[RICHENTAL, Ulrich (c. 1365-1437?).] Chronik des Konstanzer Konzils. Augsburg: Anton Sorg, 2nd September 1483.
Chancery 2o (265 x 190 mm). Collation: [1-910 (-1/1 blank) 1010(14) 11-1610 1712 18-2410 258 (-8 blank)]. 248 leaves (without first and final blank). Gothic types 3:140 (headings) and 2:120 second state (text). 35 lines, double column. 4-line woodcut outline initials (set 2) colored red or black. 1146 armorial woodcuts, mostly colored with heraldic tinctures, but including some empty shields. 3 HALF-PAGE AND 41 FULL-PAGE PICTORIAL WOODCUTS, ALL FINELY COLORED BY A CONTEMPORARY SOUTH-GERMAN HAND. (Minor staining.) 17th-century German dark-stained blind-panelled pigskin over wooden boards, multiple fillets, floral stamps, crest roll outer border, inner borders tooled with a birds-in-foliage roll, late 15th-century South-German brass center- and corner-pieces and clasps apparently preserved from the original binding, red-stained leaf-edges. Provenance: Iheremias Kofler 1587, inscribed by him at the end: Gott vermags alles; a few marginal notes (cut into at fore-edge) -- Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962), violin virtuoso who had quite exceptional taste in rare books (Parke-Bernet Galleries 28th January 1949, lot 140, $2,100 to Offenbacher).
FIRST EDITION OF THE ONLY ILLUSTRATED CONTEMPORARY ACCOUNT OF THE COUNCIL OF CONSTANCE, relating its pomp, ceremony, sessions, actions and results. The council was held from 1414 to 1418 and dealt with the western schism in the Church, the reformation of ecclesiastical government and life, and the repression of heresy. The three existing popes resigned or were deposed and a new pope was elected (Martin V). All points and methods of reforming the ecclesiastical condition were discussed if not always acted upon before this unique ecumenical forum, including papal and curial administration, corruption, the decline of learning, the decay of churches and monasteries, etc. The heretical writings of John Wyclif were burned and his body was condemned to be dug up and cast out of consecrated ground; Jan Hus was arrested, tried and burned at the stake, and his ashes thrown into the Rhine (all duly illustrated by Sorg's artist). Another important issue that occupied the council was the legality of tyrannicide. Richental, a citizen of Constance, was a precise chronicler, who not only followed the council's sessions and the great events, but also described the festivities and participants in much statistical detail.
THE WOODCUTS CLOSELY RELATE TO THE TEXT THROUGHOUT and this edition shows the first use of their blocks. The book's heraldic interest is also considerable and it is the earliest incunable illustrated with a large number of armorial cuts. The strong coloring in this copy is characteristic of Bavarian work in the late 15th century, with bright shades of red, green and yellow dominating, but also frequent use of blues, browns and greys. The number of woodcuts and coats-of-arms is given above as precisely as possible; in the literature counts vary by the confusion of blocks and cuts (double illustrations, triple arms, empty shields). In any case, the Kreisler-Hauck copy has the full complement. Except for the cancel fol. 10/4, which appears to be unrecorded, the collation of this copy agrees with that given by H.W. Davies in the Fairfax Murray privately published catalogue. The BMC and BSB collations are either faulty or indicate variant impositions between unsigned quires 15-18 [their p-s]. Hartmann Schedel's copy, with extra prints pasted in, including one from the Nuremberg Chronicle, is located in the Bavarian State Library, Munich. The second edition of the work was published by Heinrich Steiner in 1536, also at Augsburg, with a new set of woodcuts.
RARE: since the Kreisler sale, no other copy of the Richental seems to have come up at auction in the UK or America. COMPLETE AND IN VERY FINE CONDITION, with sharp impressions of the cuts and type-pages, especially noticeable from the blind bearer-type in various places, the paper unwashed and unpressed. HC *5610; BMC II, 350 (IB. 5958); Goff R-196; BSB-Ink R-178; Schreiber 1595; Schramm IV, 1049-2253; Fairfax Murray German 353; facsimile, ed. E. Voulliéme Potsdam 1923.