4 June 2008
[HOLBEIN, Hans, the Younger (1497-1543). Historiarum veteris instrumenti icones ad vivum expressae. Lyons: M. and G. Trechsel [for J. and F. Frellon], 1538.
4° (185 x 127mm). Treschel device on title, 92 woodcuts printed one to a page with Latin descriptive text above. (Some light staining and browning, some neat repairs to inner margins.) Contemporary limp vellum, joints strengthened with leather thongs (a remboîtage). Provenance: notes in a contemporary hand on rear blank (faded).
FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE. Except for the four smaller blocks from the Dance of Death series at the start, all the blocks are of Old Testament subjects. They correspond with the Giunta-Sacon series which appeared in Pierre Bailly's 1521 Bible; another model may have been Gueynard's Lyons Bible of 1520. Rapidly going into sucessive editions, the Icones changed the nature of Bible illustration at Lyons, leading to the publishing ventures of Jean de Tournes with the cuts of Bernard Salomon and Guillaume Rouillé and becoming widely imitated throughout France, Germany and the Netherlands. For Holbein showed supreme skill at placing grand spiritual narrative within a compact domestic setting, thereby challenging the popularity of classical themes. The preface by François Frellon on the title verso urges the reader to reject the images of goddesses such as Venus and Diana in favour of the "sacrosanctas Icones". Baudrier V, p. 154; Brunet III, 252; Mortimer, Harvard French, 276.
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