De Worde issued an illustrated edition of Malory's Morte d'Arthur. The cuts are very ambitious, but badly executed, and the hand of the engraver who cut them may be traced in several books. In 1499 an edition of Mandeville was issued, ornamented with a number of small cuts, and about this time several small books were issued having cuts on the title-page.

Richard Pynson's first illustrated book was an edition of the Canterbury Tales, printed some time before 1492. At the head of each tale is a rudely executed cut of the pilgrim who narrates it. These cuts were made for this edition, and were in some cases altered while the book was going through the press to serve for different characters: the Squire and the Manciple, the Sergeant and Doctor of Physic, are from the same blocks with slight alterations. In 1494 came an edition of Lydgate's Falle of Princis, a translation from the De Casibus virorum et feminarum illustrium of Boccaccio, illustrated with the cuts used by Jean Dupré[Pg 228] in his Paris edition of a French version of the same work in 1483. One of the neatest of these, depicting Marcus Manlius thrown into the Tiber, is here shown. About 1497 an edition of the Speculum Vite Christi was issued, with a number of neatly executed small cuts, and in 1500 Pynson printed the beautiful Sarum Missal, known as the Morton Missal. Special borders and ornaments, introducing a rebus on the name of Morton, were engraved for this, and a full-page cut of the pre[Pg 229]late's coat of arms appears at the commencement of the book.

The Death of Marcus Manlius. From Lydgate's The Falle of Princis, Pynson, 1494. (Reduced.)

After the year 1500 almost every book issued by W. de Worde, who was pre-eminently the popular publisher, had an illustration on the title-page. This was not always cut for the book, nor indeed always very applicable to the letterpress, and the cuts can almost all be arranged into series made for more important books. There were, however, a few stock cuts: a schoolmaster with a gigantic birch for grammars, a learned man seated at a desk for works of more advanced scholarship, and lively pictures of hell for theological treatises. The title-page was formed on a fixed plan. At the top, printed inside a wood-cut ribbon, was placed the title, below this the cut.

Pynson, who was the Royal printer, and a publisher of learned works, disdained such attempts to catch the more vulgar buyers. His title-pages rarely have cuts, and these are only used on such few popular books as he issued. Both he and De Worde had a set of narrow upright cuts of men and women with blank labels over their heads, which could be used for any purpose, and have the names printed in type in the label above.

Foreign competition was also at this time making its influence felt on English book-illustration. W. de Worde had led the way by purchasing from Godfried van Os, about 1492, some type initial letters, and at least one woodcut. Pynson, early[Pg 230] in the sixteenth century, obtained some cuts from Vérard, which he used in his edition of the Kalendar of Shepherdes, 1506, and Julian Notary, who began printing about 1496, seems to have made use of a miscellaneous collection of cuts obtained from various quarters. He had, amongst other curious things, part of a set of metal cuts executed in the manière criblée, which have not been traced to any other book, but appear to have passed at a considerably later date into the hands of Wyer, who commenced to print before 1524. When W. de Worde left Westminster in 1500 to settle in Fleet Street, he parted with some of his old woodcuts to Notary,—woodcuts which had been used in the Horae of 1494, and had originally belonged to Caxton. All these miscellaneous cuts appear in his Golden Legend of 1503, and the large cut of the 'Assembly of Saints' on the title-page seems also to have been borrowed. It was used by Hopyl at Paris in 1505 for his edition of the Golden Legend in Dutch, and passed afterwards with Hopyl's business to his son-in-law Prevost, who used it in a theological work of John Major's. The engraved metal ornamental initials were obtained from André Bocard.

Some time before 1510 an extremely curious book, entitled the Passion of our Lorde Jesu, was printed abroad, probably in Paris. The uncouthness of the language seems to have brought about its destruction; for, though many fragments have[Pg 231] been found in bindings, only one perfect copy, now in the Bodleian, is known. It contains a number of large cuts of a very German appearance and quite unlike any others of the period. Some are used also in the York Manual printed for De Worde in 1509.

About this time too a number of popular books in English, some adorned with rude woodcuts, were issued by John of Doesborch, a printer in Antwerp. Among them may be mentioned The wonderful shape and nature of man, beasts, serpents, &c., the Fifteen Tokens, the Story of the Parson of Kalenbrowe, and the Life of Virgilius. A still earlier Antwerp cut, which had been used by Gerard Leeu for the title-page of his English Solomon and Marcolphus, found its way to England and was used by Copland.

