OVIDIUS NASO, Publius (43 B.C.-c. 17 A.D..). Metamorphoses, in French. Bruges: Colard Mansion, May 1484.
2 volumes, royal 2° (377 x 270mm). Collation: [1-48 510 68(3+1) 78 86 98 1010(-10) 11-128 136 148] a-i8 k10; l-n8 [28-328 336 348 358(1,8 disjunct) 366(3+1) 378] A-L8 M6 (1/1 first proem, 5/4r table, 5/8-10 blank, 6/1 prefaces, 6/5v text, M6r conclusion by the compiler, M6v colophon). 368 leaves (of 389, lacking 1-28, blank 5/9, k5.6, n1.8 and 31/4; 31/5 shorter and presumably supplied from another copy but with uniform rubrication). Type: 1:162B. 33 lines, double-column. Red-printed incipit opening 6 books. 16 (of 17) large woodcuts and 12 (of 17) column-width woodcuts. 3- and 2-line initials and paragraph marks supplied in red, MS guide-letters, one woodcut with red highlights. (First leaf [3/1] repaired with a little loss, 3/2 blank corner repaired, scattered spotting, heavier in 37/1-3, some dampstaining, more pervasive in vol. II, wormholes in first and last several quires, a few marginal tears.) Modern calf over wooden boards, covered with red velvet (velvet rubbed, frayed at edges); modern burgundy morocco-backed folding box. Provenance: Otto Schaefer (initial stamp; acquired from H.P. Kraus; sale Sotheby's New York, 1 November 1995, lot 164).
FIRST EDITION IN FRENCH AND THE FIRST ILLUSTRATED EDITION OF OVID. It is a grand production in every sense: a printed book, inspired by the deluxe illuminated manuscripts produced for the Burgundian court with which Colard Mansion was associated as a copyist before establishing his printing shop. The text was compiled by Mansion from a prose Ovide moralisé and a French version of the same text by Petrus Berchorius; the woodcuts were specially commissioned for the edition; and it was printed in two colours, red and black, in Mansion's first, extravagantly large type modeled on courtly hands, and on high-quality royal sheets of paper. Its luxury was undoubtedly Mansion's undoing; the colophon is dated May 1484 and by summer he had fled Bruges, bankrupt.
Two issues are known of the Ovid, which undoubtedly result in some way from his financial situation. One is printed on the same paper throughout, without printed quire signatures, with the book incipits printed in red, and with Mansion's device below the colophon. In the second issue (as here) 28 quires have been re-set, all but 3 quires (12-14) of which were signed; their book incipits are printed in black, and Mansion's device is omitted. Since paper was the greatest cost for any 15th-century printer, it is possible that, as the Hellingas have suggested (HPT p.154), half-way through printing he reduced the print-run owing to a shortage of paper. Perhaps he found that he could not afford to buy sufficient paper, and so he completed copies in a smaller print-run for immediate sale, perhaps to recoup some cost before he could continue. When more paper became available, the last 28 quires were reset and printed off, but now without the extra effort of red-printing. The method of production involved dividing printer's copy between two presses working concurrently. Almost equal numbers of the two variants survive. RARE: 13 copies are known (including the present), 4 of which are imperfect and one has defective leaves.
The collation above (specifically for quires 10-12) varies from that given previously for this copy and from that given in BMC, but is correct for both the present and the British Library copies. Sheets 5/4-7 are here also reset. HC 12164; BMC IX, 134 (IC.49428); CIBN O-122; Bod-Inc. O-74; Arnim/Schaefer 160; Cinquième Centenaire 106b; Polain(B) 2955-2955A; Goff O-184. (2)