Eruditorium poenitentiale. [Paris: Antoine Caillaut, ca. 1488].
Chancery 4o (184 x 126 mm). Collation: a-h8 i-k6 (a1r title, a1v blank, a2r text). 75 leaves (of 76, one-line title in facsimile). 24-26 lines. Type: 8:111B. 17 woodcuts within double rule frames, printed from 16 blocks (the cut on g1v repeated on i6r). One 4-line initial space with printed guide-letter. Trace of penwork shading on Accidia cut (g1v). Dark green morocco, sides panelled with triple gilt fillet, gilt crowned Arenberg cipher at corners, spine and turn-ins gilt, edges marbled and gilt, by Trautz-Bauzonnet.
Provenance: Dukes of Arenberg: binding, shelf-mark -- Edmée Maus: cf. Arthur Rau, "Edmée Maus" ("Contemporary Collectors" XVI), The Book Collector 7 (1958), p. 41 -- [Quaritch]
FIRST EDITION, one of the earliest and finest examples of 15th-century French book illustration. The text, an anonymous confessional tract that includes a "classification and analysis of all human delinquencies" (Davies/Fairfax Murray), is illustrated by striking three-quarter page woodcuts, most or all of which were expressly designed for the edition, and which "rank among the earliest French examples of their art" (ibid.). The edition is printed in a bastarda type used by Caillaut from 1488 to early 1491; by mid-May 1491 the fount had been acquired by the Angoulême printers Petrus Alanus and Andreas Calvinus (cf. Needham, "Two unrecorded French-language incunabula," Hellinga Festchrift, 1980, pp. 339-356). This edition has often been confused with a very close page-for-page reprint (GW 9391), also undated, for which Caillaut used the same type fount and woodblocks. The two editions can be distinguished by their illustrations: the frame of the first woodcut on a2r is whole in the first edition and broken in the later edition; the frame of the God in Majesty cut on a8v is double in the first edition and single in the reprint, in which later state it also appears in two other undated Caillaut editions, a Stella clericorum (Goff S-768) and a pseudo-Joannes Andreae, Summa brevis super II Decretalium (C 439; Pr 7951). In several copies of the first edition, the "Accidia" cut, showing a Man on a Donkey (g1v), is repeated on i6r (as in this copy) to represent "Luxuria" -- either erroneously or because the woodcut was not yet made; in other copies of the first edition and in the second edition the repeated cut is replaced by a woodcut of a Man on a Goat.
Four of the woodcuts -- those on b2r, d4v, g7r, and the correct Luxuria cut (i6r, not in this copy) -- were used, along with other woodcuts apparently by the same engraver, in Caillaut's edition of Jacobus Magni (Jacques Legrand), Sophologium in French (Livre des bonnes moeurs), dated 6 June 1487. The Legrand is printed in Caillaut's type 4, otherwise not in use in his shop until ca. 1491-93; on this basis, and because these four illustrations are closely keyed to the text of the Eruditorium poenitentiale, Paul Needham has suggested that the Legrand may have been misdated, and that the Eruditorium may in fact have preceded it by 4 or 5 years (cf. Schäfer sale catalogue, Sotheby's London, 27 June 1995, lot 77). The woodcuts themselves provide no clue: as reproduced by Claudin (I, 307-8), the blocks printed in the Legrand appear in the same state as in the present edition, with the same small breaks to the frames. The present tractate was translated into French under the title of Introduction au sacrement de pénitence and printed at Paris by Le Petit Laurens ca. 1499 (GW 4737, a single copy surviving at Troyes). Laurens, who began printing in 1491, acquired the Caillaut woodblock series by the mid-1490s, as his French translation is illustrated with blocks from the present edition and from the Legrand, and his two ca. 1495 editions of Michault, Danse des aveugles (Goff M-566 and Fairfax Murray French 377) contain two cuts from this edition, the Confessor and Penitent cut used on the title and the Danse des Morts cut on a6v.
The Gesamtkatalog misleadingly describes a "variant" setting of a3r in the British Library copy of the second edition (GW 9391): that sheet in fact belongs to the first edition. Possibly a few copies of the second edition were completed by the printer with "a varying number of first edition sheets, which the printer used up before resetting them" (Felix de Marez Oyens, "The Toil of Incunable Cataloguing," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America vol. 81, 1987, p. 43, note 19, discussing this edition). The production of line-by-line reprints of popular works enabled printers to economize by using up leftover sheets from earlier editions. This largely unexplored aspect of 15th-century publishing practice may help explain the large number of variant settings that characterize the editions of early French printers like Caillaut and Trepperel (for another example of a "printer's" composite copy in the Friedlaender collection see lot 65, Rolewinck, Goff R-274). The setting of k6v, line 13, of this edition was mistranscribed by Polain in both the Belgian and French catalogues as "ac mundari et omni / crimine," instead of "ab omni crimine".
EXTREMELY RARE, one of 12 recorded copies of this edition. Four complete copies are listed by ISTC; added to this should be the Auxerre and Amiens copies and 3 copies in Paris (1 BnF, 2 Arsenal). None are held by the British Library or any American institutions. Two further copies have come on the market in the past decade, the Fairfax Murray and Otto Schäfer copies (the latter ex-H. P. Kraus = the sole copy listed by Goff).
Claudin I, 320-323; Fairfax Murray French 155 ("ca. 1487"); GW 9390 ("ca. 1490"); Pellechet 4622; Polain(B) 1420; Schäfer/von Arnim 126; Goff E-107.