Varia carmina. With additions by Johann Bergmann de Olpe.
Varia carmina. With additions by Johann Bergmann de Olpe.

Varia carmina. With additions by Johann Bergmann de Olpe. Basel: Johann Bergmann, de Olpe, 1 May 1498.

4to (203 x 145 mm). Collation: A-C8 D-I8.4 K4; a8 bc4 d-h8 i4 k-m8 n4. 148 leaves, unfoliated. 30 lines, printed shoulder notes. Roman types 1:109 (title and Latin text), 3:77 (marginalia), gothic types 4:220 (title and headings) and 5:109G (German text). 7 woodcut illustrations printed from 6 blocks, including 3 cuts on title and 2 full-page cuts, woodcut printer’s device, Lombard initials. Marginal repaired wormholes in first 2 leaves. Late 19th-century half straight-grained black roan(?) and marbled paper, smooth spine gold-tooled (joints rubbed). Provenance: 18th-century armorial engraving of the arms of the Princes of Monaco (with caption Wappen des Fürstens vom Monaco) pasted inside front cover (but see below); Leipzig University Library, duplicate, inkstamps on title; pencil shelfmark on title “M.241” and “Tripl.”, formerly part of a Sammelband held by Leipzig (see below); Charles M. Smith, Berlin, January 1856, inscription on flyleaf; Lathrop Harper, catalogue 239 (1984), no. 32; Helmut N. Friedlaender, book label.***

First Edition, third and most complete issue of Brant’s (mainly) Latin poems. The first part contains Brant’s religious poems, including his Rosarium, in 50 sapphic strophes, encomia of the Virgin, and poems on the church fathers and various saints. The second part is devoted to his secular verse: poems on historical events, Gelegenheitsdichtungen on contemporary figures and events, and philosophical poems. Subjects are diverse: a diatribe against the Flemish, the flooding of the Tiber, a monstrous birth in Worms, Johann Heynlin’s work on logic, the thermal baths in Baden, the scourge of syphilis (the first literary work on that subject), and a Latin-German verse drama on the fragility of life, titled “On the dangerous chess game” and consisting of a dialogue between death, an angel holding a clock, and the Emperor, representing the human condition. Brant had published a number of these poems previously, some as pamphlets or broadsides; only a handful of those earlier ephemeral editions survive.

Quires m and n, containing additional verses, were added in two stages after the work’s initial publication. Quire n, added on 1 September 1498 and not included in the register, contains Brant’s poem on the Turkish threat (Thurcorum terror et potentia), and is illustrated with a large woodcut of a Turk on horseback being pursued by Christians, dated 1498. This quire apparently also circulated independently as a separate pamphlet. In this copy, as in the British Museum copies, quire n is inserted in the middle of quire m.

The publisher Johann Bergmann from Olpe in Sauerland, archdeacon of the cathedral at Granfeld an der Birs, was close to the important group of German humanists that included Brant, Reuchlin, Jacob Locher and Wimpheling. As demonstrated by the layout of this edition, printed in large, legible type and provided with woodcut illustrations, “Bergmann was a rich man, and evidently spent his money ungrudgingly on his press during the few years in which he kept it up” (BMC III: xxxix). Besides the Turkish cut, the woodcuts show: the author praying, printed on the title with two smaller cuts of the Adoration and St. Sebastian, and repeated on n4v; a full-page cut accompanying the poem “De corrupto ordine vivendi pereuntibus,” showing a fool upside down in a wagon (a1r), reprinted from the 1 March 1498 edition of Stultifera Navis; and a full-page cut of the Emperor before Jerusalem (d1r).

Important details of the provenance of this volume have recently come to light, thanks to the vigilance of Falk Eisermann, director of the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, and to the scholarship of the Leipzig University curators and book historians Thomas Thibault Döring and Christoph Mackert, whom I gratefully acknowledge for the following information:

Until the mid-nineteenth century this copy was bound as the first work in a Sammelband in the Leipzig University Library, containing five other humanist works printed at Basel and Erfurt, as follows:
2) the first edition of Brant's German translation of the Liber Faceti, Basel: Johann Bergmann de Olpe, [1496], GW 9695;
3) Corvinus [Lorenz Rabe], Cosmographia, [Basel: Nicolaus Kesler, not before 1496], GW 7799;
4) Valla's translation of Psellus, De victus ratione, Erfurt: Wolfgang Schenck, 1499 (GW M36352);
5) Petrus Ravennas [Pietro Tomai], Phoenix seu De artificiosa memoria, Erfurt: Wolfgang Schenck, 1500, GW M32689;
6) Marschalk, Nikolaus, Interpretamentum leve in Psellum. [Erfurt: Wolfgang Schenck, 1499], GW M21102.

The pencil shelfmark M-241 on the title-page (which would originally have read "4o M.241") refers to a cataloguing system introduced by Christian Friedrich Börner, librarian of the Leipziger Pauliner Universitätsbibliothek from 1711 to 1736, indicating the 241st quarto volume in the philological section or Cabinet labeled "M." Library records and changes in cataloguing systems show that the Sammelband must have been disbound and dispersed between 1835 and 1855; the library then sold the Varia Carmina as a duplicate, and apparently also the Tomai, whose location is still unknown. Earlier details of the Sammelband's whereabouts before it joined the Leipzig University collections have yet to be unearthed, but one can in the meantime deduce that the Princes of Monaco "bookplate" was added by a 20th-century owner, to give his now plainly bound volume extra prestige.
ISTC ib01099000; Goff B-1099; HC 3731; GW 5068; BMC III, 796; Schreiber 3542 & 3580. Item #3167

Price: $14,000.00