In the 1500s, as printing became the most common method of producing books, intellectuals increasingly valued the inventiveness of scribes and the aesthetic qualities of writing. From 1561 to 1562, Georg Bocskay, the Croatian-born court secretary to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, created this Model Book of Calligraphy in Vienna to demonstrate his technical mastery of the immense range of writing styles known to him.
About thirty years later, Emperor Rudolph II, Ferdinand’s grandson, commissioned Joris Hoefnagel to illuminate Bocskay’s model book. Hoefnagel added fruit, flowers, and insects to nearly every page, composing them so as to enhance the unity and balance of the page’s design. It was one of the most unusual collaborations between scribe and painter in the history of manuscript illumination.
Because of Hoefnagel’s interest in painting objects of nature, his detailed images complement Rudolph II’s celebrated Kunstkammer, a cabinet of curiosities that contained bones, shells, fossils, and other natural specimens. Hoefnagel’s careful images of nature also influenced the development of Netherlandish still life painting.
In addition to his fruit and flower illuminations, Hoefnagel added to the Model Book a section on constructing the letters of the alphabet in upper- and lowercase.
Printing had been established about twenty years in Paris when Philip Pigouchet, printer and engraver on wood, began to exercise his trade for himself or on account of other publishers. Formerly bookseller in the University, he transported his presses to the Rue de la Harpe, and took for his mark the curious figure here reproduced. At this moment a true shopkeeper, Simon Vostre conceived the idea of launching forth Books of Hours, until then disdained in France, and of publishing them in fine editions with figures, borders, ornaments, large separate plates, and all the resources of typography. The attempts made at Venice and Naples between 1473 and 1476 warranted the enterprise.
Entering into partnership with Pigouchet, the two were able on the 17th of April, 1488, to publish the Heures a L’ Usaige de Rome, octavo, with varied ornaments and figures. The operation having succeeded beyond their hopes, thanks to the combination of the subjects of the borders, subjects that could be turned about in all manner of ways so as to obtain the greatest variety. Simon Vostre applied to the work, and ordered new cuts to augment the number of his decorations…
According to his wants, Simon Vostre designed new series of ornaments. Among them were histories of the saints, biblical figures, even caricatures directed against Churchmen, after the manner of the old sculptors, who thought that sin was rendered more horrible in the garb of a monk.
Honorés sont saiges et sots,
Augustins, carmes et bigots,
says the legend. Then there were the Dance of Death and sibyls, allying sacred with profane, even the trades, all forming a medley of little figures in the margins, in the borders, nestled among acanthus leaves, distorted men, fantastic animals, and saints piously praying. The Middle Ages live again in these bright and charming books, so French in their origin, yet withal imbued with good sense and a tolerant spirit…
Pigouchet and Simon Vostre emanated the art of book illustration in France; they worked together for eighteen years, in steady collaboration, and, as far as we know, without a cloud. When Vostre started in business in 1488 he lived in the Rue Neuve Notre Dame, at the sign of St. Jean l’Evangeliste, and in 1520 he was still there, having published more than three hundred editions of the Hours for the use of the several cities.
Below are page images of a Portuguese language Book of Hours for the Use of Rome published by Simon Vostre around 1500. The book is now owned by the Library of Congress:
There were countless books that [William] Morris had thought of printing – the Bible (Wycliffe’ version), Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, FitzGerald’s translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, Malory’s Morte Dartur, Piers Plowman, to name a few – and [Sydney] Cockerell recognized that there was now [in 1896, after Morris’s death] no hope of ever doing them at Kelmscott Press. Two projected folios were abandoned, however, with greater reluctance…
[One was an edition of Shakespeare’s plays.] The other aborted folio was [Lord Berner’s English translation of] Froissart’s Chronicles, which was in a more advanced state of production than the Shakespeare. Morris enthusiastically announced his plans to a journalist in 1895: My reprint is a full folio and will take up two volumes. I also intend to publish it in four parts… no book that I could do would give me half the pleasure I am getting from the Froissart. I am simply revelling in it. It’s such a noble and glorious work, and every page as it leaves the press delights me more than I can say. I am taking great pains with it, and doing all I can to realise what I have long wished. I am printing it in my Chaucer type. Despite Morris’s assertion, no sheets of the book were actually printed, but by November 1896, some 36 pages were in type, and Cockerell hit upon the ingenious solution of publishing a two-leaf vellum specimen…
The Froissart specimen reveals a stunning new departure in Morrisian ornamentation: though the two-column text is arranged in the same pattern as that of the Chaucer, the borders, incorporating coats of arms, are extraordinarily vigorous and spiky in appearance, an initial work is connected to one of the borders, and the initials extend even into the margins… Such innovations will startle us only if we have mistakenly assumed that Morris’s principles of book-design and ornamentation were static and wholly incapable of development. The Froissart specimen pages leave no doubt that Morris’s comparatively early death robbed the world of a work which would have rivalled the Chaucer as one of the finest printed books of the post-mediaeval era.
