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Block Books-Digital Material from the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection

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Biblia pauperum

Rosenwald 19
Biblia pauperum. [Netherlands or Germany, ca. 1470] [40] leaves. illus. 29 cm.
Page Turner - PDF (32.98 MB) Bibliographic Information

One of the block books that has survived in the greatest numbers is the Biblia pauperum, a compendium of scripture prepared for the poor and the minor clergy, providing them with material for prayer and reflection. The general intent of the Biblia pauperum was to harmonize the Old and New Testaments. This block book presents 40 Biblical events illustrated by parallel passages from the Old and New Testaments. Subjects from the life of Christ are found in the central panel of the page accompanied by two parallels from Old Testament history and a witness from the prophets in the adjacent left and right panels.  As with all block books, this copy is printed on one side of the leaf only and organized so the printed sides are facing one another. This copy is from the libraries of James Bellingham Inglis, George Hibbert, Francis Douce and Robert and George Holford.

Ars moriendi

Rosenwald 20
Ars moriendi. [Germany, ca. 1466] [24] leaves. 11 illus. 28.7 cm.
Page Turner - PDF (33.53 MB) Bibliographic Record

Ars moriendi, or The Art of Dying is an important genre of book which reveals the medieval Church’s rituals surrounding the last rites of a dying Christian.  The earliest known printing of the Ars moriendi is a block book edition produced in the southern Netherlands around 1450, though this date is still under debate by historians of the subject. By 1500, over eighty printed editions were produced from presses in Germany, France, Italy, the Low Countries, Spain and Great Britain. Hind wrote that its “popularity probably comes from the fact that its was intended as a guide to clergy in giving comfort and counsel to the dying.”  It is composed of ten scenes organized in pairs depicting the countervailing forces of grace and temptation, faith and despair, and good over evil. This copy contains the bookplate of A. A. Renouard.

Printed in black ink. Bound into this copy is a leaf from Biblia Pauperum and two additional woodcuts from a later edition of an Ars Memorandi was designed as an aid for semi-literate clergy in remembering the lessons of the Gospels by meands of symbols. Block books were printed from carved wood blocks, incorporating both images and text on only one side of paper.

Rosenwald 21
Ars memorandi per figuras Evangelistarum. [Germany, ca. 1470] [30] leaves. illus. 27 cm.
Page Turner -PDF (22.26 MB) Bibliographic Information

A block book printed in Germany in the early 1470s, was thought at one time to predate Gutenberg and the art of printing with movable type. This view was held until Allan Stevenson began his research into the paper stocks found in block books and his investigation reveled that only one example contained paper made before 1465. This block book was printed in sepia ink on one side of the leaf only, with the text and image facing alternating verso and recto leaves. In this copy the blank sides of the leaves have been pasted together to produce a continuous text. This book was designed as a memory guide for the reader, probably a cleric of limited education, as a guide of lessons of the Gospels by means of the use symbols. This copy was formerly in the libraries of Dr. Samuel Butler, Bishop of Lichfield and Robert and Sir George Holford.

Rosenwald 22
Ars moriendi. [Germany, ca. 1470?] [14] leaves. illus. 35 cm.
Page Turner - Bibliographic Information
Bible. N.T. Revelation. Latin. Selections. 1470. Apocalypsis Sancti Johannis.

Rosenwald 23
Bible. N.T. Revelation. Latin. Selections. 1470. Apocalypsis Sancti Johannis. [Germany, ca. 1470] [48] leaves. illus. 31 cm.
Bound with Rosenwald 8, 37, 52 & 53.
Page Turner - PDF (33.16 MB) - Bibliographic Information

Based on letters written to church members in Asia Minor, The Apocalypse of St. John describes his heavenly visions and revelations. He told the story of the great heavenly warfare between good and evil, the resurrection of Christ, the punishment of the wicked, and the reward of the righteous.  It was a very familiar story in Medieval Europe.

This book is a superb example of a block book, essentially a picture book, a single woodcut page in which design and text were carved, inked, and then pressed against paper, leaving an impression of image and words. The block book emerged in the fifteenth century and was used to explain bible tales and moral stories in much the same fashion as church stained glass windows. Originally thought to be the precursor of printing with moveable type, research has now indicated that these scarce books were created in the same period in which Gutenberg introduced printing to Western Europe.

Passio Christi Rosenwald 24
Passio Christi. [Germany, ca. 1470?] [17] leaves. woodcuts: illus. 13.9 cm.
Bound with Rosenwald 26
Page Turner - PDF () - Bibliographic Information
Regiomontanus Rosenwald 25
Regiomontanus, Joannes, 1436-1476. Calendarium. Venice, Bernhard Maler (Pictor), Erhard Ratdolt, Peter Löslein, 1476. [32] leaves. woodcuts: border, diagrs. (1 movable, 1 with brass pointer) 29.6 cm. (4to).
Page Turner - PDF (30.54 MB) - Bibliographic Information
Ars moriendi Rosenwald 26
Ars moriendi. [Germany, ca. 1475?] [14] leaves (the first blank, wanting). woodcuts: 11 illus. 13.9 cm.
Bound with Rosenwald 24.
Page Turner - PDF (29.89 MB) - Bibliographic Information
Indulgentiae ecclesiarum urbis Romae Rosenwald 27
Indulgentiae ecclesiarum urbis Romae. [n.p., ca. 1475]. [92] leaves. illus. 17.2 cm. (8vo)
Page Turner - PDF (63.21 MB) - Bibliographic Information
Opera noua contemplatiua p[er] ogni fidel christiano laquale tratto de le figure del testamento vecchio Rosenwald 28
Opera noua contemplatiua p[er] ogni fidel christiano laquale tratto de le figure del testamento vecchio; le quale figure sonno verificate nel testamento nuouo con le sue expositione ... [Uinegia, ca. 1530?]. Novamente stampata. [126] p. woodcut illus. 16 cm.
Page Turner - PDF (66.66 MB) - Bibliographic Information

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  September 29, 2016
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