In the last years of Henry VII.'s reign, from 1501 to 1509, a few books may be mentioned as particularly interesting from their illustrations. In 1502 De Worde printed the Ordinary of Chrysten Men, a large book with a block-printed title. It was reprinted in 1506. In 1503 appeared the Recuyles of ye Hystoryes of Troye, a typical example of an illustrated book of the period. There are about seventy cuts of all kinds, of which twelve were specially cut for the book: many others were used in the Morte d'Arthur, and the rest are miscellaneous. In 1505 we have the 'Craft to live and die well,' of which there is another edition in the[Pg 232] following year. In 1506 appears the Castle of Labour, one of the few books entirely illustrated with cuts specially made for it; in 1508 the Kalendar of Shepherdes. The cuts in these last three books were all ultimately derived from French originals. An edition of the Seven Wise Masters of Rome, of which the only known copy is imperfect, appeared about 1506, though the cuts which illustrate it were made before 1500. The fragment contains seven cuts, but the set must have consisted of eleven. They are very careful copies of those used by Gerard Leeu in his edition of 1490, and have lost none of the feeling of the originals.

Three books only of Pynson's production during this period call for special notice. About 1505 he issued an edition of the Castle of Labour, with very well-cut illustrations closely copied from the French edition. In 1506 appeared his edition of the Kalendar of Shepherdes, which is illustrated for the most part with cuts obtained from Vérard, and in 1507 an edition of the Golden Legend. Of each of these books but one copy is known.

For some unknown reason, the accession of Henry VII. acted in the most extraordinary way upon the English presses, which in that year issued a very large number of books. Perhaps the influx of visitors to London on that occasion made an unusual demand; but at any rate a number of popular books were then issued. Amongst them are Rychard Cuer de Lyon, the [Pg 233]Fiftene Joyes of Maryage, the Convercyon of Swerers, the Parliament of Devils, and many others. Besides these there were, of course, a number of funeral sermons on Henry VII., many of which have curious frontispieces. One of these was used again a little later, for the funeral sermon of the King's mother, the Lady Margaret, the royal pall and effigy on it being cut out and replaced by an ordinary pall. This method of inserting new pieces into old blocks, technically termed plugging, was not much used at this period when wood-engraving was so cheap. An excellent example, however, will be found in the books printed for William Bretton, which contain a large coat of arms. A mistake was made in the cutting of the arms, and a new shield was inserted, the mantling and supporters being untouched. Another notable book of that period is Barclay's Ship of Fools, issued by Pynson in 1509. It contains one hundred and eighteen cuts, the first being a full-page illustration of the printer's coat of arms. The rest are copies, roughly executed, of those in the original edition. Another version of this book, translated by Henry Watson, was issued the same year by Wynkyn de Worde. It is illustrated with a special series of cuts, which are used again in the later editions. Of the original edition of 1509 only one copy is known, printed on vellum and preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale. Stray cuts from this series are found in several of De Worde's other books, but may be at once[Pg 234] recognised from the occurrence of the 'fool' in his typical cap and bells.

