A Festive Rarity

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By , 26 December 2010 2:31 pm

 A festive image from a Book of Hours, use of Rome, printed in Paris by Pierre Le Rouge for Vincent Commin on 9 May 1491 (ISTC ih00369170). 

This is a rare edition, of which only two copies are known:

Cambridge University Library, Inc.5.D.1.19[2530] (Oates 3011), from which the image, and Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MSS. Rotschild VI.3.6 (BN cat. des incun., H-219), both on vellum and with hand coloured woodcuts.

A very Happy Holiday to you all !

A Greek anthology printed in Florence, a Yiddish subscription and a German binder

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By , 6 November 2010 1:35 pm
The Cambridge University Library copy of the Anthologia Graeca Planudea pubblished by Janus Lascaris and printed by Laurentius (Francisci) de Alopa Venetus in Florence on 11 August 1494 (ISTC ia00765000) comes from the Sandars Collection, which is particularly rich in original and de-luxe bindings (SSS.60.10) .  This book retains its original binding too.

upper cover

lower cover

The cover is made a of quarter blind-tooled pigskin over bevelled wooden boards, with two stubs of fastening pigskin straps at fore-edge of lower board and channeling and nail holes for two lost catches at fore-edge of the upper board.  It is clearly German and datable to the end of the 15th or the beginning of the 16th century.

Upper guard

The parchment guards of the first and last gatherings A and KK are fragments from a 15th-century liturgical German manuscript in Gothic hand with rubrics and initials in red.

B1 recto

The margins bear some marginal manuscript notabilia both in Latin and Greek in cursive hand by a German reader of the early 16th century.

More intriguingly, the book is also inscribed with notes by different hands in Greek and Hebrew on the blank recto of its title page, i.e. leaf [A1] recto: a classical citation [?], an imploration to God, and a partly cropped note written by a less educated hand in the upper margin of the leaf.

A1 recto

This short note turned out to be the most interesting one.  Written in Yiddish in an Hebrew hand datable to the end of the 15th century, it reads “12 grozim Ingolstadt”, providing us with a price and the name of the German town in which the book was at the end of the 15th or the beginning of the 16th century (I am most grateful to my colleagues from the Geniza Project, and Dr Esther-Miriam Wagner in particular, who kindly helped me in reading and dating the Hebrew inscriptions).

Yiddish inscription

The cropping indicates that the note was written before the book was bound.  A quick provenance search for incunables from Ingolstadt in the BSB-Ink website (BSB-Ink, H-372) led to the discovery of another incunable bound in similar style and decorated with seemingly identical tools.  The book is a copy of Horatius’s Opera printed in Venice [by Philippus Pincius partly with Bevilaqua’s types] and dated 13 July 1498 (ISTC ih00459000), now in the Bayerische StaatsBibliothek in Munich, 2 Inc.ca 3652 m,  which was bound in Ingolstadt in the workshop of Johannes Ewring (for similar bindins in Ingolstadt, see E. Kyriss, Verzierte gotische Einbände im alten deutschen Sprachgebiet, 4 vols, Stuttgart, 1951-1958, no. 170).

The BSB-Ink record provides a link to a German Bindings Database, called Einbanddatenbank, with images and measures of all the tools used in Johannes Ewring’s workshop (EBDB w000030), six of which can also be found on the binding of the Greek anthology in Cambridge (Ewring’s tools).

K2 recto

According to the Einbanddatenbank, Johannes Ewring was active in Ingolstadt between 1475 and 1514.  One of the notabilia added by the German reader in Latin and Greek on the book margins of our anthology is dated “1513 die 2°” (leaf K2 recto), thus providing us with a certain “terminus ante quem” for the binding.

The book was therefore bound in Ingolstadt in the workshop of Johannes Ewring sometime between 1494, its printing date, and 1513, the date of the annotation.

Miriam also came up with an interesting idea: could the Yiddish inscription be a pawnshop remark?  Books were often used as pawn items within the Jewish community, and the Jewish lenders should therefore have been used to take books as pawn items from Christian customers.  If this was the case, the book must have been used as “collateral” in a lending transaction before the bookblock was cropped in preparation for its binding when part of the note in Yiddish was cut away.

