CONRAD VON MEGENBERG. Buch der Natur. Augsburg: Johann Bämler, 19 August 1478.
Chancery folio, 280 x 192 mm. (11 x 7 5/8 in), contemporary blind-stamped calf over wooden boards, brass catches for two fore-edge clasps (lacking clasps), the catches with cast inscription "Ave", edges plain; an Augsburg binding, possibly Kyriss shop 90 (but banderole with inscription O:MARIA" = Schwenke-Sammlung Schrift 341); grey parchment manuscript binder's waste visible at inner hinges, remains of colored paper index tabs, register pinholes through outer margins of quires 1-4; spine severely abraded exposing cords in places, covers and board edges rubbed with some leather loss, first quire loosening, short fold break to first few leaves, repair to inner margin of fol. 1/7, four or five leaves with short marginal tears or minor repairs, pale foxing or discoloration to a very few leaves, occasional mostly marginal soiling or light staining.
Collation: [1 2 3-9 10 11 12-14 15-17 18-26 27 28 29 30 31 32 ]. 294 leaves (of 296, lacks first and last blank leaves), without signatures or foliation. Contents: 1/1-2 blank, 1/3r-1/4v: Register, 1/5r blank, 1/5v: woodcut of two doctors examining a man, 1/6r-32/6r: text (Books 1-12), 32/6r: colophon, 32/7-8 blank. Type 1:140. 28 lines. Lombard initial and first 17 lines of 1/6r printed in red. 12 full-page woodcuts, COLORED IN A CONTEMPORARY HAND, woodcut Maiblumen capitals in square frame, c. 42 x 42 mm., initial I 59 x 39mm. (BMC 1a), the opening initials of the Register and of each of the 12 books colored in red and yellow, numerous small black Lombard initials. Three- to eight-line impressions of bearer type on rectos of 4/10, 16/6, 17/8, 25/2, 28/2 and 31/6.
Second edition. The first edition, printed by Bämler in 1475, was the first important scientific book printed in German, and the first printed book to contain botanical illustrations and figures of animals. This second edition is virtually a page for page reprint of the first, and contains the same cuts. Conrad von Megenberg (ca. 1309-1374), a professor of philosophy and canon of the Cathedral of Ratisbon, based his text on the De natura rerum, a thirteenth-century work attributed to Thomas of Cantimpré (ca. 1201-63). The Buch der Natur contains sections on human anatomy, astronomy and meteorology, zoology (including entomology), botany, precious and semiprecious stones and metals, and natural marvels or monsters. It was the first such encyclopediac work to be printed in any vernacular tongue. In Books 9 and 10, on trees and plants, 173 plants are listed. Most are adapted from Cantimpré, who mentioned 114 plants, the rest being taken from Avicenna, Galen, Dioscoridies, Isidore, and Conrad's own observations. The two botanical woodcuts, showing buttercups, lilies of the valley, violets, and other plants, are the first known printed representations of identifiable species. All of the cuts were copied in reverse for the third edition, printed by Bämler in 1481, which was followed by at least three more Augsburg editions printed before 1500. Rare.
HC 4042*; Proctor 1613; Polain (B) 1151; Klebs 300.2; Schreiber 3779; Schramm III, p. 25; Fairfax Murray German 124; Stillwell Science 614 (first edition); Ahumada 1; Goff C-843 (four copies).
Provenance: Contemporary marginalia on three leaves; "Bundesdenkmalamt", Vienna, two ink-stamps on front pastedowns; Juan Carlos Ahumada, bookplate and ink stamps on upper and lower flyleaves and lower pastedowns; the present owner.