PFINTZING, Melchior (1481-1535). [Theuerdank.] Die geuerlicheiten und einsteils der geschichten des loblichen streytparen und hochberümbten helds und Ritters herz Tewrdannckhs. Nuremberg: Hans Schönsperger the Elder, .
2° (344 x 232 mm). Gothic (fractur) type, elaborate flourishes, xylographic title. 118 large numbered woodcuts by Jost de Negker and Heinrich Kupferworm after Leonhard Beck (77), Hans Burgkmair (13), Hans Schäufelein (20), and others ALL COLORED BY A CONTEMPORARY HAND. (A few short marginal tears, h5 torn crossing 8 lines of text, upper margin trimmed closely touching a few printed flourishes, some light worming at beginning and end, some occasional light staining, mostly marginal.) 18th-century calf (rebacked, old spine laid down); quarter morocco folding case.
FIRST EDITION. ONE OF THE FINEST ILLUSTRATED BOOKS OF THE GERMAN RENAISSANCE, COLORED BY A CONTEMPORARY HAND. The work celebrates the exploits and heroic feats of the Emperor Maximilian I in overcoming the difficulties he faced on his journey to seek the hand in marriage of Queen Ernreich (Mary of Burgundy) in 1478. Parts of the text were composed by Maximilian himself, who had made the first drafts in 1505-8; his private secretary Melchior Pfintzing oversaw completion of the poem and edited the work. Other contributors were Maximilian's Silberkammerer Sigismund von Dietrichstein and his Geheimsekretär Marx Treitzsauerwein; Johann Stabius and the humanist Conrad Peutinger worked with the printers and artists. The fraktur type, attributed to Vincenz Rockner, Maximilian's court secretary, used in the Theuerdank was based on letterforms from a manuscript writing book compiled between about 1507 and 1517 by Leonhard Wagner, possibly for presentation to Maximilian. Maximilian was instrumental in promoting the type, and helped establish it as the standard letterform used by German printers.
Under the direction of the Jost de Negker, the series of allegorical woodblocks was prepared by some of the best-known artists of the period. Negker, a Flemish type designer and engraver, was employed by the Ausburg printer Schönsperger who had been awarded the post of Imperial printer for life by Maximilian in 1508. Schönsperger produced a lavish Latin Book of Hours for the emperor in 1513, after which he presumably began work on the Theuerdank. The blocks were reused in the second edition of 1519 and again in 1537 when the work was reprinted by Heinrich Steiner. Other isolated cuts were used in other editions, and as late as 1693 they were used in an edition printed at Ulm. The Theuerdank is considered a privately-printed book, and not intended for sale. Maximilian was able to present only a very few copies in the short period before his death in 1519. The bulk of the edition "lay in six chests in Augsburg until March 1526, when Archduke Ferdinand decided to distribute, through Marx Treitzsauerwein, the contents of five of the chests to different German subjects as memorials of the late Emperor" (Davies/Fairfax Murray, p.529). VERY RARE WITH CONTEMPORARY HAND COLORING: according to American Book Prices Current, no other copy has sold at auction in the past 35 years. Adams P-962; Brunet V: 787; Davies, Murray, German 329.