ROLEWINCK, Werner (1425-1502). Fasciculus temporum omnes antiquorum hystorias complectens. With additions. [Lyons: Mathias Huss, not before 1496].
Median 4o (247 x 170 mm). Collation: a6 (1r title, 2r subject index, 6v finis tabule [below which white-line "xyloglyphic" printer's device of Mathias Huss, presumably executed by Jean-Pierre de la Plane c. 1845]); A-K8 L-M6 (A1r prologue, A2v text, M4r continuation by other authors including local events, M5r end of text [below which white-line "xyloglyphic" colophon, presumably by De la Plane: Lugduni Ma / thias Husz / MCCCCXCVI / Laus ,Deo], M6 blank). 98 leaves. Table in 3 columns, text 48 lines and headline. Gothic types 10:140 (title, headings), 11:76 (text). Initial spaces. Chronology diagrams with woodcut or typographical rules and roundels throughout. 17 woodcut illustrations (including 5 repeats) of Biblical scenes, town-views, and monsters.
BINDING: contemporary quarter leather over wooden (beech) boards (260 x 175 mm), spine recovered with deerskin at an early date and defective, brass clasp lost (since 1845), catch (stamped with 5 tiny fleurons) on back cover preserved, the inside boards engraved in relief (see note below), the front inside board incised TABULA I, the back board TABULA XXX. Two contemporary Southern French or Piedmont chancery half-sheet paper flyleaves at the beginning and two at the end (pot watermark, cf. Briquet 12541-50), the latter showing offset on their rectos and versos of sheets from an apparently unrecorded 160 edition of the Psalms (or possibly a Diurnale), probably printed in Lyons c. 1495 in a Gothic fount (92 mm) of Venetian origin, 16 lines per page, the type-area measuring 74 x 50 mm. Provenance: Vernet (early inscription on front flyleaf) -- J. de Sigoin (early-18th-century ownership inscription on title), who like his ancestor of the same name, Joseph, was canon at the cathedral of Sisteron, a privileged town and bishopric in Upper Provence, where the book was supposedly saved from pulping in 1825 by -- Jean-Pierre de la Plane (see his monograph of 1845, cited below), magistrate of Lyons.
Rare Lyonnese edition of Rolewinck's popular world chronicle, whose continuation ends with Charles VIII's return from Italy [late 1495] and the burial of the Franciscan reformer, Jean Burgois, at the monastery he had founded in Lyons, Notre Dame des Anges. The blocks for the woodcut illustrations were used before in Louis Cruse's Genevan edition of the French translation (28 April 1495, H 6944). C 2437; BMC VIII, 265 (IB. 41729); CIBN R-181; Goff R-277; Bod-inc. R-127.
Johannes FABER Runcinus (fl. first half 14th century). Breviarium super Codice. [Lyons:] Nicolaus Philippi Pistoris and Marcus Reinhart, 13th November 1480.
Chancery 20 (290 x 205 mm). Collation: a-b10 c8 (a1 blank, book I); d-f10 g-k8 l-y10
A-C10 D-F8 G10 (books II-IX, G10r colophon). 274 leaves. Double column, 48-49 lines. Gothic types 1:72 (text), 2:121 (rubrics, colophon), 4:150 (headlines). Fine contemporary rubrication in red and blue, including initials, paragraph marks and underlinings, several terminating in vigorously drawn animal heads; the rubricator has added an accomplished drawing in pen, red ink and wash, of a lion passant. (Slight worming at the end, stained throughout.)
BINDING: contemporary Lyonnese blind-stamped fawn calf over beech boards (300 x 210 mm), multiple fillets framing rows of repeated impressions of two square tools (pelican, fleur-de-lis), spine recovered with deerskin at an early date, covers and spine badly defective and detached, brass clasp gone, catch on back cover preserved, the inside boards engraved in relief (see note below), the front inside board incised TABULA II, the back board TABULA XXIX. Vellum pastedowns lifted, a notarial Latin document, dated from Lyons 25th August 1412. Provenance: Antoine de Révilliasc (ownership inscription dated 1535 in lower blank margin of a2r), who has written shoulder-notes on rectos through A2 -- J. de Sigoin (inscription below Révilliasc's) at Sisteron, where in 1825 the book was saved by -- Jean-Pierre de la Plane (according to his own account, see his monograph of 1845, cited below).
Exceedingly rare second edition (first: Louvain c. 1475, GW 9630) of this summary of Roman law by Jean Faure or Lefèvre from Roussines in the Charente, who taught jurisprudence at Montpellier before settling in Angoulême. Eight copies are recorded: Munich, Rio de Janeiro, Ulm, Breslau, and 4 French provincial libraries. HC 6846; GW 9631; IBP 2121; Pellechet 4713.
