Lot 40: Block book.- Vavassore (Giovanni Andrea) Opera nova contemplativa, Venice, 1530.
November 15, 2016
London, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: Biblia Pauperum.- Opera nova contemplativa per ogni fidel christiano, laquale tratta de le figure del Testamento vecchio, lequale figure sonno verificate nel Testamento nuovo, con le sue expositione et con el detto de li propheti sopra esse figure..., collation: A-H8 (fol. G4 signed C4; lacking H1, H7, and the last blank leaf H8), 61ff. only (of 64), entirely printed using woodblocks, title surrounded by a white-on-black strap-work border, 118 large woodcuts accompanied by captions, floral side-strips, lower panel depicting prophets or other features from the scriptures, some leaves browned, occasional spotting, minor stains, bibliographical pencil notes on recto of front flyleaf, modern vellum, smooth spine, divided in compartments by narrow gilt friezes, title lettered in gilt on green morocco spine label, 8vo (155 x 102mm.), [Colophon:] Venice, Giovanni Andrea Vavassore, [after 1511]. ⁂ The rare first issue of the first edition of the only Biblia pauperum printed in Italy and in the Italian vernacular, generally considered as the latest example of a blockbook, and also by Essling as the only Italian blockbook. The template is represented by the forty-leaf Netherlandish editions of the Biblia pauperum, but the Venetian printer Vavassore takes iconographic inspiration from Bellini, Carpaccio, Mantegna and Squarcione as well as Dürer, and alters the traditional arrangement (three sections of 40 blocks) in a continuous series of 120 blocks. Each page-spread, effectively a diptych, shows a New Testament scene on one side, with a lower section of prophets and versicles, and a conceptually and theologically parallel scene from the Old Testament on the other, with a brief account of the action and a moral lesson. The date of publication is not known, but one of the blocks used ('Jesus drives the traders from the temple') is a modified version of a scene appearing in Albrecht Dürer's Small Passion, published in 1511. Schreiber gives the variants of three issues after this. Although the fol. H7 depicting (one the verso) the Virgin and Child enthroned is lacking (as in seemingly many copies), the present copy corresponds indeed to the first issue owing to the fact that the text is printed entirely in gothic type, including the fols. E5 and H5 which in the other issues are set in roman. Furthermore, the order of the cuts in the first quire of this copy corresponds to that given by Schreiber, with the Queen of Sheba on fol. A3v and Moses and the burning bush on fol. A6r, whereas Essling reverses the order of these two cuts. Literature: Adams V229; Essling, 206; Mortimer Italian 518; Dyson Perrins-Pollard, 251; Sander 1006; Schreiber, Manuel de l'amateur de la gravure, IV, pp. 105-113.
Notes: Category: Literature, Manuscripts and History