Ars Moriendi, Italian: Questa operetta tracta dellarte del ben morire cioe in gratia di dio. [Venice:] Johannes Clein and Piero Himel, 1490.
Chancery 4° (207 x 148mm). Collation: a-b8 c10 (a1r title, a1v woodcut, a2r preface, text, c10r verse beginning Io sono la vita de christiani fedeli, colophon, c10v blank). 26 leaves. 33 lines. Type: 1:84G. 2- to 3-line initial spaces with guide letters. 12 full-page woodcuts. (Faint corner soiling, very small, light marginal stain to final leaf.) Late 18th-century green morocco-backed boards, marbled endpapers, contained in a modern blue morocco-backed folding box (extremities very lightly rubbed). Provenance: G. Storck, Milan, 1802 (inscription with inventory number repeated three times) -- Baron Northwick (bookplate; by descent, Northwick Park sale, Christie's, 27 October 1965, lot 33, bought by Quaritch for £650) -- Otto Schaefer (acquired from W. Heimann in December 1965, sold at Sotheby's New York, 8 December 1994, lot 17).
FIRST ITALIAN ILLUSTRATED EDITION OF THE ARS MORIENDI, THE FIRST APPEARANCE OF THE WOODCUTS, AND THE ONLY BOOK RECORDED FROM THIS SHOP. The high quality frontispiece is most probably Florentine in origin, and has a decorative border with scrolling foliage, vases, cherubim, and bulls' heads, and with the dove of the holy spirit appearing in the upper border, and zoomorphic mofits and a blank shield in the lower. This encloses a confessional scene, where the penitents, both male and female, are confronted with demons carrying banderoles with the words La vergogna nolo dire.
The present work's Florentine origins are also revealed by the fact that this Clein-Himel edition has the same format as all six preceding Florentine editions (starting with the San Jacopo di Ripoli edition of 1477), naming the author as Domenico Capranica, and ending with the verse of 29 lines ('Io sono la vita de christiani fedeli'). This makes it distinct from those previous Italian Ars moriendi editions printed in Bologna, Milan and Venice.
The other woodcuts are described by Sander as 'vraisemblablement d'origine vénitienne'. Nothing, however, is known of the Venetian partnership of Clein and Himel, which is only recorded in this edition. Himel's name does not appear in any other incunable; Clein remains elusive, although he has been identified with the Johannes Clein, alias Schwab, who in 1498 married the widow and took over the shop of Johann Trechsel in Lyon. Baudrier has suggested that he may also be identified with the Jehan Lalamand, printer, who is mentioned in a Lyon tax record of 1491 as one 'qui nen na rien'.
A FINE, FRESH COPY OF THIS VERY RARE WORK. ONE OF ONLY 9 RECORDED COPIES, of which one only is in America, two in England, one in Belgium, and four in Italy (one incomplete). HC 4402; GW 2628; BMC V 500 (IA. 23743); Polain 975; BSB-Ink. A-769; Sander 631; Essling (IV, 143-44) 27lbis; Arnim/Schaefer 18; Goff A-1109.