PFINTZING, Melchior (1481-1535). [Theuerdank]. Die geuerlicheiten und einsteils der geschichten des loblichen streytparen und hochberümbten helds und Ritters herr Tewrdannckhs. Nuremberg [printed at Augsburg]: Johann Schönsperger the elder for the emperor Maximilian I, .
PRINTED ON VELLUM. Royal 2o (362 x 247 mm). Collation: a-c8 d6 e-h8 i6 k-n8 o6 p-z A-M8.8.6 N8 O6 P8 A8 (a1r title, a1v blank, a2r dedicatory letter from Pfintzing to Charles V dated 1 March 1517, a3r text of the poem, P4v-P5 blank, P6r conclusion ["Der beschluss diser History"], P8v blank, A1r second letter to Charles V, A1v-A2v key to the characters of the poem, A2v contents of the 116 chapters, A8v colophon). 289 leaves (of 290, P5 blank removed). 24 lines. Gothic (fraktur) type, abundantly flourished, ALL FLOURISHES UNTRIMMED. Xylographic title. 118 numbered woodcuts by Jost de Negker and Heinrich Kupferworm after Leonhard Beck (77), Hans Burgkmair (13), Hans Schäufelein (20), and others. Printed correction slips on g6v, m1v, r3v and A8r. (Minor worming in first and last quires, small slash in a2 and in A1 each affecting 2 letters, single small hole in O2, small wormtrack in lower blank corner of d2-6, occasional minor discoloration of vellum, small early repairs in q1, v1, v6, and A4.)
Binding: German blind-tooled alum-tawed pigskin of ca. 1540-45 (not earlier than 1540), sides panelled with rolls including a Crucifixus - Auferstehung -Verkündung roll dated 1540 (194 x 20 mm., not in Haebler, but cf. Haebler II, p. 15, a similar, slightly shorter roll with same date), central panel with 3 impressions of a potted plant tool, title stamped on upper cover, the plant tool repeated on spine, pair of brass fore-edge catches (clasps fragmentary, some worming, worn); folding cloth case.
Provenance: M.B. 1575: inscription on front pastedown -- Wolfgang Engelbert, Graf von Auersperg: 1655 inscription (Wolfg. Engelberti S.R. I Comitis ab Aursperg Sup. Cap. Cam. Catal. Inscr. Anno 1655) -- Counts of Auersperg, Fideicommisbibliothek zu Laybach: bookplate; by descent to -- Senhora Johana Auersperg de Mailhos and Senhor German Mailhos, of Montevideo, Uruguay: sale, Sotheby's London, 14 June 1982, lot 300 (to Lathrop Harper).
FIRST EDITION OF THE MOST SPECTACULAR GERMAN ILLUSTRATED BOOK OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A FULL-SIZED COPY PRINTED ON VELLUM AND IN ITS FIRST BINDING. The poem is an allegorical chivalric romance celebrating the exploits of the hero (Emperor Maximilian I) in overcoming a series of obstacles in his journey to seek the hand in marriage of Queen Ernreich (Mary of Burgundy) in 1478. Parts of the text were composed by Maximilian himself, who had made the first drafts in 1505-8; his private secretary Melchior Pfintzing oversaw completion of the poem and edited the work. Other contributors were Maximilian's Silberkammerer Sigismund von Dietrichstein and his Geheimsekretär Marx Treitzsauerwein; Johann Stabius and the humanist Conrad Peutinger worked with the printers and artists. A contract survives dated 17 December 1508, in which Maximilian awarded the Augsburg printer Schönsperger, a specialist in the production of German illustrated books, the post of Imperial printer for life, at an annual salary of 10 florins. Schönsperger produced for Maximilian a magnificently illustrated Latin Book of Hours in 1513; presumably production of the type and woodblocks for the Theuerdank began soon afterwards.
The fraktur type used in the Theuerdank, whose influence on German typography has been widely discussed, was based on letterforms from a manuscript writing book compiled between about 1507 and 1517 by Leonhard Wagner, prior of the Benedictines of SS. Ulrich and Afra at Augsburg, possibly for presentation to Maximilian (K. F. Bauer, "Leonhard Wagner der Schöpfer der Fraktur," Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde 40, Heft I, 1936, pp. 1-3). A. F. Johnson stated that eight fraktur types were cut for printing between 1513 and 1524; the second was cut for Schönsperger ("Printing in the Sixteenth Century," The Dolphin 1938, no. 3, pp. 131-32), who used it for this edition. The Emperor's patronage of the new type was instrumental in its success: "By the next generation fraktur was the standard letterform used by German printers [who] had found a national typographic style" (Peter van Wingen, in Vision of a Collector, the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection in the Library of Congress, Washington 1991, 9, p. 31).
The carefully planned series of woodblocks, designed by a team of the best-known artists of the day and engraved under the direction of Jost Negker, a Flemish type designer and engraver who worked for Schönsperger, were reused by the latter for a second edition in 1519; they then passed to Heinrich Steiner, who reprinted the text in 1537 and used isolated cuts for other editions. Before 1553 the set was acquired by Egenolff at Frankfurt, in whose family they remained until the end of the century. As late as 1693 the cuts were used for an edition printed at Ulm.
About 40 copies of the first edition were printed on vellum; Van Praet records 31 copies, including a few with the woodcuts illuminated. Most of the vellum copies contain several printed correction slips, showing that they were printed before the paper copies. Some copies do not contain the appended clavis, in which the identities of the characters are explained, although the true names of the three principal characters, Maximilian, Charles of Burgundy, and Princess Maria of Burgundy, are only given in initials.
No copies were distributed for sale; the edition was intended uniquely for presentation by the Emperor. Apparently Maximilian was able to give away no more than a few copies in the short period before his death in 1519: the bulk of the edition "lay in six chests in Augsburg until March 1526, when the Archduke Ferdinand decided to distribute, through Marx Treitzsauerwein, the contents of five of the chests to different German subjects as memorials of the late Emperor" (Davies/Fairfax Murray German, p. 529).
No comparable vellum copies have appeared at auction in the past fifty or more years. Adams P-962; Fairfax Murray German 329; Van Praet Bibliothèque du Roi IV, 347, pp. 233-6; Hollstein V: 416-430 (Burgkmair); Illustrated Bartsch 11: 132, 1-8 (Schaüfelein); Muther 845.