JOHANNES DE CAPUA (fl. late 13th century). Directorium humanae vitae. [Strasbourg: Johann Prüss, c. 1489].
Chancery 2° (278 x 189mm). Collation: a-m6 n10 (a1r title, a1v presentation woodcut, a2r prologue, a5v text, n10v blank). 82 leaves. Type: 3:80G, 7:156G, 4:300G. 50 lines and headline; 2- to 9-line initial-spaces, some with guide-letters. Full-page woodcut of the translator presenting the book to a king, and 118 LARGE WOODCUTS (including 6 repeats) illustrating the fables. (Restorations in final leaf with 2 letters in facsimile, minor wormholes at end affecting a few letters expertly repaired, washed.) Crushed brown morocco tooled in gilt and blind with arabesque at centre by Bedford, gilt edges. Provenance: Johann Heinrich Joseph Niesert, pastor at Velen (1766-1841; title inscription dated 1819; sale July 1843) -- Henry Huth (1815-1878; not in his sales; booklabel).
FIRST EDITION OF JOHN OF CAPUA’S LATIN TRANSLATION OF THE FABLES OF BIDPAI, AN INFLUENTIAL WORK OF WORLD LITERATURE, FULLY ILLUSTRATED WITH POWERFUL AND AMUSING WOODCUTS.
Derived ultimately from Buddhist teachings, these fables originate in a Sanskrit work, the Panchatantra, an ancient collection of Hindu tales of animal fables in verse and prose, attributed to Vishnu Sharma. It is considered to be the most frequently translated literary work of India. The fables were translated into Persian, Arabic, Syriac, Greek and Hebrew, and it was a Hebrew version which John of Capua translated into Latin for its wider dissemination in western Europe. John of Capua's Latin version was first published in a German translation by Anton von Pforr at Urach (Conrad Fyner, c. 1481, Klebs 345.1), which was also the first illustrated edition.
Fyner’s woodblocks were acquired by Prüss for his Latin edition. Of the 119 spirited compositions used here, 113 are from the original series. The subsequent Urach and Ulm editions are illustrated with different cuts. Geissler ('Die Drucke des Buches der Beispiele der alten Weisen', Beiträge zur Inkunabelkunde, 3, 3, 1967, 18-46) distinguishes various issues, which Needham (Ritman sale catalogue) identifies as in-press forme corrections.
HC *4411 BMC I, 125 (IB. 1707-9); Schreiber 3489; Klebs 344.1; BSB I-375; Bod-inc J-115; CIBN J-171; Davies, Fairfax Murray German 70; Goff J-268 (issue a).