About this time and a little earlier the title was very often cut entire on a block. The De Proprietatibus of c. 1496 contains the first and the most elaborate specimen, in which the words 'Bartholomeus de proprietatibus rerum' are cut in enormous letters on a wooden board; indeed the whole block was so large that hardly any copy contains the whole. Faques, Pynson, and others used similar blocks, in which the letters were white and the background black (one of Pynson's printed in red is to be found in the Ortus Vocabulorum of 1509), but their uncouthness soon led to their disuse. Numbers of service books were issued by Pynson and Wynkyn de Worde, profusely illustrated with small cuts, most of which appear to have been of home manufacture, though unoriginal in design. It is worth noticing one difference in the cuts of the two printers. Pynson's small cuts have generally an open or white background, De Worde's are, as a rule, dotted in the French style. Since in some of their service books these two printers used exactly similar founts of type the identification of their cuts is of particular value. But these service books almost from the first began to deteriorate. The use of borders was abandoned, and little care was given to keeping sets of cuts together, or using those of similar styles in one book. We find the archaic cuts of Caxton, the delicate pictures copied[Pg 235] from French models, and roughly designed and executed English blocks all used together, sometimes even on the same page. The same thing is noticeable in all the illustrated books of the period. De Worde used Caxton's cuts up to the very end of his career, though in many cases the blocks were worm-eaten or broken. The peculiar mixture of cuts is very striking in some books. Take as an example the edition of Robert the Devil, published about 1514. No cut used in it is original: one is from a book on good living and dying, another from the Ship of Fools,[22] a third is from a devotional book of the previous century, and so on. In the Oliver of Castile of 1518, though there are over sixty illustrations, not more than three or four are specially cut for it, but come from the Morte d'Arthur, the Gesta Romanorum, Helias Knight of the Swan, the Body of Policy, Richard Cuer de Lion, the Book of Carving, and so on, and perhaps many are used in several. Indeed, W. de Worde minded as little about using the same illustrations over and over again as some of our modern publishers.

For all books issued in the early years of the sixteenth century it was thought necessary to have at least an illustration on the title-page, so that practically an examination of the illustrated books of[Pg 236] the period means almost an examination of the entire produce of the printing press. In time, when the subject has been thoroughly studied, it will be possible to separate all the cuts into series cut for some special purpose.

A rather important influence was introduced into the history of English book illustration about 1518, when Pynson obtained a series of borders and other material, closely imitated from the designs made by Holbein for Froben.[23] They are the first important examples of 'renaissance' design used in English books, and their effect was rapid and marked. Wynkyn de Worde, who in his devices had hitherto been content to use Caxton's trade-mark with some few extra ornaments, introduced a hideous parody of one of Froben's devices, poor in design, and wretched in execution. The series of borders used by Pynson were good in execution, and their style harmonised with the Roman type used by him at that time, but with other books it was different. The heavy English black letter required something bolder, and unless these borders were heavily cut, they looked particularly meagre. A very beautiful title-page of this type (here somewhat reduced) is that in Sir Thomas Elyot's Image of Governance, printed by Thomas Berthelet at London in 1540-41.[Pg 237]

Title-page of Sir Thomas Elyot's Image of Governance.

The illustrated books of this period offer a curious[Pg 238] mixture of styles, for nothing could be more opposed in feeling than the early school of English cuts and the newly introduced Renaissance designs. The outsides of the books underwent exactly the same[Pg 239] change, for in place of the old pictorial blocks with which the stationers had heretofore stamped their bindings, they used hideous combinations of medallions and pillars.

Device of Thomas Berthelet.

The device of Berthelet is an excellent specimen of the new style. Despising good old English names and signs, he carried on business at the sign of Lucretia Romana in Fleet Street, and his device depicts that person in the act of thrusting a sword into her bosom. In the background is a classical landscape, and on either side pillars. Above are festoons, and on ribbons at the head and feet of the figure the name of the printer and of his sign. Though the cut is uninteresting it is a beautiful piece of work.

Another result of the new movement was the banishment of woodcuts from the title-page. Those to Pynson's books have already been noticed, but lesser printers like Scot, Godfrey, Rastell, and Treveris also made use of borders of classical design, and gave up the use of woodcuts. It is extremely curious to notice what excellent effects on a title-page the printers at this time produced from the poorest materials. They seem to have understood much better than those of a later date how to use different sized type with effect, and to make the whole page pleasing, without attracting too much attention to one particular part.

Device of Richard Faques.

Before leaving this early period it will be as well to return a little, and briefly notice some of[Pg 240] the more marked illustrated books produced by printers other than Pynson and De Worde. The two printers of the name of Faques, Guillam and Richard, produced a few most interesting books, and the device of the last named, founded on that of the Paris printer, Thielman Kerver, is a fine piece of engraving. The name was originally cut[Pg 241] upon the block as Faques, and was so used in his two first books; but in order to make the name appear more English in form, the 'ques' was cut out and 'kes' inserted in type. The last dated book which he printed, the Mirrour of Our Lady of 1530, contains several fine illustrations; that on the reverse of the title-page depicting a woman of some religious order writing a book, has at the bottom the letters E. G. joined by a knot, which may be the initials of the engraver.

