HROSWITHA (c.935-c.1002). Opera, edited by Conrad Celtes (1459-1508). Nuremberg: Printer for the Sodalitas Celtica, 1501.
2° (302 x 210mm). Roman type, woodblock containing two lines of Greek, woodcut device "AP" at end, 8 full-page woodcuts from 7 blocks, including 2 WOODCUTS BY ALBRECHT DüRER, coloured and decorated by a contemporary hand, each of the two parts (plays and verse) opened by an illuminated initial within fictive frame and with scrolling foliate, historiated border in 3 margins, major initials in red or blue with contrasting Maiblumen decoration, remaining initials and paragraph marks in red or blue. (Small wormholes in first several quires, illumination in initials rubbed.) 17th-century vellum over pasteboard, missing fore-edge ties, green edges (rebacked in vellum); modern pale green cloth folding box.
FIRST EDITION, EARLY ISSUE, WITH CONTEMPORARY COLOURING of an important literary publication of the German Renaissance. With the discovery of an 11th-century manuscript of the works of Hroswitha by Conrad Celtes at the Benedictine monastery at St. Emmeram in 1493 Germany was able to reclaim one of its great authors of antiquity. Celtes circulated the manuscript among his fellow humanists, and it was published under the auspices of his literary society at Nuremberg, the Sodalitas Celtica, with a two-line laudatory verse on Hroswitha by each member printed at the beginning. In true humanist style, Wilibald Pirckheimer, in whose house the society met, composed his verse in Greek. The manuscript, with notes by Celtes and others, survives at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Included here are her six prose plays ("Comediae"), written in loose imitation of Terence, eight sacred histories in verse, and a panegyric on her patron, Otto I.
Among the fine woodcuts are two by Albrecht Dürer. The attribution, always strong, was confirmed on the discovery in 1898 of the original sketch of the second woodcut, now at Bayonne. The remaining woodcuts have been attributed to Wolf Traut, Hans Suess von Kulmbach and various anonymous masters; current scholarship assigns them to the Master of the Comedies-woodcuts.
The present copy conforms to the issue described by Fairfax Murray, before mistakes in the colophon were corrected. Matthias Mende states that there are 5 issues of the edition without identifying their points. Davies, Murray German, 210; Meder 242, 243; R. Schoch, M. Mende, and A. Scherbaum, Dürer: Das Druckgraphische Werk, Buchillustration, 268.