Today, I looked at five books in later bindings covered with re used vellum manuscript leaves, I haven’t bought them (yet maybe), but it made me think about this interesting tradition. So I took a couple of pictures of two books from my stock which have these sort of bindings. Of course for me the bindings are sort of incidental, and I took some pictures of the titles, and the colophons, which reminded me of other traditions common to early printed books,but now and for a long time obsolete. The First book on the right, is really two books bound together, besides the binding there is little obvious reason these books are paired, excepting the size, and perhaps the person how had these bound together was just saving money, or space. This is the sort of context which interests me. This Sammelbände (a book comprising a number of separately printed works that are subsequently bound together) makes me wonder when and why?

The first book in this binding is

Historiarum et chronicorum totius mundi epitome, nunc demum accuratius recognita absolutaque ac praete infinita loca alphabetico insuper indice locupletata by Achilles Pirmin  Gasser, Printed in 1535 by Henri Petri. This book is a beautifuly printed chronology of the world, begining at the creation of the earth Ano ante Christu 5199 to Anni domini 1534. then there are a couple of blanks(original) then 64 pages of index Omnium, listing authors, inventions and kings.

Achilles Pirmin Gasser also known as Achilles Gassarus was born on 3 November 1505 in Lindau. By the age of 16 he had studied treatises by Pierre d’Ailly whilst receiving elementary education by Urbanus Rhegius. He studied astronomy in Wittenberg and Vienna under Philipp Melanchthon then Georg Tannstetter. He continued on with his education to engage in medical learning and became a renowned physician of the time. He was so renowned that he even attended at one point to Emperor Charles V. Somewhere along the life of Gasser he became friends with Sebastian Munster who “listed Achilles Pirmin Gasser as one of his collaborators in the Cosmographia” (Burmeister).

Aside from being a physician of the time he had multiple works that have been published that cover a variety of subjects from comets to the plague. One of the works that Gasser had published was a lecture titled “Elementale Cosmographicum” in 1539. The subject in this lecture is broken up into thirteen separate chapters. This publication covered astronomy and some geographic perceptions that Gasser approached by using the astronomical standpoint.

He was very interested in astronomy through his life. However, at the beginning, he taught the theory: “Terra in mundi medio sita, quemadmodum Strabo et caeteri ad unum omnes Geographi testantur’ (The earth is situated in the centre of the world – as testified by Strabo and others and, in accordance therewith, by all geographers)” (Burmeister). That is until he received a copy of Narratio prima which was written by Georg Joachim Rhetikus, another member of the community that Gasser made acquaintances with, that was published in 1540. This book covered the heliocentric theory of the universe originally put forth by Copernicus. Once Gasser received his copy of the book, he became a lecturer of the heliocentric theory as well.

Though he was a physician by trade and interested in Astronomy there was some work that Gasser did related to cartography, or map-making. He worked with Sebastian Munster on his Cosmographica for articles on Lindau, Feldkirch, Chur, and Augsnburg. He knew all these places intimately, having been born in Lindau, moved to Feldkrich and Chur and spent the last of his life is Augsnburg. Working with Munster on this stirred a new passion in Gasser. In 1534 he also worked on a map of Allgau. This map was temporarily lost so it was not able to be used in Munster Cosmographia, if that was what it was meant for in the first place. The map was found in 1893 lying in a cupboard under other papers.  This map was highly detailed and measures 328 mm long and 442 mm broad. Many of the symbols Gasser used are different than the others, for example for a tree he would draw something resembling a cross, one vertical line crossed by three horizontal lines (Siegrist). The map now sits in the University Library, Basel.

Though Gasser lived his life as a physician by trade he also dabbled in multiple other areas of interested and proved himself to conquer them. He became a lectern on Astronomy and even a cartographer later in life. Some of his works include Comet Observations, Historiam et Chronicum totis mundi epitome and Prognosticon. He also “prepared the first edition of the Epistola de magnete of Pierre de Maricourt” (Wikipedia). Gasser died on 4 December 1577 leaving a library of 2900 works, a good portion of which is preserved at the Vatican Library in Rome.


You can see from this title page there is no date or pinter on the title, this is not that unusual for books printed  in the first few decades of the sixteenth century,but there is a Colophon, which is this case is a name of the printer and date of the printing as the last few lines of the book.


This is curiously bound with Ioannis Climaci doctoris spiritualis abbatis in mote synai triginta gradus scale celestis, printed in 1518. I love the title of this book, the typography is great.


As you can see the Title page is just that the title and no more. Like manuscript produced before printed books, the need for a printer and a date of printing don’t obviously need to be stated. ( save that for after the work is finished) The Text of this book hardly has much worldly about it, making no easy link to the previous work, instead this is a spiritual /mystic journey (one of my favorite genres)

According to open library the work Ioannis Climaci was first published in 1518 by A Philippo Picio Mantuano impraessi ( let’s take a look at the colophon later )with subjects as Orthodox Eastern Authors, Spiritual Life with the author listed as Saint John meaning Saint John Climacus or John of the Ladder.  His dates are around the mid-6th century to the early 7th century, the exact dates are hard to pin down as all accounts vary slightly with the exact year but many seem to agree on the years 525-606.

He visited the Vatos Monastery (now Saint Catherine’s) on Mount Sinai at the age of sixteen. After his initial visit he was taught about spiritual living by Martyrius John. He removed himself to hermitage and lived that way for twenty years reading about the various saints of the Roman Catholic religion. For this reason he became one of the most learned doctors of the church. He eventually became abbot of the monastery as well. At the age of seventy he was asked by the monks on Sinai to become their head. The pope even sent money for the hospital at Sinai after hearing of his works. As he neared death at around seventy five he resigned from his position as head and secluded himself once again in hermitage to prepare for his death.

There is a story that during his time as a monk he had a disciple named Moses. One afternoon Moses went to fertilize the garden and fell asleep. Saint John is said to have had a vision of an angel asking why he was sleeping when Moses was in danger so John prayed. When Moses returned he told Saint John that a rock would have fallen on him had he not heard Saint John calling for him. Saint John kept this vision to himself but thanked God.

He is known to have written the Ladder of Divine Ascent composed at the request of the Abbot of Raithu. This work describes how to raise one’s soul and body to God through ascetic virtues. These virtures are set up as a ladder according to Saint John. On each tier there is something different to use for the furthering of religious consciousness. There are thrity of these tiers, or rungs where it is a ladder, and it is meant to represent the thrity years of Jesus Christ’s life that was hidden in the Bible. The important works that were attributed to Saint John were the ‘Scala [klimax] Pardisi” (where the surname comes from) and “Liber ad Pastorem’. ‘Scala’ was published multiple times in multiple different years. The earliest manuscript currently lies in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

So Here is the colophon:


So fron the colophon we can see that this IS Ioannis Climaci was first published in 1518 by A Philippo Picio Mantuano impraessi, Now lets find out if the Open Library is correct in stating that this is the first printed edition of this important work. …..

More Soon…