160 copies were printed on vellum. The coats of arms are those of Reginald Lord Cobham, Sir Walter Manny, Sir John Chandos, France, the Empire and England.
The Ars Memoranda, another xylographic work, of which the subject, taken from the New Testament, was equally well adapted to the imagination of the artists, had an equally glorious destiny. The work originally comprised thirty blocks, the fifteen blocks of text facing the fifteen engravings. The designs represented the attributes of each of the Evangelists, with allegories and explanatory legends. Thus, in that which relates to the Apostle Matthew:
#1 represents the Birth and Genealogy of Jesus Christ
#2 the Adoration of the Magi
#3 the Baptism of St. John
#4 the Temptation of Christ
#5 the Sermon on the Mount
#6 the Parable of the Birds
The angel that supports the whole is the emblem of St. Matthew the Evangelist.
This mnemonic treatment of the Gospels proceeded from symbols of which we have no means of finding the origin, but which without doubt went back many centuries earlier… In 1505 a German publisher published an imitation of it, under the title of Rationarium Evangelistarum; and this time the copyist of the illustrations, although trying to retain the tradition of the first xylographers, none the less reveals himself as an artist of the first order, at least a pupil of Martin Schongauer.
By: The LION & the CARDINAL
Via: Feedbin Starred Entries
William D. Wixom:
This two-volume Bible of 256 folios was written and illuminated about the year 1153 for the Premonstratensian canons of Floreffe Abbey in southeastern Belgium. Its figural decoration consists of only five miniatures: a frontispiece for each of the four Gospels and a general frontispiece to the second volume, which is exhibited here…
In words and pictures the two-page frontispiece constructs a complex exegesis of the content of the volume it accompanies (Job through Revelation), interpreting the biblical narrative of humanity’s journey to God as an allegory of the individual’s spiritual ascent. The long inscription written outside the surrounding frames states that the imagery is a sign for the active and the contemplative lives, the means by which the Christian can achieve salvation. The active life [is] represented by the Virtues and the Corporal Works of Mercy at the left… The contemplative life [is] symbolized by the Last Supper and the Transfiguration at the right.
[The Glory of Byzantium. Edited by Helen C. Evans and William D. Wixom. Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York, 1997]
In 1498, Dürer published an illustrated Apocalypse that was considered definitive. Dürer’s woodcuts seemed to have the same eternal character as the words of John; all that could be done henceforth was to imitate them… All the Apocalypses of the sixteenth century derive, either directly or through intermediaries, from Dürer’s Apocalypse. He had taken over the Apocalypse as Dante did Hell.
Like Dante, Dürer had his precursors, and he by no means invented everything. It would be easy to prove that when he designed the wood blocks for the Apocalypse, he had earlier drawings before him: these were the woodcuts of the Cologne Bible (1480), or rather the copies made by Koberger for the Nuremburg Bible (1483). Dürer’s famous knights, and his angel whose legs are two pillars, were already to be found in these Bibles. But who knows that today? And who was aware of it after 1498?
This young man of twenty-seven was a visionary of an unknown kind. Never did dreams take more solid forms, never did nightmares weigh more heavily. The angels seem clothed in robes of brass; enormous clouds of smoke solidify in the sky; jets of molten metal rise from the towns: it is as if the universe has been melted down in a furnace and then cooled again. This is a world of ringing metal in which the horses’ hooves and the clash of swords reverberate.
We can imagine the stupefaction of those who saw the work when it was new. What a contrast with the childish images and the wordy text of the woodcut Apocalypses then known by the Germans! Dürer needed only fourteen pictures to summarize all the threats and all the promises of the book.
