HANDCOLOURED COMMONPLACE BOOK FOR A YOUNG WOMAN

Figuren über die Geschichte und Wunderthaten unsers Heilandes und Seiner Apostel.

[Erfurt, 1687-1688.]

Oblong 8vo (151 x 188 mm), pp. [12], [2], [138], [28], engraved title with manuscript inset and 69 engraved plates (first signed ‘Matthaeus Merian fecit 1627’), all hand-coloured in different shades of yellow, orange, red, green, blue, pink and purple, with silver highlights, within black borders; a few short marginal tears, some repaired, a little rubbing to a few plates, colour transfer to a few leaves of text facing the engravings, but overall very well preserved, bound in contemporary calf over wooden bevelled boards, sides with single-fillet gilt frame, spine in compartments richly decorated in gilt, rebacked preserving original spine, all edges gilt; rubbed, corners a bit worn; various presentation and ownership inscriptions to front pastedown (see below).

£18000

Approximately:
US $25127€21163

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Figuren über die Geschichte und Wunderthaten unsers Heilandes und Seiner Apostel.

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A splendid religious commonplace book, written and with engravings lavishly hand-coloured by Andreas Stoffel von Mümpelgard, the creator of the renowned ‘Stoffel Bible’ kept in Luther’s cell, and presented by him to a young girl for her personal devotions.

Not much is known on the life of Andreas Stoffel: probably born in modern-day Montbéliard, as his name would suggest, he spent some time in Nuremberg, later moving to Erfurt, where he appears to have lived alone in a garden, almost like a hermit. It was here that his talent as a colourist came to prominence: ‘Stoffel is most famous for having coloured and sumptuously bound in 1684-85 a copy of the Bible translated by Luther, printed by Stern in Luneburg in 1672, adorning it with jewels, and presented to the orphanage at Erfurt’ (see Allgemeines Kunstlerlexicon, p. 1750). This copy was kept in what had been Luther’s cell in the same building, as the orphanage was housed from 1669 in St Augustine’s Monastery, where Luther lived as a friar from 1505 to 1511.

As late as 150 years later the Bible was still a sensation, and was specifically mentioned by various travel guides and religious works describing Luther’s cell: ‘On the table are: the famous Stoffel Bible, […] illustrated with large copper-engravings, which Andreas Stoffel from Mümpelgard, who lived alone in a garden in Erfurt, had splendidly coloured and the binding adorned with multiple cut stones and glass tiles, which he himself, as an accomplished chemist, had melted, so that they aroused admiration as a symbol of art and diligence…’ (Johann Christoph Kröger, Reise durch Sachsen nach Böhmen und Oesterreich, mit besonderer Beziehung auf das niedere und höhere unterrichtswesen (Altona, 1840) I, p. 253 trans.).

‘Particularly noteworthy is the Luther Bible […]. Andreas Stoffel von Mümpelgard, who came to Nuremberg as a child, went to Erfurt as he grew older and lived quite alone in a garden, illuminated such things himself and, as a lover of the scriptures, venerated Luther in his cell. The binding is adorned with Bohemian diamonds that he cut and set himself. A certain duke of Saxony is said to have offered a thousand thalers for it’. (Friedrich Keyser and Johann Fr. Möller, Reformations Almanach auf das Jahr 1821 (Erfurt, 1821), p. CCV trans.; see also Johann Daniel Falk, Dr. Martin Luther und die Reformation in Volksliedern (1830), ‘Die Lutherszelle zu Erfurt’, p. 112; and Oberdeutsche allgemeine Litteraturzeitung im Jahre 1800, Jan-Jun, cols 763-764).

The manuscript opens with an introductory text, giving the context of the book’s creation, signed by Andreas Stoffel. After a few pious verses, the main part of the book begins, with a manuscript title framed by Merian’s engraved border, the images of the Evangelists, each accompanied by a short biography, and sixty-nine beautifully coloured engraved plates set within dramatic black borders, taken from Merian’s Icones Biblicae series, published between 1627-1630. The engravings depict scenes from the New Testament, including the Life of Christ, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Book of Revelation, and are each accompanied by a manuscript leaf with related quotes and scriptural paraphrase. The book then ends with a collection of words spoken by Christ, taken from the New Testament; a chapter on how prayers should be recited, according to Mosaic Law, the Prophets, and the Apostles; a few devotional recollections; the Lord’s Prayer; and an index.

This commonplace book represents a splendid example of a widespread and long-lasting tradition in the compilation of such texts, which would often be used by women for their own personal devotion. It also represents a possibly unique witness to the work of one of the leading colourists of the time, an ‘outsider’ who devoted his life to the production of such objects. We have been unable to locate any other coloured book or composition clearly ascribed to Andreas Stoffel, nor have we been able to find out the current whereabouts of the famous Stoffel Bible which was last recorded, still in Luther’s cell, in the 1840s, and was possibly destroyed in the fire which damaged the upper storey of the monastery (where the cell was located) in 1872.

Provenance: the compilation of the book started in Erfurt on 29 December 1687 by Andreas Stoffel von Mümpelgard, and was completed on 6 March 1688 (‘Allhier in Ehrfurcht angefangen, im Jahr unsers Heils, 1687, den 29 December. Und has Lob und Dank gantz vollendet. Anno 1688, den 6. Marts’). Stoffel then presented it to his young cousin Ester Pfäfflin in Nürnberg on 14 April 1688 (‘Andreas Stoffel von Mümpelgard verspricht dies Buch seiner lieben Jungfer Bassen Ester Pfäfflin in Nürnberg zum guten anngedenken. Datum Erfurt, 14/4 April Anno 1688’). A further ownership inscription records that this book was later given by Alexander de Weistermann to I.C.J. Flechtner, in Rostall on the 24 February 1777 (‘Dono mihi dedit Alexander de Weistermann. Rostalli, 24 Feb, Anno 1777, I.C.J Flechtner, p.t. Diac.).

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