Secular Books

 

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Popular works


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Sebastian Brant.
Stultifera navis.
Basel: Johann Bergmann de Olpe, 1498.

Gift of Howard Lehman Goodhart.

Printers found a substantial market for secular literature in the growing class of business and professional people. One of the most successful new works was Ship of Fools by Sebastian Brant (1458-1521), a lawyer, teacher and government official in Basel and Strassburg. Ship of Fools was first published in German as Das Narrenschiff in 1494 by Brant's friend and former schoolmate, Johann Bergmann de Olpe. Brant and Olpe collaborated on four German editions and three Latin editions over the following decade. Unauthorized editions began appearing almost immediately in German and in French, Dutch, and English translations. In all, more than fifty editions were printed by the mid-sixteenth century. Ship of Fools consists of more than one hundred satirical and moralizing sketches focusing on human frailties (this one, for example, criticizes bad parenting). The messages in Brant's poetry were reinforced, if not overshadowed, by the remarkable woodcuts of everyday life, peopled by men in fools' caps.

 

The Roman de la Rose was most popular French literary work of the Middle Ages, and continued to be in demand well into the 16th century with 21 editions by the late 1530s. This thirteenth century allegorical poem of love and morality was begun by Guillaume de Loris, about whom little is known, and then continued forty years later by Jean de Meun.


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Guillaume de Loris and Jean de Meun.
Cy est le Romant de la Rose.
Paris: Jehan Petit, 1531
.
Gift of Mrs. Albert G. Clay, '24.

This edition was issued by the prominent Parisian publisher Jean Petit, using the text prepared by poet Clément Marot during his time spent in prison under an accusation of heresy. The woodcuts are based on illustrations that frequently were used in manuscript versions of the work.

Petit published this book at a transitional point in French printing. Within a few years, the batarde typeface used for many early French books (including Vérard's Josephus) would be supplanted by Roman type, and the use of accents and other diacritical marks would come into general use.


Histories


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Flavius Josephus.
De la bataille judaique.
Paris: Antoine Vérard, 7 Dec. 1492.

Gift of Howard Lehman Goodhart.

This was the first French edition of Josephus's eyewitness account of the Roman conquest of Israel in the first century. The publisher, Antoine Vérard, was one of the leading bookmen in Paris, specializing in the production of deluxe, heavily illustrated editions in French for the nobility and wealthy merchants of Paris, including the royal family. Vérard used donor portraits in many of his books, and generally gave his patron, Charles VIII, deluxe vellum copies of the books that were dedicated to him. Here, for example, Charles is shown entering Jerusalem in the foreground and then receiving the book from Vérard in the background.

 

One of the major difficulties facing both authors and publishers was protecting their works from being reprinted by competitors and sold without compensation. For authors, the best method of receiving payment for their writings was to find wealthy patrons who would underwrite their work. Dedications to these patrons, whether real or prospective, consequently became common features in books. Jacopo da Bergamo's update of Boccaccio's De claris mulieribus (On illustrious women) includes not only a lengthy dedication to his benefactress, Beatrice of Aragon, but also a woodcut showing him presenting the book to her. Jacopo's book is significant for its biographical sketches of many 15th century Italian women.


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Jacopo Filippo Foresti, da Bergamo.
De claris mulieribus.
Ferrara : Laurentius de Rubeis, de Valentia, 1497.

Gift of Howard Lehman Goodhart.

Guillaume Le Rouillé.
Le recueil de l'antique preexcellence de Gaule
& des gauloys.

Poictiers: a l'enseigne du Pelican, 1546.

Gift of the Friends of the Library.

Although authors would not receive protection for their works until the eighteenth century, printers frequently were able to petition their governments for exclusive rights to publish a book. The earliest of these privileges were granted in Milan and Venice in the early 1480s, but they were used only intermittently, and were only valid in areas under the control of the issuing government. In the France of Francis I, privileges became more common. The King's agent issued a privilege for this work on the early history of the French people to the printers Jehan and Enguilbert de Marnes of Poitiers. The brothers received exclusive rights to print and sell copies within the country for a period of five years from the time the book was printed. To publicize their rights, the printers printed "Avec Privilege" on the title page, a feature of books that had become standard by the mid-16th century.