[Religious Art in France: The Late Middle Ages by Emile Mâle. Translated by Marthiel Matthews. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1978]
Thelma K. Thomas:
Islamic metalwork integrating Christian iconography was produced in the late Ayyubid period, especially in the second quarter of the thirteenth century. Eighteen objects of different shapes can be included in this group: incense burners, trays, cylindrical boxes, ewers, candlesticks, a basin and a canteen. Although the raison d’être for this miscellaneous group has not been discovered, dedicatory inscriptions on some of these objects indicate that they were not produced for a Christian clientele but rather for Muslim patrons…
On the Hermitage tray concentric bands from the rim to the center preset a vegetal scroll, a lengthy benedictory inscription in naskh script, a band of running animals, twelve pairs of Christian figures standing under lobed arches, a second band of running animals, a complex arabesqued vegetal pattern, and a central twelve-petaled rosette… All the figures are male, haloed, and barefoot and wear non-Isalmic attire and carry liturgical objects (incense burners, staves, books). One holds a pyxis, another a diptych, a third a flabellum, a fourth a footed cup…
Two other large trays showing Christian images are known: one is in the Museé des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and was dedicated to the last Ayyubid sultan, al-Malik al-Salih Najm al-din Ayyub; the whereabouts of the other, once in the Piet-Lataudrie collection, is unknown. Surprisingly, the Hermitage tray is reported to have been found at Kashgar (present-day Kashih in western China, not far from the borders of Kirghizstan and Tajikstan); it is the only object of this group known to have traveled so far east.
[The Glory of Byzantium. Edited by Helen C. Evans and William D. Wixom. Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York, 1997]
This magnificent portal [of St. Bénigne at Dijon] no longer exists, but Dom Plancher has fortunately preserved a sketch of it… The Christ in Majesty of the tympanum, the elders of the Apocalypse one above the other in the archivolts, and the statues placed against columns connect the work with the school born of Chartres. However, some originality is mixed with imitation. Beside St. Peter and St. Paul, there are two very meaningful statues: one represents Moses with the horns of light and the Tables of the Law; the other, the high priest Aaron wearing priestly garb. Aaron resembles a bishop and this is what he was imagined to be by the Middle Ages. Thus, Moses and Aaron, symbols of the Synagogue, were placed in correspondence with St. Peter and St. Paul, symbols of the Church 0 a perfect expression of the continuity of the two Laws. The decoration of the portal is completed by ststues of three Old Testament kings and one queen. This time the mysterious queen reveals her identity. Studying the sketch of the figure, one detail is observed that would seem incredible were there not ancient testimony to confirm it: the queen of the St. Bénigne portal was goose-footed: the Dijon artist had represented the famous Reine Pédauque, who was none other than the Queen of Sheba…
At Solomon’s orders, [djinni] carried the queen’s golden throne to Jerusalem, and to her surprise she found it in the king’s palace. Solomon received her in a hall paved with crystal; the beautiful queen, thinking that she was on the banks of a stream, gathered up her skirt and revealed her hideous feet. The Eastern legend speaks of donkey feet; the Western legend of goose feet. The text of a twelfth-century German manuscript represents the Queen of Sheba as goose-footed. There is no text in France as old as this one, but the Dijon statue proves that the tradition was well known in the twelfth century. It is possible that the goose-footed queen had first been represented in the workshops of Toulouse, for in the time of Rabelais therethere was still an image of the Reine Pédauque there. Her palace and its baths were shown, and for a long time her legend was associated with the young princess, Austris, who had been baptized by St. Sernin.
There can be no doubt that the goose-footed queen of the Dijon portal represented the Queen of Sheba. It becomes no less certain that the facing statue of a king was Solomon; and no doubt it was David who accompanied them. Why had the Queen of Sheba been placed in the company of the heroes of the Old Law and the Apostles of the New? Because, according to mediaeval doctrine, she symbolized the pagan world’s coming to Christ, and prefigured the Magi who also were searching for the true God. The Journey and Adoration of the Magi were also represented on the lintel of St. Bénigne.
Thus, the meaning of the Dijon statues is more precise than those at Chartres… At Dijon, we see the Jewish world and the pagan world both stirred by the desire for the Saviour whom St. Peter and St. Paul, symbols of the Church, had come to announce to them.
[Religious Art in France: The Twelfth Century by Emile Mâle. Translated by Marthiel Matthews. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1978]