It only befits the international nature of this book that international experts in Hebrew and Yiddish languages from the Geniza Project at Cambridge University Library, and international digital catalogues with images available on-line have made possible for me, and Italian incunabula cataloguer, to solve a little but intriguing busillis.

An unknown edition of the Liber de secundis intentionibus by Francesco da Prato ?

By , 19 October 2010 3:52 pm

s1 recto

The edition of Johannes Versoris’s Quaestiones librorum praedicabilium et praedicamentorum et posteriorum Aristotelis attributed to Leonardus Pachel and Uldericus Scinzenzeler in Milan around 1481-83 (ISTC iv00250000), includes an anonymous text entitled Liber de secundis intentionibus printed on leaves s1 recto-t4 verso (Inc.5.B.7.10[4004])

This text is seemingly identifiable with the Liber de intentionibus by the 14th-century Dominican friar Franciscus de Prato.

The readings of its incipit and explicit correspond to those published in Jean-Pierre Rothschild, Bibliographie annuelle du Moyen Age tardif, 11 (2001), no. 1129, as the beginning and the end of a treatise attribuited to Franciscus Pratensis in Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS. 3368, fols 70 recto-80 recto.  These readings also match the incipit and explicit of the already known edition of Franciscus’s text printed on leaves v2 verso-v6 recto of Johannes  Versoris, the  Dicta super septem tractatus Petri Hispani, edited by Petrus de Sancto Johanne and published in Venice by Hermannus Liechtenstein on 22 May 1487 (ISTC iv00238500; see GW M32404).

t4 verso

Franciscus’s treatise was later reprinted in Seville in 1530 and survives in four other 15th-century manuscripts.

If the identification of the anonymous text is correct, there are two more lingering questions: the attribution of the printing to Pachel and Scinzenzeler rather than to Johannes Antonius de Honate, and the dating of the book to around 1481-83 instead of circa 1488 (as suggested by BSB-Ink V-181).

Only the carefull consideration of the types used in the edition and the philological comparison of the text with the surviving manuscripts copies and the 1487 edition will answer the final question: it this the editio princeps of Franciscus’s Liber de intentionibus?

Bibliography for the text:

Fabrizio Amerini, “La Quaestio Utrum subiectum in logica sit ens rationis e la sua attribuzione a Francesco da Prato. Note sulla vita e gli scritti del domenicano Francesco da Prato”, Memorie Domenicane, n.s. 30 (1999), 147-217 (p. 211).

Fabrizio Amerini, “La figura e la filosofia di Francesco da Prato”, in Dal convento alla città. Filosofia e teologia in Francesco da Prato O.P. (XIV secolo), Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Storia della Filosofia Medievale, Prato, Palazzo Comunale, 18-19 maggio 2007, ed. Fabrizio Amerini, Firenze, 2008, 15-29 (p. 17 and n. 8).

Felice Feliciano annotator of Valturio, De re militari, 1472

By , 28 September 2010 12:23 pm
Cambridge University Library holds two copies of Roberto Valturio, De re militari, printed in Verona by Johannes Nicolai in 1472 (ISTC iv00088000).  The first copy, Inc.2.B.19.1[2158], fully rubricated and decorated by puzzle initials in red and blue and beautifully bound for Marie Elisabeth Auguste von Sulzbach, has already been mentioned in the post dedicated to William Mitchell, one of its later owners.

r10 recto

The second copy was donated to the library by Samuel Sandars in 1894 (SSS.4.14).  In rather worse physical condition than the other copy, this second exemplar is in fact more important in the history of the edition itself as the manuscript captions to the woodcut images of war machines are in the hand of Felice Feliciano (1433-ca. 1480), the “antiquarius”, humanist, scribe, artist, binder, alchemist, goldsmith, and typographer from Verona, who was one of the most eccentric and inventive protagonists of the Italian Renaissance.

r9 verso

The captions were added by Feliciano partly in epigraphic capitals and partly in humanistic cursive minuscule.

r9 verso

r10 recto

a1 recto

He also wrote the heading on the first page of the treatise in his characteristic epigraphic capitals of alternating blue and red [my attribution to Feliciano’s hand of the manuscript additions was kindly confirmed by Stefano Zamponi in private correspondence].