The Cambridge press of 1521-1522, from the scholastic nature of its books, required no illustrations, but it used for the title-page of the Galen a woodcut border, rather in the manner of Holbein, but evidently of native production. In 1536 this border reappears in a Dutch Prognostication printed at Antwerp. The Oxford press of the early sixteenth century borrowed some of its cuts from De Worde, but a few, such as the ambitious frontispiece and the four diagrams in the Compotus of 1519, were original.

John Rastell in his Pastyme of People used a number of full-page illustrations of the kings of England, coarse in design and execution, and very remarkable in appearance. Peter Treveris issued a number of books with illustrations, some of which are well worthy of notice. The Grete Herbal, first published in 1516, contained a large number of cuts. Jerome of Bruynswyke's Worke of Surgeri has some curious plates of surgical operations, and[Pg 242] though the subjects are rather repulsive, they are excellent specimens of the wood-cutting of the period. Treveris' best known book is the Policronicon of 1527, printed for John Reynes, whose mark in red generally occurs on the title-page. This title-page is a fine piece of work, and has been facsimiled by Dibdin in his Typographical Antiquities. Some of the cuts and ornaments used by Treveris passed after his death into the hands of the Edinburgh printer, Thomas Davidson.

Lawrence Andrewe of Calais, who printed shortly before 1530, also issued some curious illustrated books. Before coming to England he had translated the extraordinary book, The wonderful shape and nature of man, beasts, serpentes, &c., printed by John of Doesborch, whom we have spoken of above. On his own account he issued the Boke of distyllacyon of waters by Jerome of Brunswick, illustrated with pictures of apparatus, and The Mirror of the World. This is founded on Caxton's edition, but is much more fully illustrated, the cuts to the Natural History portion being particularly curious. It is worth noticing that Andrewe, like some other printers at this time, introduced his device into many of the initial letters and borders which were cut for him, so that they can be readily identified when they occur, after his death, in books by other printers.

After the death of Wynkyn de Worde in 1535,[Pg 243] ideas as regards book-illustration underwent a great change. Theology had become popular, and theological books were not adapted for illustration. The ordinary book, with pictures put in haphazard, absolutely died out; and cuts were only used in chap books, or in large illustrated volumes,—descriptions of horrible creatures, and the likenesses of comets or portents on the one hand, chronicles, books of travel, and scientific works on the other. The difference which we noticed between W. de Worde and Pynson, the one being a popular printer and the other a printer of standard works, is distinctly marked in the succeeding generation. While Wyer, Byddell, and Copland published the popular books, Grafton and Whytchurch, Wolfe and Day, issued more solid literature. The old woodcuts passed into the hands of the poorer printers, and were used till they were worn out, and it is curious to notice how long in many cases this took. On the other hand, the illustrations made for new books are, as a rule, of excellent design and execution, owing a good deal, in all probability, to the influence of Holbein, who, for the latter portion of his life, was living in England. As examples of his work, we may take two books published in 1548, Cranmer's Catechism, published by Walter Lynne, and Halle's Chronicles, published by Grafton. The first contains a number of small cuts, one of which is signed in full Hans Holbein, and two others are signed with his initials H. H. Some writers insist that[Pg 245] these three cuts alone are to be ascribed to him, and that the rest are from an unknown hand. Besides these small cuts, there is one full-page cut on the back of the title of very fine work. It represents Edward VI. seated on his throne with the bishops kneeling on his right, the peers on his left. From the hands of the king the bishops are receiving a Bible. The cut at the end of Halle's Chronicles, very similarly executed and also ascribed to Holbein, represents Henry VIII. sitting in Parliament. Almost all the volumes of chronicles, of which a number were issued in the sixteenth century, contain woodcuts, and two are especially well illustrated,—Grafton's Chronicles, published in 1569, and Holinshed's Chronicles in 1577. The illustrations in the latter book, which Mr. Linton considers to have been cut on metal, do not appear in the later edition of 1586. Among the illustrations in the first edition, so Dibdin says, is to be found a picture of a guillotine.

From Cranmer's Catechism, London, 1548.

