MATTHAEUS DE CRACOVIA (ca. 1345-1410). Dialogus rationis et conscientiae de frequenti usu communionis. [Mainz: Printer of the 'Catholicon' (Johann Gutenberg), ca. 1460 -- second impression, Mainz: Peter Schoeffer(?) for Konrad Humery(?), ca. 1469].
Chancery 4o in half sheets (202 x 135 mm). Collation: [110 212] text,v blank). 22 leaves. Type: 83G, secondary casting of 2-line slugs with a 20-line measurement of 95 mm. 30 lines. 6-line initial space on, spaces left in the text for the names of the speakers. Initial M supplied in blue with mauve and red pen-flourishing; names of speakers, paragraph signs, and capital strokes supplied in red. Printed on Bull's Head/X/ring forehead paper stocks K and L. (Printing flaw tov causing minor loss to one or two letters in each line.) Brown morocco by Trautz-Bauzonnet, blind-stamped in the style of the fifteenth century, title stamped in silver, silver edges, vellum linings and endleaves.
Provenance: Capital letter "D" stencilled(?) in lower margin, -- Sir Mark Masterman Sykes: bookplate; sale, London, Evans, June 1824, pt. III, lot 1128 (to Thorpe) -- Henri Béraldi: Bibliothèque d'un bibliophile, 1885, p. 6, no. 13, sold in 1886 to -- [Morgand: Bulletin Morgand 20, 1887, p. 10, no. 12,227, sold to] -- Benedetto Maglione, of Naples: sale, Paris, January 1894, vol. I, pp. 40-41, no. 59 (to Morgand) -- Eugene Paillet: bookplate and signature; sale, Paris, March 1902, vol. I, pp. 8-9, no. 10 (to Morgand) -- Adolphe Bordes: sold through Librairie Giraud-Badin -- [H.P. Kraus, collation mark dated March 1961] -- Eric Sexton (1902-1980): Incun. 96, bookplate and label; sale, Christie's New York, 8 April 1981, lot 90 (to Lathrop Harper).
FIRST EDITION, SECOND IMPRESSION of one of only three works printed from stereotyped two-line slugs in a process invented by Johann Gutenberg. The Dialogus rationis et conscientiae and its companion editions, the Summa de articulis fidei of Thomas Aquinas and the Catholicon of Johannes Balbus, each exist in more than one issue printed from the same setting of type, but showing variants which indicate that the type-page was made up of indissoluble two-line units. In addition, each issue is associated with distinct paper stocks, which point to different dates for the three impressions of the Catholicon and the two impressions of each of the two smaller tractates. In 1982 Paul Needham argued that the datable use of the paper stocks found in the Catholicon supports the hypothesis that the three issues were printed in 1460, the date of the book's colophon (Bull's Head paper and vellum copies), ca. 1469 (Galliziani paper) and ca. 1472 (Crown and Tower paper). On the basis of the typographical evidence, he proposed that "the Catholicon printer's three books were not printed with movable types. The type pages of these books were composed of indissoluble two-line slugs ... After printing, the slugs were retained, and at later times additional impressions were pulled from them" (PBSA, vol. 76, 1982, p. 425). (An alternative interpretation -- that all the issues of the Catholicon and the two related tractates were printed ca. 1469 on three separate presses, each with its own paper supply, not using cast slugs but double lines of type fastened together with wire and transferred from press to press -- has been argued by Lotte Hellinga and others; the controversy may be followed in the pages of The Book Collector, Wolfenbüttler Notizen zur Buchgeschichte, Gutenberg Jahrbuch and Bulletin du Bibliophile.)
According to Needham's thesis, Gutenberg, after inventing printing from movable type, went on to meet "the challenge of permanently fixing typographical compositions", or stereotyping. The casting, storing and reuse of the two-line slugs was intended to allow a large and popular book like the Catholicon to be reprinted without the expense of recomposition, while the two tractates served in some measure as pilot projects for the larger work. The first issues of all three works were printed in 1459 or 1460, as indicated by the date of the Catholicon's colophon and confirmed by the datable use of the paper stocks employed. The second issues of ca. 1469, dated from their paper stocks, were presumably produced for Konrad Humery using typographical materials he had inherited from Gutenberg (who died on 1 February 1468) and employing the presses of Peter Schoeffer.
