REGIOMONTANUS (Johannes MÜLLER, 1436-1476). Calendarium, in German. BLOCKBOOK. Schreiber xyl. ed. I. [Nuremberg: Hans Spörer, c.1474-75].
Chancery half-sheet 4° (205 x 161mm). Collation: [12 2-38 412 52]. Contents as BMC. 31 (of 32, without blank 4/12) leaves, quire 1 a half-sheet serving as a wrapper and printed on one side only, quire 5 consisting of 2 half-sheets printed on one side only with blank sides pasted together for strength in attaching metal pointer and volvelle. Printed probably on a printing press in grey-black ink from 47 blocks, all but two (4/1r and 1v) cut with 2 pages of text/image, most signed with a letter in the margin between the two pages on either recto or verso: [a - 1/1.2]; b c d e (2/1-8); f g h [i] (3/1-8); l m n o [p] (4/2-11). Full-page cut of an anatomical man with astrological influences, 4 full-page woodcuts of scientific instruments, one (5/2v) retaining metal pointer (but without cord) and one (5/1v) with two concentric volvelles (detached but present), and 10 pages illustrating eclipses. Calendar tables and ornamental initials with contemporary colouring in pale ochre, green or pink, lunar/solar phases coloured in ochre, some red highlighting of saints' names. PAPER: marked with one of three bull's heads, one similar to Piccard Ochsenkopf XI, 198-199, in use 1473-78; a close variant of that watermark; and Piccard Ochsenkopf XIII, 676, in use 1472-3, 1476; all different from those which appear in the Paris Bib. Nat. copies. Disbound in 20th-century brown linen folding portfolio within brown morocco slipcase.
CONDITION: 1/1.2 and 4/2.11 expertly rehinged, very occasional faint spotting, tiny internal tear in final leaf, light wear at outer bifolia of quires, marginal tears in 4/4.9, faint dampstain in quire 4, a few tiny marginal nicks. The fore-going is a scrupulous list of defects, all of which are minor. Having been sympathetically disbound, the majority of block signatures in the inner margin are visible and the watermarks easy to examine.
Provenance: author and date written on first blank recto in an 18th-century hand -- [Dukes of Arenberg-Nordkirchen (cf. von Arnim, Xylo-F, note 11)] -- Otto Schäfer ('OS' monogram inside portfolio, acquired in June 1957 from Ernst Weil, catalogue 25, no. 1, where it was identified as 'From a princely library'; von Arnim, Kat. Xylo-F).
RARE BLOCKBOOK EDITION OF REGIOMONTANUS'S IMPORTANT CALENDAR IN GERMAN. Considered the most outstanding astronomer of the 15th century, Regiomontanus settled at Nuremberg in about 1471, owing to the excellence of its scientific instrument manufacture and its strategic location at the crossroads of busy trade routes. He established his own laboratory and printing press for the publication of scientific works, and issued a calendar of his own astronomical observations in Latin and German editions in about 1472-74. One thousand copies are purported to have been printed, and it was reprinted in numerous subsequent editions.
Further evidence of the immense popularity of Regiomontanus's calendar is the survival of xylographic, as well as typographic, editions. They too were produced at Nuremberg. While they follow closely Regiomontanus's first German edition, there are variations which may indicate that they were set from a manuscript, not typographic, exemplar.
THE PRESENT COPY IS THE FIRST OF THREE BLOCKBOOK EDITIONS. Schreiber distinguished 3 editions, all printed from the same blocks with small alterations as follow: ed. I identifies the author at the bottom of p.56; ed. II has the author's name removed; and ed. III contains an extra leaf and names Hans Brieffdrucker, identifed as the printer Hans Spörer. Schreiber further distinguished eds. I and II by their method of printing: ed. I by rubbing, and ed. II in a press. There is no evidence that the present copy was printed by rubbing, and CIBN states decisively that its copy of ed. I was printed in a press. It is possible that the circumstances in printing individual copies varies from copy to copy, as was the case for other blockbook editions (cf. the Botfield Biblia Pauperum, Schr. ed. VI, Christie's, 13 June 2002, lot 6).
The blockbook (and typographic) editions illustrate 4 of Regiomontanus's scientific instruments and the text includes instructions for its construction. His 'quadratum horarium generale', or sundial, was widely copied and its use taught, and the correctness of its design was confirmed by scientists such as Cl. Fr. M. Dechales in 1690 (Zinner). The blockbook editions also contain a full-page illustration of the anatomical man, which was not included in the early typographic editions. It is among the earliest appearances in print of this common medical image.
ONE OF ONLY 5 SURVIVING COPIES, THE ONLY ONE IN PRIVATE HANDS. Schreiber records four copies, not including the present one: Erlangen, London (British Library), Paris (Bibliothèque nationale), and Munich (BSB, imperfect).
Schreiber IV, 406-410; BMC I, 7 (IA. 26); CIBN RR-1; Hind I, 262; Blockbücher des Mittelalters, eds. S. Mertens and C. Schneider, Mainz: 1991, 408-9; R. Hirsch in Vision of a Collector, 1991, no. 22 (ed. II); von Arnim, Schaefer, Xylo-F; Zinner, Geschichte und Bib. der astrono. Lit., 1964, no. 66; cf. J. Regiomontanus, Deutscher Kalender für die Jahre 1475 bis 1530 ... Blockbuch ... Faksimile-Ausgabe, ed. by Zinner, Munich: 1927; Zinner, Leben und Wirken des Joh. Müller, 1968.