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Incipit passio sancti Meynrhadi martyris et heremite

Incipit passio sancti Meynrhadi martyris et heremite

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Incipit passio sancti Meynrhadi martyris et heremite

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About This Item

Edited by Sebastian Brant. Basel: Michael Furter, XII. kal. octobris (= 20 September) 1496. First Latin edition.
The legend of a Swiss saint and the foundation of Einsiedeln Abbey.
This small incunable contains the account of the life of St. Meinrad of Einsiedeln. Sebastian Brant's rare Latin edition is based on a 12th-century manuscript. Twenty-one fine large woodcuts illustrate the story of the saint and his martydom.
Meinrad became priest and monk on the Reichenau island (Lake Constance), and decided to live as a hermit. First he settled at Etzel Pass, but in 835 he retreated to the 'Finstern Walde' (Dark Forest, in today's canton Schwyz), where he was assassinated by two robbers on 21 January 861. According to the legend, ravens revealed the identities of the murderers, who thus were caught and executed. At the place of Meinrad's hermitage Benedictine monks founded the monastery of Einsiedeln (the name signifying 'hermitage'), whose abbots were elevated to the rank of princes by Rudolf of Hapsburg in 1274. Einsiedeln Abbey, whose present buildings date from between 1704 and 1720, developed into one of the world's most important destinations for pilgrims till these days. The present Latin edition of the Passio Meynradi was edited by Sebastian Brant and was probably commissioned by Albrecht of Bonstetten (deacon of Einsiedeln from 1470 onwards). The redaction of the text was likewise attributed to him – erroneously, as we know now. As P. Gebhard Müller found out, the text is based on cod. 249 of the Stiftsbibliothek Einsiedeln, (Ink.-Kat. Einsiedeln, no. 558). This 12th-century manuscript is a copy of the Vita Meinradi, which a monk of the Reichenau had compiled already in the 9th century (Verfasserlexikon I, cols. 176-179).
The legend was first translated into German in the 14th century. The first printed version of the text in German appeared about 1460 in the form of a blockbook, probably in Basel. After the first German typographic editions of 1481/82 (Basel) and c. 1495 (Nuremberg) followed in c. 1496 an edition from Michael Furter's press in Basel (Von sant Meinrat ein hübsch lieplich lesen, was ellend und armut er erlitten hat; ISTC im00531200). Shortly after, he published the present first Latin edition, dated on 20 September 1496. This edition is sometimes thought to have been printed before the German edition (e.g. Arnim, Bodemann), but this is unlikely because of the condition of the woodcuts.
The lively three-quarter-page illustrations depict episodes from the life of the saint: his travels on land and on board a ship, the founding of his hermitage, the attempts of two devils to seduce him, his assassination, the exposition of the murderers, etc.
The pictures are based on the illustrations of the blockbook although the order of the images sometimes differs and some are reversed. According to Hieronymus they may be due to the Master of Verardus. Furter's preceding German edition contained thirty-seven woodcuts. Of these, a selection of twenty-one illustrations were used for the present Latin edition. Furter used these woodcuts for several reprints until 1512, and for Petermann Etterlin's Chronik der Eidgenossenschaft (1507). Subsequently, the series was repeatedly reused by other printers up to 1587, damaged blocks being substituted when necessary.
Provenance: 1. Netherlands (?), ownership inscription of a monastery dedicated to St. Bavo on title-page: pertinet in priori monasterii sancti bavonis. – 2. Leipzig, Karl W. Hiersemann, antiquarian bookseller and publisher, Incunabula, catalogue 425, May 1913, no. 51 (?). – 3. Paris, Georges Heilbrun, bookseller. – 4. Brussels, Florimond Tulkens, bookseller; sold at Los Angeles antiquarian book fair, 1967, to August Laube, Zürich. – 5. Schweinfurt, Otto Schäfer collection (OS 585), acquired in December 1967 from Laube.

Description of this copy: Quarto. 203 x 147 mm. 14 leaves. – Gothic type, up to 38 lines. Paragraph marks and a few lombards supplied in red touched with liquid silver. 21 large woodcuts from 19 blocks on title and within the text.
Condition: A fine copy; formerly part of a sammelband, with old foliation in ink: 19-32.
Binding: Light vellum binding about 1900, gilt filets on cover. Modern beige quarter morocco Solander box.
Literature: Arnim, Schäfer, 1984, no. 232. – Basel, Van der Haegen I, 22/30. – Davies, Fairfax Murray, German, 1913, no. 384. – Goff P-142. – GW M29714. – Hain, no. 12453*. – Hieronymus, F. Oberrheinische Buchillustration I, no. 62. – ISTC im00531050. – London, BMC III, p. 784. – Munich, BSB-Ink P-27. – Schramm XXII, pp. 14 and 43, figs. 524-528, 530-531, 536-537, 539, 541-544, 547, 555-558. – Schreiber no. 4607. – Wagner, B., ed. Vom ABC zur Apokalypse, exh. cat. Munich 2012, no. 11, pp. 94-97. – Compare for the German edition, Bodemann, U. "Meinrad." In Katalog der deutschsprachigen illustrierten Handschriften des Mittelalters, VI, 2005, pp. 299-300, no. 51.24.c. – On the legend see Klein, K., in Verfasserlexikon VI (1987), cols. 319-21 (not this edition).


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Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books AG CH (CH)
Bookseller’s Inventory #
Incipit passio sancti Meynrhadi martyris et heremite
Vellum, about 1900
Book condition
Quantity available
First edition in Latin
Michael Furter
Place of Publication
Date Published
20 September 1496
Saint Meinrad, incunable, incunabula, Einsiedeln Abbey, woodcut illustration
203 x 147 mm

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Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books AG

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About Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books AG

Dr. Jörn Günther's passion for medieval books and manuscripts predates the establishment of his art dealership in 1990. With a team of specialists at the helm, Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books provides scholarly services, expert advice, long-term support on the development of collections, and the acquisition and sale of manuscripts, miniatures, and rare early printed books from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.After a lifetime of bibliophile and 40 years of scholarly pursuit, Dr. Jörn Günther has earned a reputation as one of the world's foremost specialists and voices of authority in his field. He has been instrumental in the composition of some of the best collections worldwide, and has worked with leading international museums and institutions, such as New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and alongside private collectors on a quest to create and develop their own collections.


Some terminology that may be used in this description includes:

The decorative application of gold or gold coloring to a portion of a book on the spine, edges of the text block, or an inlay in... [More]
Incunabula (incunable or incunabulum) refers to a book printed before 1501 - a pamphlet, a book or document that was not... [More]
Morocco is a style of leather book binding that is usually made with goatskin, as it is durable and easy to dye. (see also... [More]
Vellum is a sheet of specialty prepared skin of lamb, calf, or goat kid used for binding a book or for printing and writing. ... [More]
A book in fine condition exhibits no flaws. A fine condition book closely approaches As New condition, but may lack the... [More]
Very generally, "leaves" refers to the pages of a book, as in the common phrase, "loose-leaf pages." A leaf is a single sheet... [More]
is a worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title, etc.... [More]

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