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 (338 x 225 mm). 288 leaves (of 290, title supplied in facsimile, P5 blank removed). 24 lines. Gothic (fraktur) type, abundantly flourished. Xylographic title. 118 numbered woodcuts by Jost de Negker and Heinrich Kupferworm after Leonhard Beck (77), Hans Burgkmair (13), Hans Schdufelein (20), and others. Printed correction slips on g6v and A4v. (Some flourishes trimmed, c3 m8 with tiny hole to image n2 p7 D3 H8 P8 with tiny hole to margins, minor darkening to first and last leaf and some margins.) Red morocco folding case.
Early 18th-century calf over wooden boards, central unidentified coat-of-arms dated 1718, spine in six compartments, lettered in one, blind-tooled in others (upper cover starting, with cords intact). Provenance: Unidentified coat-of-arms dated 1718 on sides; Baron Vernon (possibly Wentworth-Vernon or T.W.(Williment) monogram bookplate "WV" and motto "Vernon semper viret"); P. Hierta (signature, dated 1918 on preliminary blank); purchased from Emil Offenbacher, 6 November 1947.
FIRST EDITION OF THE MOST SPECTACULAR GERMAN ILLUSTRATED BOOK OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, PRINTED ON VELLUM. 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).
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 (Schäufelein); Muther 845.