Of all the English printers of the latter half of the sixteenth century, none produced finer books than John Day, who, it has been suggested, engraved some of the woodcuts which he used. The best known, perhaps, of his books is the Book of Christian Prayers, commonly called Queen Elizabeth's Prayer Book, which he published in 1569. In a way, this book is undoubtedly a fine specimen of book-ornamentation, but as it was executed in a style then out of date, having borders[Pg 246] like the earlier service books, it suffers by comparison with the 'Books of Hours' of fifty years earlier. Another book of Day's which obtained great popularity was the History of Martyrs, compiled by John Fox. We read on Day's epitaph in the church of Bradley-Parva—

"He set a Fox to wright how martyrs runne, By death to lyfe. Fox ventured paynes and health, To give them light; Day spent in print his wealth."

Considering the popularity of the book, and the number of editions that were issued, we can hardly imagine that Day lost money upon it. The illustrations are of varied excellence, but the book contains also some very fine initial letters. One, the C at the commencement of the dedication, contains a portrait of Queen Elizabeth on her throne, with three men standing beside her, two of whom are supposed to be Day and Fox. Below the throne, forming part of the letter, is the Pope holding two broken keys.

Initial letters about this time arrived at their best. They were often very large, and contained scenes, mythological subjects, or coats-of-arms. A fine specimen of this last class is to be found in the Cosmographical Glasse, by William Cuningham, 1559. It is a large D containing the arms of Robert, Lord Dudley, to whom the book is dedicated. Very soon after this some ingenious printer invented the system of printing an ornamental border for the[Pg 247] letter with a blank space for the insertion of an ordinary capital letter,—a system which soon succeeded in destroying any beauty or originality which letters had up to this time possessed.

In conclusion, it will be well to notice the growth of engraving on metal in England. The earliest specimen that I know of is the device first used by Pynson about 1496. It is certainly metal, and has every appearance of having been cut in this country. Some writers have put forward the theory that the majority of early illustrations, though to all appearance woodcuts, were really cut on metal. But wherever it is possible to trace an individual cut for any length of time, we can see from the breakages, and in some cases from small holes bored by insects, that the material used was certainly wood. Julian Notary had some curious metal cuts, but they were certainly of foreign design and workmanship, and the same may be said of the metal cuts found amongst the early English service books. The border on the title-page of the Cambridge Galen, usually described as engraved on metal, is really an ordinary woodcut. It is not till 1540 that we find a book illustrated with engravings produced in this country. This was Thomas Raynald's Byrth of Mankynde, which contains four plates of surgical diagrams. In some of the later editions these plates have been re-engraved on wood. In 1545 another medical book appeared, Compendiosa totius delineatio aere exarata per Thomam Geminum. It has a frontis[Pg 248]piece with the arms of Henry VIII., and forty plates of anatomical subjects. Other editions appeared in 1553 and 1559, and the title-page of the last is altered by the insertion of a portrait of Elizabeth in place of the royal arms. The Stirpium Adversaria nova authoribus Petro Pena et Mathia de Lobel of 1570 has a beautifully engraved title-page, and the 1572 edition of Parker's Bible contains a map of the Holy Land with the following inscription in an ornamental tablet: 'Graven bi Humfray Cole, goldsmith, an English man born in ye north, and pertayning to ye mint in the Tower, 1572.' Humfray Cole is supposed by some authorities to have engraved the beautiful portraits of Elizabeth, the Earl of Leicester, and Lord Burleigh, which appear in the earlier edition of 1568. Saxton's maps, which appeared in 1579, are partly the work of native engravers, for at least eight were engraved by Augustine Ryther and Nicholas Reynolds. In 1591 there are two books,—Broughton's Concent of Scripture, and Sir John Harington's Ariosto. The latter contains almost fifty plates, closely copied from a Venetian edition, and was the most ambitious book illustrated with metal plates published in the century. There are a few other books published before 1600 which contain specimens of engraving, but none worthy of particular mention.

[22] This particular cut, which represents the Fool looking out of a window while his house is on fire, meant to illustrate the chapter 'Of bostynge or hauynge confydence in fortune,' is not used in the edition of 1517. It may, perhaps, occur in the edition of 1509, of which the unique copy is at Paris.

[23] Sir Thomas More, the friend and employer both of Pynson and Froben, had probably a good deal to do with this purchase of material.

[Pg 249]


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