 

Histories of the world and of particular cities and countries were frequently published during the late 15th century. The most regularly reprinted work was this chronicle by Werner Rolevinck (1425-1502), a Carthusian monk in Cologne, who saw more than thirty editions appear by the time of his death (Bryn Mawr has eleven of these). The book outlines the history of the world from the Creation to Rolevinck's own time, using as a connecting device a line of circles representing Old Testament kings, popes, and emperors. This first edition includes a woodcut of Cologne, showing the cathedral under construction.


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Werner Rolevinck.
Fasciculus temporum.
Cologne: Arnold Ther Hoerner, 1474.

Gift of Howard Lehman Goodhart.

Printers sometimes supplemented Rolevinck's work with histories of local places or other areas of interest to their clientele. One of the largest of these volumes was the 1480 Dutch edition printed in Utrecht, which included lengthy pieces on the histories of France, England, and the provinces of the Low Countries. This colored print is from the Dutch edition, and served as an illustration for both the fall of Babylon and the siege of Utrecht.


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Werner Rolevinck.
Fasciculus temporum.
Cologne: Arnold Ther Hoerner, 1474.

Gift of Howard Lehman Goodhart.


Travel and exploration


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Bernhard von Breydenbach.
Die heyligen reyssen gen Jherusalem.
Mainz: Erhard Reuwich, 1486.

Gift of Howard Lehman Goodhart.

Breydenbach's (d.1497) account of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1483 was the most widely read travel account of the period, going through twelve editions by the early sixteenth century, and appearing in Latin, German, French, Flemish and Spanish language versions. Critical to the book's appeal were the woodcut illustrations prepared by Erhard Reuwich, an artist from Utrecht who accompanied Breydenbach. Reuwich's woodcuts were based on the drawings he made during the trip, and thus have an authenticity that is rarely found in book illustrations of the time. This German translation was issued by Reuwich just a few months after he published the original Latin edition of the work.

 

The early years of printing coincided with the first European voyages to Asia, Africa and the Americas. Accounts of travels to exotic places would eventually become an enduringly popular form of European literature, but relatively little was published about the new discoveries in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.


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Giovanni Battista Ramusio.
Terzo volume delle navigationi et viaggi.
Venice: Nella stamperia de' Giunti, 1565.

Gift of Louise B. Dillingham '16.

Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485-1557), an Italian editor and secretary of the Senate in Venice, was one of the people who helped to spark popular interest in European exploration of the rest of the world by compiling in a three-volume set the accounts of the most important expeditions since the late fifteenth century, including those of Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Cortez, Coronado, Cartier, Cadamosto, and many others. Included with the accounts were detailed maps of the newly-explored regions and illustrations showing the peoples and their buildings. The set was originally published over a period of ten years in the 1550s. This volume is from the second edition of 1565, and is open to a view of Cuzco, from the account of Pizarro's conquest of Peru.

 

Explorers' printed accounts of their expeditions had a profound influence on the ways in which Europeans viewed the peoples of Asia, Africa and the Americas. One of the most important works for shaping the early impressions of the New World was the multi-volume work by the Flemish engraver and publisher Theodor de Bry (1528-1598) known as the Great Voyages. The series brought together accounts of early voyages to the Americas and provided illustrations that serve as some of the earliest visual records.


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Theodor de Bry.
Americae tertia pars memorabilè provinciae
Brasiliae historiam continès.

Francofurtensis: Theodor de Bry, 1592.

Gift of Richard H. Adelson.

This volume, which focuses on Brazil, is one of the six that were published during de Bry's lifetime. The text is based on writings by German explorer Hans Staden, first published in 1557, and by French explorer Jean de Léry, first published in 1578, and it describes the encounters that the explorers had with the South American Tupinambá people. The most memorable aspects of de Bry's publication were the remarkable copperplate engravings that focused on the most lurid details of the explorers' accounts.


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Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections. February 22 - June 1, 2001