FIRST ILLUSTRATED VIRGIL

Publii Virgilii Maro[n]is opera. 

Strasbourg, Johann Grüninger, 28 August 1502. 

Folio, ff. [6], CCCCVII, XXXIIII; title in red with large woodcut, illustrated throughout with c. 210 large woodcuts (one double-page to 141v–142r), woodcut initials (some historiated), woodcut device to colophon; bifolium V5.6 (ff. CLI–CLII) supplied from another copy, title-page and final leaf repaired, occasional mostly marginal repairs, some marks and light damp-staining; overall very good in contemporary calf over wooden boards, covers blind-tooled to a panel design with repeated lozenge incorporating double-headed eagle, brass edges to corners, brass clasps and catches; rebacked to style, lower board split (repaired), repairs to clasps, some wear to joints, covers rubbed, endpapers renewed; some crude early hand colouring to a few of the woodcuts, female nudity occasionally censored in ink; inscription to title ‘Liesborn classe … poetarum’ and to last blank page ‘Liber conuentus in Leisborn [sic]’, some early marginalia and interlinear notes in several hands.

£20000

Approximately:
US $25972€23782

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First illustrated edition of the works of Virgil, one of the great German woodcut books of the Renaissance, with over 200 illustrations by the artist known as the Late Master of the Grüninger Workshop.

Johann Grüninger commissioned Sebastian Brant, author of The Ship of Fools, to edit the volume, which comprises the Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid (including Maffeo Vegio’s ‘Book 13’ supplement), together with the commentaries of Servius, Aelius Donatus, Cristoforo Landino, Antonio Mancinelli, and Domizio Calderini, and ends with the Appendix Virgiliana, a collection of poems traditionally ascribed to Virgil’s youth.

The woodcuts include a magnificent double-page depiction of Aeneas and Achates admiring pictures of the Trojan War in Dido’s temple to Juno in Carthage, and several scenes, also from the Aeneid, showing the Trojan horse and the Underworld.

The occasional marginal and interlinear annotations – in Latin and occasional German, picking out passages of interest and supplying missing text – are in several hands, dating from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries: testimony to the book’s usage by multiple readers over a long period. As the inscriptions to the title and final page make clear, this volume was once in the library of Liesborn Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in western Germany, said to have been founded by Charlemagne in 785 and dissolved in 1803.

Adams V 457; Brunet V, col. 1277; Kristeller, Die Strassburger Bücher-Illustration (1888), no. 99; VD16 V 1332.

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