Analysis of the Catholicon type indicates that the text of the Dialogus rationis et conscientiae was set at a time when the composition of the Catholicon itself was well advanced or possibly completed, i.e. in 1460. This accords with the evidence of the principal paper stock used in the first issue, a Bull's Head/tau paper (stock G), which is the paper used also in the first issue, or 36-line version, of the Summa de articulis fidei. That text was set ca. 1459-60, before or concurrent with the earliest setting of the Catholicon on the evidence of the sorts used. The paper is found in dated German documents from 1457 to 1462.
The Catholicon Press edition of the Dialogus rationis et conscientiae contains no typographical variants such as characterize the Catholicon and the Aquinas tractate, i.e., errors or changes in imposition, or occurrences of resetting and replacement of incorrect or damaged slugs, which serve to confirm the chronological sequence of the issues. The second issue of Matthaeus de Cracovia is distinguished from the first by its paper and by one printing accident, in addition to a number of lateral shifts of two-line units of type, such as are found in all three Catholicon Press books. The second impressions of the two tractates share two Bull's Head/X/ring forehead paper stocks, a principal stock (K) and a secondary stock (L). Paper stock K is found in documents dated 1465-68, and stock L in documents dated 1469-73; the mixture represented in the Catholicon Press tractates presumably dates therefore to ca. 1469.
The present copy of Matthaeus de Cracovia contains half-sheets from both paper stocks of the second issue: in the first quire, bifolia 1/1.10 and 1/5.6 have the watermark of stock K, and in the second quire, all bifolia except12 have the watermark of stock L. This copy also offers an excellent example of the printing accident that characterizes the second issue of the Dialogus: by the time these copies were printed, a wire lying at a vertical angle across the printing surface of f.v had been impressed into that surface, leaving a "trough" which appears as a white line on the printed page. In many copies, this has been corrected by hand, using ink to fill in the missing portions of one or two letters in each line. The present copy, however, offers a clear, unretouched example of this feature, which is of significance for determining the sequence, and indirectly the dating, of Catholicon Press printing.
Matthaeus de Cracovia, so-called from his birthplace in Cracow, studied in Prague and spent the early part of his career as a professor of theology at the university there. He became known as a preacher who supported religious and ecclesiastical reform, and his writings were concerned primarily with pastoral care and the practice of Christian life. In 1394 Matthaeus moved to Heidelberg, where he was appointed dean of the theological faculty and rector of the university. Later he served as the ambassador of the German king Ruprecht III to France, Rome, and the Council of Pisa. After refusing the dignity of cardinal, offered to him by Pope Gregory XII, he accepted the title of legate to Germany, and died as Bishop of Worms, a position to which he was elected in 1405. The Dialogus rationis et conscientiae was written in 1388 in Prague, during a controversy over whether laymen should take communion daily. Cast as a dialogue between Conscience, who is held back by shame over the sinfulness of man, and Reason, who urges trust in God's merciful acceptance of true contrition, the text argues in favor of frequent communion and the spiritual benefits to be derived from it. The Dialogus survives in about 250 manuscripts, and was printed in at least five more editions before the end of the fifteenth century.
No copy of the present edition has come on the market since this copy was sold in 1981. This is the only Catholicon Press tractate, and only the second substantial example of Catholicon Press printing to become available since the discovery of Gutenberg's variation on his own invention (cf. a copy of the Catholicon, third issue, Sotheby's London, 27 September 1988, lot 13).
H 5803*; BMC I, 40 (IA. 304-306); BSB-Ink. M-267; CIBN M-234; De Ricci Mayence 91, no. 11 (this copy); Harvard/Walsh 29; Lehmann-Haupt Peter Schoeffer 227; Paul Needham, "Johann Gutenberg and the Catholicon Press," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol. 76, 1982, pp. 395-426, especially pp. 410-416; Goff M-367.