Royal folio (414 x 284 mm). Collation as in BMC & GW. 246 leaves, unfoliated, including first and final blanks. 51 lines and headline, double column. Gothic types 4:160 (headings and headlines), 3:110a (text). Initial spaces. Fine large opening initial supplied in pink with foliate modelling, green filigree geometric infill and leafy extensions; rubricated in red with four-line Lombard pearled initials, some with flourishes, capital strokes and underlinings; small marginal section numbers supplied by the rrubricator. A large copy, preserving numerous deckle edges and many contemporary manuscript quire signatures in red ink. Fine condition (a few wormholes at end).
Binding: contemporary Austrian blind-stamped white alum-tawed, skin, now faded to a tan color except where protected by the now missing metal furniture and title label, over wooden boards, from the cloister bindery of the Lambach Benedictines, sewn on four double sewing supports plus single supports (Kapitalbünde) at head and tail, the spine leather extending over the Kapitalbünde with perforated tabbed caps, an early textile ribbon bookmark knotted through one of the holes in the top extension, sides panelled with fillets, outer borders containing repeated impressions of small angled stick tools, large central panel with intersecting diagonal double fillets forming a saltire design, the interstices decorated with several tools including a rosette, palmette, quatrefoil, Ranke and star tool, evidence of removed center- and corner-pieces on both covers and of a parchment title label on upper cover, original small parchment label under the space for the title label with Lambach shelfmark “E.18” in red ink; two brass fore-edge catchplates on upper cover and two clasp-strap attachments on lower cover, the leather clasps fragmentary and lacking the metal hook clasps, the brass catchplates and one attachment stamped “Maria,” plain endpapers, vellum manuscript spine liners from a fifteenth-century rubricated bible (see below), plain endpapers, later stencilled paper lettering piece on spine (rubbed, some scrapes, some worming, especially to lower cover).
Provenance: Conrad Loher or Löher, 1499 presentation inscription to the Benedictines of Lambach: D[o]m[i]n[u]s Conradus Loher donauit hunc libru[m] Monasterio Lambacensi Anno d[omi]ni 1499; Lambach (Upper Austria), Benedictines, binding, shelfmark, inscribed identification of the work (full title and author) by the Lambach ?librarian on recto of initial blank leaf, with the number 37 in same hand; a couple of contemporary marginal notes in brown ink, a few manicules in outer margins in the same ink (ff. 14/6r, 27/7r, 28/5r, 29/2r, 30/6r, 31/4v, 31/5r and v); sold Hartung & Hartung, 14 May 2002, lot 150. ***
The eighth of 24 known incunable editions of this popular collection of 50 Lenten sermons, and the first of three Koberger editions. The author is identified in the printed editions as Johannes Gritsch, or Grütsch, Professor of Theology (or Law) at Basel, but the true author, as shown by A. Murith in 1940, is now thought to have been Grütsch’s brother Conrad, a Franciscan who served churches in Vienna, Zurich, and other locations in Alsace and Switzerland. Intended as a handbook for preachers, the sermons use exempla from the Bible and Church Fathers, as well as from secular medieval and classical sources, including Ovid, which may account for their huge popularity. The Verfasserlexikon notes the occasional use of Gerrman words and phrases in the Latin text. The work is organized by date, i,e., the Sundays throughout the year, and the 18-leaf subject Register of the two preliminary quires is keyed to both the Sunday (indicated by numbers in the headings and headlines) and the sections within each Sunday’s sermon, which are indicated by letters. As these letters are buried in the text in this edition, the rubricator of this copy took care to lightly mark the letters in the outer margins to assist the reader.
This very fine copy was probably rubricated and definitely bound in the monastic bindery of Lambach Abbey in Upper Austria, whose scriptorium was active from the 12th century. Lambach became a voracious buyer of books in the late 15th century, amassing a large number of printed books as well as manuscripts. A native of nearby Schwanenstadt, the local parish priest Conrad Loher or Löher (as spelled here) donated a group of manuscripts and printed books to the monastery in 1499. A number of these books were clearly bound in the monastic shop 20 or so years earlier, providing evidence that this large monastic bindery seems to have carried out work for customers outside the monastery (cf. Holter, p. 284). Similar inscriptions, all dated 1499, appear in the other books donated by Loher. The monastic inscription identifying the book, on the first blank leaf, appears to be in the same large rather spiky hand as the inscription in a Lambach incunable in the Morgan Library, PML 30218 (William of Ockham, In primum librum Sententiarum, [Urach: Conrad Fyner] 1483, Goff O-14). Approximately two-thirds of the Lambach books were later sold, or made their way to the Austrian National Library, mainly in the twentieth century.
The tools on this binding, many first inventoried by Kurt Holter in 1954, are Einbanddatenbank s015770 (rhombus with four-petalled blossom), s015799 (little angled stick), s015776 (palmette), s015793 (6-pointed star), s015773 (rosette), s015782 (Ranke or leafy branch with fruits), s015769 (Steinbock or mountain goat), and s015800 (a tiny fleur-de-lis). Several impressions of one or two diamond-shaped tools are too rubbed to identify. The binding is noteworthy for the perforated extensions of the leather or skin of the spine at the head and tail, known as “ tab caps” (see Ligatus, Language of Bindings website, http://www.ligatus.org.uk/lob/concept/3060), covering the Kapitalbünde (a distinctive feature of late 15th- and early 16th-century South German bookbindings). It appears that the perforations in the flaps may have been intended for other bookmarks, which would have made it easy for the reader to mark several pages at once. The textile bookmark attached to the top tabbed cap is “clearly early but looks to be an amateur addition making use of a convenient hole” (Nicholas Pickwoad, email correspondence) – our grateful thanks to Dr. Pickwoad for his invaluable comments on the binding material and structure.
The Lambach monastic bindery regularly dismembered old manuscripts from the Abbey scriptorium and re-used them in bindings. Many fragments of older Lambach manuscripts have been recorded, including those held by the Beinecke Library, the subject of an exhibition in 1993 (cf. Babcock, Reconstructing a medieval library: fragments from Lambach, New Haven, 1993). In the present example, the vellum spine liner is from a fifteenth-century folio manuscript Bible in a large gothic hand, in 32 lines (recto and verso), a few lines being apparently commentary in smaller script, this leaf from Genesis 42.13-14. The strip at the front of the text block is blank, being from the margin, the strip visible at the end of the text block has the beginnings of the lines of the recto side and ends of the lines of the verso. On the recto are 5 decorated initials of which 4 in alternating red and blue with contrasting filigree infill.
Goff G-494; BMC II 417 (with erroneous date 26 Feb. 1479); GW 11545. On Gritsch cf.Verfasserlexikon2 3:291-294; on the binding and provenance cf. Kurt Holter, “Zum gotischen Bucheinband in Österreich: Die Buchbinderwerkstatt des Stiftes Lambach,” Gutenberg Jahrbuch 1954: 280-289. Item #3177