XYLOGLYPHY: In 1845 these two Lyonnese incunables with similar Sisteron provenance, and more particularly their curious bindings, formed the subject of a 218-page monograph by a former magistrate of the medieval Provençal town of Sisteron, published in Paris by Louis Labbé and locally by the bookseller Simon and the author: Notices bibliographiques sur deux ouvrages imprimés dans le XVe siècle et intitulés: l'un Breviarium in Codicem par Jean Lefèvre, et l'autre Fasciculus Temporum par Werner Rolewinck; suivies de la description exacte et complète de leur curieuse reliure en bois, ayant fait partie d'un livre de même matière gravé en relief à Aix en 1443, avec le portrait et les armes de René d'Anjou, au moyen d'un procédé totalement inconnu de nos jours, par Pierre de Milan, graveur de ce prince. Since that time the engraved wooden boards (and the monograph) have fallen into obscurity, and neither Schreiber, Hind, nor any other historian of xylography appear to mention them. They briefly surface at the beginning of 1958 when the Queens bookseller Emil Offenbacher sold them to Cornelius Hauck for $2,500, but like other fascinating books in the collection their Ohio location seemed to remove them from scholarly attention. It is difficult to know exactly what to think of these books as they combine undoubted authenticity (incunable editions, 15th-century leather-covered wooden boards, and at least part of their Sisteron provenance) and probably later manipulation involving an unknown process, perhaps chemical, of obtaining on a wood surface writing and image in relief. The precise identity of the monograph's author is almost as mysterious as the wooden document itself, and as the discoverer of these incunables he is our only source for the state in which he found them. The British Library General Catalogue lists him as Edouard de Laplane, author of Essai sur l'histoire municipale de la ville de Sisteron (Paris 1840) and Histoire de Sisteron, tirée de ses archives (2 vols., Digne 1843). Hoefer gives his name as Henri-Pierre-Félix de La Plane (born in 1806). In the monograph he variously identifies himself as Jean-Pierre de la Plane, De la Plane jeune, M. de la Plane and M. de La Plane.
According to La Plane's account he saved the Rolewinck and Faber in 1825, together with an unspecified number of other books (including Cicero, Quintilian, Pliny and Xenophon, printed by Johann Schoeffer, the Aldine and Giuntine houses, Colines, and Froben) from a library that had been consigned for pulping to a local paper mill by an owner, who had originally obtained it from the dean of Sisteron cathedral, who in turn had been given it by two canons of the chapter, Catlagni and Sigoin. The first documented owner was Antoine de Révilliasc, whose dated inscriptions started in 1530 and who died in 1542. Like Grolier and other humanistic collectors, he occasionally styled his ownership "et amicorum", but La Plane assumed that Révilliasc began to form his library before the end of the 15th century. It is supposed that the books subsequently belonged to Pierre de Rabaudy de Castronovo and Joseph de Châteauneuf, whose family held it from 1623 to the beginning of the 18th century when they were acquired by Joseph de Sigoin, who inscribed them. However, La Plane confuses this provenance at some point by having an ancestor of Sigoin's obtain the Rolewinck and Faber directly from Révilliasc. Be that as it may, he remarks that no other Sisteron library counted printed books among its holdings in the 15th century, except that of the Episcopal palace built by Bishop Jean Desquenard, who was elected in 1477. In fact, he rates it as probable that at least the Faber passed to Révilliasc from the Episcopal collection.
Only in 1842 did La Plane look at these books again and "discovered" under the pastedowns of Rolewinck and Faber relief-engraved text and images on the inside of the wooden covers, which are incised with the numbers I and XXX, II and XXIX respectively. The four boards represent the beginning and end of a supposedly 30-block beech-wood engraved document of the Great Charter, conveniently revealing the grantor (René d'Anjou, with facsimile signatures, portrait and coat-of-arms), the recipient (Bishop Raymond Talon), the artist (Piero da Milano), the place (Aix-en-Provence) and the date (1443), but nothing of the text of these privileges and immunities extended to the clergy and citizens of Sisteron. La Plane considered it "incontestable" that the original book was held in the Episcopal palace from 1443 until the blocks were recycled as boards for binding printed books at the end of the 15th century. He saw René, one of the great French Renaissance patrons of architecture, painting and sculpture, as the true creator of this artifact, hiding behind an invented artist's name. He speculated that Bishop Talon was presented with it for the important services he had rendered his sovereign at the Council of Basle.
