JOHANNES VON GMUNDEN (c.1380-1443), Calendar, in German, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
199 x 160mm. 30 leaves: 1-310, catchword on final verso of 2, COMPLETE, between approx. 26 and 36 lines written in black ink in a Kanzleischrift, signed by the scribe Paulsen Vischer, headings in red, large initials in red or blue, tables, TWELVE RED FRAMED CALENDAR ROUNDELS, PICTORIAL DIAGRAM OF THE POSITIONS OF THE MOON, VOLVELLE WITH THE POSITIONS OF THE SUN, TWO FULL-PAGE MINIATURES OF ZODIAC MAN AND VEIN MAN, small Crucifixion miniature pasted inside upper cover (wear to margins, roundel on f.13 smudged, Crucifixion miniature rubbed). Contemporary vellum wallet binding with later gilt stamped monogram PVP for Paulus von Praun (some wear, short split to fold, cracks to lower cover, one with small loss). Red solander box.
THE RE-EMERGENCE OF A HANDSOME COPY OF THE GMUNDISCH CALENDAR, A SIGNED WORK BY THE TEACHER OF JOHANN NEUDORFER WITH A PROVENANCE FROM THE PRAUNSCHE KABINETT
1. An origin in Nuremberg is indicated by the language and the liturgical calendar with, in red, St Kunigunda (3 March and 9 September) and St Sebald (19 August). The scribe, Paulsen Vischer, was aware when he dated the colophon 9 September 1496 that it was St Kunigunda's day, 'Hie hat der Gmunndisch Calendar ain ende. Got will uns zugut alleding zum pesten wennden. Und durch mich paulsen vischer geschriben unnd vollenndet ain Freitag der da was der Neundt tag des monets September daran auch was Sannct Kunigunden tag. Anno domini Lxxxxvj', f.29. He is presumably the Paulus Vischer, Kanzleischrieiber, named as his teacher, his lieben Herrn und getreuen Lehrer, by the great Johann Neudorfer of Nuremberg, the determining figure in the evolution of German script and letterforms (G. Lochner ed., Des Johann Neudorfer Schreib- und Rechenmeisters zu Nürnberg. Nachrichten von Künstleren und Werkleuten daselbst aus dem Jahre 1547, 1875, p.181). Vischer, who died in 1538, is not known to have left other work: this Calendar shows him in 1496 writing an elegant Chancery script with decorative initials in blue and red.
2. H or M Maufig or Maufis 1502: written inside lower cover.
3. Paulus II Praun of Nuremberg (1548-1616), responsible for the famed Praunsche Kabinett: his signature on f.1. Praun's collecting centred on Bologna, where he worked for the family firm, and Nuremberg, to which he frequently returned. His collections were preserved by the family until 1801: inventory of 1719, no 1738 (K. Achilles-Syndram, Die Kunstsammlung des Paulus Praun: die Inventäre von 1616 und 1719, 1994, p.350); his books were stamped PVP for Paulus von Praun (see no 216 in Kunst des Sammelns, Das Praunsche Kabinett, Meisterwerke von Dürer bis Caracci, 1994, p.382-3); J.F. Frauenholz, Catalogue des estampes avec une partie des dessins, de manuscrits et de livres ... apartenant ci-devant à M. Paul de Praun à Nuremberg, 1802, no 1569.
4. Franz Friedrich Anton, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1750-1806): no 315 in his list of purchases from Frauenberg (Achilles-Syndram, p.41). Apparently neither of the two manuscripts he bought was retained for the ducal collection, now incorporated in the Kunstsammlungen Veste Coburg.
5. Franz Ronge, Königsberg in Franken: his book stamp on f.1. The Bürgermeister of Königsberg in the 1870s of this name owned and restored the birthplace of the astronomer Regiomontanus (1436-1476), as well as being instrumental in the saving of Burg Königsberg.
6. Antiquariat J. Halle, Munich, Katalog, 1903, quoted by R. Klug, Der Astronom Johannes von Gmunden und sein Kalendar, 1912, p.28. The slightly mistranscribed colophon was repeated in subsequent publications.
CONTENT AND ILLUMINATION:
Pictorial volvelle with two moving discs for the position of the sun f.1v; pictorial diagram for the position of the moon f.2; Calendar with, on the versos, tables for the phases of the moon above verses characterising each month and, on the rectos, a Nuremberg liturgical calendar, each month with a roundel of the sign of the zodiac ff.2v-14; diagram in full colours for finding the Golden Number f.14v; diagram for finding the Sunday letter f.15; explanations with tables, mostly for determining moveable feasts ff.15v-20; on the signs of the zodiac ff.20v-22; on the length of the day f.22r and v; on the planets ff.22v-26; on bleeding, explaining how to use the following miniatures, with table ff.26v-29; full-page miniature of Zodiac Man f.29v; full-page miniature of Vein Man f.30.
John of Gmunden, identifiable with Johann Krafft, probably took his name from Gmunden in Upper Austria. He was a student and, from 1408, a lecturer at the university of Vienna, where he concentrated on astronomy and mathematics. His writings achieved a wide circulation, especially in central Europe, and he was crucial for the collection and transmission of astronomical knowledge, enabling the work of his successor at Vienna, Georg of Peuerbach, and of Regiomontanus (see G. Hamann and H. Grössing eds, Der Weg der Naturwissenschaft von Johannes von Gmunden zu Johannes Keppler, 1988; Johannes von Gmunden (ca.1384-1442). Astronom und Mathematiker, R. Simek and K. Chlench eds, 2006). His Calendar was widely read in German, as well as the original Latin, because astronomy was central to church ritual and to medicine: the date of Easter was determined by the phases of the moon and the heavenly bodies were believed to govern human physique. The text aims to provide the reader with the material and methods to establish the necessary astronomical and liturgical information in an approachable way: many sections open with the words 'So ir wollet wissen', or 'Wollet ir wissen', translatable as 'If you want to know', and then continue with clear instructions, often related to the accompanying tables. The texts included could be varied, as in this copy with its Nuremberg Calendar, but few received such handsome illustration and decoration (see for the manuscripts E. Zinner, Verzeichnis der astronomischen Handschriften des deutschen Kulturgebietes, 1925). Despite its popularity, John of Gmunden's Calendar very seldom appears at auction.
Illustration and diagrammatic representation were essential for John of Gmunden's work and he was the deviser of an image of the whole cosmos in Vienna Cathedral (lost). The illustrations in the present lot are direct presentations of their subject matter, relying on strong outlines and lively colours. Zodiac Man appealingly demonstrates how the zodiac signs govern the different parts of the body, with Gemini clinging to his arms and Aries sitting snugly on his head. Vein Man is labelled with the various points for bleeding, to be selected in conjunction with the heavens. In the Calendar, the signs of the zodiac are isolated against simple land, sky or waterscapes: Gemini, often shown as a naked man and woman, appear as Adam and Eve, sitting either side of the serpent entwined round the Tree of Knowledge. The pasted-in miniature of the Crucifixion is a rare survivor of the small devotional images which could circulate independently of books.