Feliciano’s hitherto unnoticed contribution to the Cambridge University Library Valturio is less extensive but nevertheless comparable to his rubrications in the Vatican Library copy (Stampato Rossiano 1335), which was first discovered by Augusto Campana, who wrote about it in a famous article published in 1940 (“Felice Feliciano e la prima edizione del Valturio”, Maso Finiguerra, V.3 (1940), 211-222).

In the Vatican copy Feliciano also applied the same system of catchwords or symbols to signal the end of quires, and supplied coloured initials, titles and rubrics to the books and chapters, as well as running titles, whereas he left the rubrication of the Cambridge copy incomplete.

The captions to the woodcut images did not originate with Feliciano: they reproduce the captions devised by Valturio himself to accompany the drawings of the war machines in the seven manuscripts written under his direct supervision by the scribe Sigismundus Nicolai Alemannus, including Vat. Urb. lat. 281, the earliest manuscript signed by Sigismondus in 1462, and Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Pluteo xlvi.3, copied around 1472, i.e. the same year as the Verona edition: http://teca.bmlonline.it/TecaViewer/index.jsp?RisIdr=TECA0000534757

The captions were therefore an essential part of Valturio’s original text.  Consequentially, they were also faithfully reproduced in the fourteen other extant manuscripts of his work signed by or attributed to other scribes, including a manuscript in the Riccardiana Library in Florence, Riccardiano 794 (cf. http://www.istitutodatini.it/biblio/images/it/riccard/794/), which has been identified by Teresa de’ Robertis as being in the hand of Feliciano himself and possibly produced in the late 1460s or the 1470s (Teresa De Robertis, “Feliciano copista di Valturio”, in Tra libri e carte. Studi in onore di Luciana Mosiici, ed. by T. De Robertis and G. Savino, Firenze, 1998, 73-97).

In the manuscripts the captions were added in colour, usually light purple ink, next to the technical drawings of the war machines at the same time as the decoration, i.e. after the copying of the text.  It is not surprising, therefore, that they came to be considered as part of the rubrication and, as a result, remained unprinted in the 1472 edition in order to be added by hand at a later stage.  In consequence, they are absent from surviving copies of the edition which were never rubricated.  In other copies, however, it was the rubricators supplying the titles to the individual books and the running titles who omitted them, as in the Sulzbach copy in the Cambridge University Library and in the exemplars held in the Bodleian Library in Oxford (Bod-Inc V-041).

c5 verso

c7 verso

These omissions were regarded as mistakes by Paolo Ramusio, the editor of the second edition of Valturius’s work, printed  in Verona by Bonino Bonini in 1483 (Inc.2.B.19.4[2163]).  In his introduction Ramusio stated that his aim was to restore Valturio’s text to its original form and integrity.  In Ramusio’s edition, therefore, the captions to the illustrations were duly printed as part of the text, as can be seen when we compare the images that illustrate how to measure the height of a tower in copies of the first and secon editions.

r8 verso

s6 verso

Ramusio’s complaints seem amply justified given Feliciano’s occasional carelessness in reproducing the woodcut captions: see the repetition and cancellation of a word on fols [r8] verso and [s6] verso of the incunable SSS.4.14 , and the omission of the letter “T” in the word “INSTRVMENTVM” on fol. 131v of the Riccardiano manuscript 194 .