There is some evidence of "the good king René" (1409-80) as an amateur artist. He was a poet and a romantic, who saw himself mostly as a chivalric knight, rode at Jeanne d'Arc's side to Orléans, attended his brother-in-law Charles VII's coronation at Reims in 1429, and gave Columbus his first ship's commission. His second daughter, Marguérite, became Queen of England when she married Henry VI. His titles included King of Naples, Duke of Anjou, Count of Provence, King of Jerusalem and Aragon, and alleged 9th Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. Whether finding or creating this artefact, La Plane realized the extreme prestige attached to the figure of René d'Anjou and the opportunity of linking him to an early form of printing (see inscription on Tabula XXIX).
The size of the Rolewinck is evidently smaller than that of the Faber, but its boards conveniently accommodate all engraving even after having been supposedly much cut down. Tabula I shows in its top half a medallion portrait of René (diameter 125 mm) surrounded by a caption in roman capitals: RENATUS DEI GRATIA IHERUSALEM E SICILIE REX ETCETERA; the bottom half has the presentation inscription in cursive script: Fidelis Regis effigies / est ista Renati / amico suo Raymu / ndo ep[iscop]o Sistarici / followed by the King's facsimile signature. Tabula XXX shows in a medallion of the same dimension the arms of René (Hungary, Sicily, Jerusalem, Aragon, Anjou, Bar, Lorraine) damaged and whitened from some chemical agent, with caption: ADIUVA NOS DEUS SALUTARIS NOSTER; underneath a ribbon bearing the motto: FIDES SERVATA DITAT [Fidelity tried enriches] followed by a variant of the same signature.
It is worth observing that the text on the inside front cover of the Faber would not have fitted on a Rolewinck board. Tabula II has 22 lines of text in gothic script: Charta magna si / ve liber de om[nib]us / privilegiis et im / munitatibus cleri ac / civium urbis Sistari / ci ab impera[tore] Honori[o] / usque ad Renatum Hoc opus ex trigin / ta tabulis ligneis co / mp[ositu]m et per artem mirif / icam impressum Aq / uis Sextiis [= Aix-en-Provence] cura ac di / lig[enti]a Petri de Medi / olano ex dono Rena / ti s[u]p[r]a d[ict]i ad Raymu[n] / dum T[alone]m ep[iscopu]m sis[taricens]em / amicum s[uu]m perven / it anno d[omi]no M0 cccc0 XL / III qu[int]a die junii / followed by René's signature. Tabula XXIX (upside down as back cover) has 11 lines in the same script: Sola calami exa / ratione et absque / omni scalptorio / opus consumatum / feliciter a P / Petro de Med / iolano anno do[mi]ni / ce incarna[ti]o[n]is / M0 cccc0 XLIII / Kal[endas] martii in / dict. VI ep. XVIII; the lower half shows an elaborate ribbon forming a vase containing an inscription in mirror writing: ILLITUM ATRAMENTO INFINITE ME REGENERAT / ADMOTIO / CHARTAE.
While professing ignorance at this point of how the effect is obtained, La Plane calls the relief-engraving a veritable embroidery on wood against a ground of vertical striation, which he compares to canvas, without the use of cutting tools, merely a pen (as the inscription states). He proposes to name the technique "xyloglyphie", an advance on xylography, and predictably makes large claims for the importance of the object in the history of the invention of printing, fantasizing that Gutenberg would have adopted King René's method if only he had known about it!
Finally, in an appendix to his monograph a development in La Plane's study of the matter seems to explain his true purpose and does little to increase confidence in the authenticity of the document. A notarized declaration by César-Louis Beinet, notaire at Sisteron, witnessed by two local carpenters, states that on 17 June 1845 Jean-Pierre de la Plane came before him in order to deposit his reconstruction of King René's invention of xyloglyphy as well as 16 specimens of the new method from his own hand on various types of wood, arguing its superiority over engraving, etching, woodcut and lithography. No details are given other than that only a pen and encaustic ink are employed. La Plane authorizes specifically named booksellers from all over Europe to reprint his monograph and announce his invention, the profits to be equally divided between the bookseller and himself. None of these numerous booksellers (Asher in Berlin, Muller in Amsterdam, Millar in Edinburgh, Miller in London, Molini in Florence, Brockhaus in Leipzig, Périsse in Lyons, etc.) seems to have availed himself of the occasion. Whatever the true origin of the treatment of these wooden covers, if nothing else they provide fine examples of 19th-century antiquarian invention. (3)