9 - 10 April 2013
MELANCHTHON, Philip (1497-1560) and Johann SCHWERTFEGER (1488-1524). Passional Christi und Antichristi. [Wittenberg: Johann Rhau-Grunenberg, 1521.]
4o (195 x 144 mm). 14 leaves. 26 woodcut illustations by Lucas Cranach (1472-1553). (Library stamp neatly removed from title slightly affecting cut on verso, minor browning and staining.) Brown morocco gilt upper cover blindstamped with a portrait of Luther (rebacked). Provenance: J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913, bookplate, sale Sotheby's Park Bernet 24 May 1977, lot 60); acquired from Lathorp C. Harper, 1977.
FIRST GERMAN EDITION OF CRANACH'S FAMOUS WOODCUT BOOK. A powerful attack on the papacy and the first illustrated polemical book of the Reformation. This work was published at Wittenberg shortly after Martin Luther (1483-1546) had publicly burnt the papal bull condemning his views. The 26 woodcuts comprise 13 contrasting pairs on facing pages, depicting the life of Christ and the Pope, including: Christ crowned with thorns and the pope crowned with the triple tiara; Christ healing lepers and the pope watching a tournament; Christ driving the money changers from the temple and the pope collecting money for indulgences; and Christ going to Heaven and the pope to Hell.
"The woodcuts must have been among the best-known of all Cranach's compositions; the little book is thought to have been published at a low price and distributed like a handbill, possibly reaching some 20,000 people. It was immediately reprinted, and also produced elsewhere" (Brinkmann and Dette, Cranach, p. 198). Beneath each cut are commentaries from the Bible or papal decrees selected by Philip Melanchthon and Johann Schwertfeger, the short epilogue is probably by Luther. All issues by Johann Rhau-Grunenberg were published without printer, place, and author. The work is, despite its broad distribution, VERY RARE: according to American Book Prices Current only two other copies have sold in the last 35 years. The issue corresponds with Benzing 1015 including the spelling of "obirkayt" (A2r), "Bapst" (B3r) and leaf B3 actually signed "Biii." Benzing 1015; Dodgson II, 329 (attributing the cuts to Hans Cranach); Fairfax Murray German 255; Graesse II:295; Lipperheide Cg14; Muther 1582.
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