The discovery of Feliciano’s hand in the Cambridge exemplar of the 1472 edition adds this book to the number of his known manuscripts.  However, we are still left with the open question whether he actively collaborated in the making of the printed edition and its illustrations.  Our knowledge of Feliciano’s life is still sketchy, but it seems that around 1471-1472, at the time the book was produced, he was not residing in Verona but in Bologna and Ferrara. It is of course possible that Feliciano was simply requested to annotate some copies of the edition during a short visit to his home town.  We do know, however, that in 1475 and again in 1476 he was directly involved in the production of printed books: in the autumn of 1475 he collaborated with the typographer Severino da Ferrara in the publication of Baldassare da Fossombrone’s poem Il menzognero ovvero Bosadrello, Albertus Trottus’s De vero et perfecto clerico, and  Angelus de Gambilionibus’s Tractatus de maleficiis, and Benevenutus Grassus’ s De oculis eorumque aegritudinibus et curis (ISTC ib00034200, ISTC it00478000, ISTC ig00060500, ISTC ig00352000).  He was also apparently involved in the printing of an antisemitical text in Verona on 22 May 1475.  Finally, on 1 October 1476, he and Innocente Ziletti put their joint names on the edition of Petrarch’s De viris illustribus in the Italian translation by Donato degli Albanzani (ISTC ip00415000).

Feliciano’s printing ventures are perhaps unsurprising when we consider that in 1460 he had been identified as aurifex, i.e. goldsmith, in his brother Andrea’s will:  it is a well known fact that goldsmiths, such as Gutenberg, Ratdolt and Jenson, played a pivotal role in the development of the printing industry in 15th-century Europe.  Nevertheless, no documentary evidence of his involvement in the production of the 1472 Valturius edition has surfaced so far.  The two rubricated copies in the Vatican and Cambridge University Library, are too small a sample to confirm this hypothesis and the question must remain for the moment unanswered.  Only a long overdue complete survey of all the 76 extant copies of the edition, possibly combined with a critical edition of the printed text in comparison with the manuscript tradition, and an analysis of Feliciano’s copy in particular, may provide us with an answer.

For the time being, I can only say with confidence that Feliciano’s hand is not present in the two Oxford exemplars, Douce 267 and 289, whose rubrication has been described as “in the style of Felice Feliciano” in the catalogue of the Bodleian incunables (Bod-Ink V-041; reproductions of the two books were kindly provided to me by Irene Ceccherini, courtesy of the Bodleian Library).  The illuminated initials in Douce 289 are very close in style to those found in the copies of the edition held in the Biblioteca Civica in Verona (Inc. 1084) and the Biblioteca Universitaria in Padova (Sec. XV. 677), where we also find the same rubricator, giving the impression that these copies were rubricated and illuminated “in series”.


Augusto Campana, “Felice Feliciano e la prima edizione del Valturio”, Maso Finiguerra, V.3 (1940), 211-222.

Daniela Fattori, “Spigolature su Felice Feliciano da Verona”, La Bibliofilia, XCIV.3 (1992), 263-269.

L’ ‘Antiquario’ Felice Feliciano 1995:  L’ ‘Antiquario’ Felice Feliciano veronese. Tra epigrafia antica, letteratura e arti del libro. Atti del Convegno di Studi, Verona 1993, ed. A. Contò and L. Quaquarelli, Padua, 1995 (Medioevo e Umanesimo, 89), in particular Agostino Contò, “Non scripto calamo. Felice Feliciano e la tipografia”, 289-312.

Agostino Contò in Mantegna e le Arti a Verona 2006:  Mantegna e le Arti a Verona 1450-1500, [exhibition catalogue], ed. S. Marinelli and P. Marini, Venice, 2006, 455-6, no. 188.

Donatella Frioli, “Per la tradizione manoscritta di Roberto Valturio. Appunti e spunti di ricerca”, in Roberto Valturio, De re military. Saggi critici, ed. by Paola Delbianco, Rimini and Milan, 2006, 69-93.

Agostino Conto’, “Da Rimini a Verona: le edizioni quattrocentesche del De re militari”, in Roberto Valturio, cit., 95-104.

Donatella Frioli, “Da Rimini a Verona: Roberto Valturio, Domenico Foschi e Felice Feliciano”, in Virtute et labore. Studi offerti a Giuseppe Avarucci per i suoi settant’anni, ed. by Rosa Maria Borraccini and Giammario Borri, II, Spoleto, 2008, 1073-1109.