[BINDING]. [ETTAL ABBEY BINDING--KUEN, Father GREGOR, binder]. HIETLING, Conrad. Peregrinus affectuose per Terram Sanctam et Jerusalem. Graz: [Widmanstetter] for Daniel Walder, 1713.
2o (329 x 198 mm). 2 parts in one, 7 engraved plates. (Without frontispiece and folding map.) Bound ca. 1736 by Brother Gregory Kuen for Bernhard I, Abbot of Ettal, in light brown polished calf, covers profusely gold-tooled to a panelled floral design, the two outer panels containing shell and scrolling vine rolls, central compartment decorated with large flowering plant emerging from small vase at bottom and dividing into three branches, the two outer branches enclosing and the middle branch terminating in the central gilt oval stamp of the Holy Virgin of Ettal on the upper cover, the arms of Abbot Bernhard I on lower cover, the latter's arms stamped on a piece of inlaid darker brown morocco [see below], corners of the compartment filled with repeated symmetrical left- and right-facing bird-on-branch tools, spine in 8 compartments uniformly gilt with scrolling vine tools, traces of two fore-edge ties, gilt edges, comb-marbled pastedown endleaves, plain free endleaves (head of spine and corners rubbed, scuffing to joints and extremities). Provenance: Bernhard I Oberhauser, Abbot of Ettal from 1736-1739 (binding); Franz Ludwig, Graf von Holnstein (engraved bookplates, one pasted on top of the other, the upper one dated 1754).
FINE ETTAL ABBEY BINDING FROM THE LAST YEAR OF KUEN'S LIFE, ONE OF A VERY FEW SURVIVING ETTAL BINDINGS IN FOLIO FORMAT. The Benedictine Abbey of Ettal in upper Bavaria, founded in 1330, was in the early 18th century the site of one of the last monastic binderies of note. Under Abbot Placidus Seiz (r. 1709-1736), a new library was built as part of a general renovation of the monastery; this coincided with the ordination, in 1720, of Ignaz Michael Kuen (1690-1737), a trained bookbinder from Tyrnau in Hungary (Trnava, now Slovenia), who took the name of Brother Gregory. The majority of Kuen's Ettal bindings perished in 1744 in a devastating fire; these included both the plainer bindings made for the library and the highly decorative examples executed for Abbot Placidus and his successor Bernhard I. The approximately 20 bindings that survive consist exclusively of books presented as gifts to the monastery's friends or donors, and as prizes to the best pupils of Abbot Placidus' Ritterakademie, a school for young nobles.
The present binding, typical of Kuen's exuberant style, was probably executed or completed soon after the accession of Bernhard I in 1736. The fact that the Abbot's arms are stamped on a separate piece of leather implies that the binding was probably in preparation at the time of Placidus' death in 1736, and that his arms were replaced with those of the new Abbot. The binding is one of Kuen's last; he died on May 17, 1737, aged 45. It is one of only five bindings known to Schmalzl to have been executed for Abbot Bernhard during his brief reign, and one of only two attributed by Schmalzl to Kuen. A third, unknown to Schmalzl, was offered by Bernard Breslauer in the early 1990s (catalogue 110/130), and is now part of the Otto Schaefer collection (cf. Einbandkunst 102). The book's recipient Franz Ludwig von Holnstein was a student in the Ritterakademie from 1729 to 1734, and became imperial chamberlain and privy councillor. Not only do the dates not coincide, but the binding is too luxurious to have been given as a prize; Holnstein, who remained close to the Abbey, must have received it later in life.
Wilfrid Brunner, "Der Ettaler Bucheinband", in Sankt Wiborada 2 (1934), pp. 32-46; Bonifaz Schmalzl, "Ettaler Einbandkunst", in Festschrift zum Ettaler Doppeljubilum 1980 (Ettal 1981), pp. 171-205, no. 19.