Ok maybe a big armful, or a large table full, or let’s just say five of my favorite books all with lots of images and long long descriptions.

  1. 353J Alberto da Castello Rosario della gloriosa Vergine Maria 1585
  2. 469J   Rabanus Maurus. De Laudib[us] sancte Crucis opus. 1503
  3. 500J Petrus de ROSENHEIM {Ars MEMORANDI.] Rationarium Euangelistarum 1502
  4. 263J Institutio Astronomica: Galilei Galilei Nuncius Sidereus; et Johannis Kepleri Dioptrice. 1653
  5. 511J Brant Stultifera navis 1489​


Castello, Alberto da Castello

Rosario della gloriosa Vergine Maria : con lle sttattiionii & iindullgenttiie delllle chiiese di Roma perr tutto L’’anno.


Venice: Presso la compagnia de gli Vniti, 1585. 

Over 150 woodcuts (including repeats) comprising almost full-page cuts (1 on t.p.) within borders. All had previously appeared in earlier editions. Ornamental and pictorial border pieces on almost every leaf. ( The wood cut on leaf 173v is upside. A later edition of the first rosary Book”” in Italian.” This book has a wonderful
contemporary binding,
recently expertly rebacked.
It is of red Morocco with gilt
center images and borders
gilt, with angels. Certainly, these books were very popular, that said, very few copies have survived. This edition is represented on OCLC by only two copies worldwide. 1 US copy Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University. (SJU Alcuin Arca Artium Rare BookBX2163 .C37 1585). [The authorship of the work and the woodcuts are attributable to the Dominican Friar Alberto da Castello, identified as author or editor at the authorizations of the Venecian Inquisition, given 5 April 1521. (Francesco Pisano)

Sander 6572-6573. See: Essling 2124. Item

The wood cuts represent the “Mysteries of the Rosary”
“From the beginning, publications on the Rosary came ac- companied by lavish xilographic illustrations. The most striking of these can be found in the edition of the Rosario della gloriosa Vergine Maria by Alberto da Castello from 1521 which contains a wealth of illustrations. This clearly shows that the Rosary was not just an oral recitation, but was also a contemplative prayer engaging the imagination, a combination later mirrored by the exercises of Ignatius of Loyola.
Alberto da Castello, born in the middle of the fifteenth century in Venice, joined the Dominican order around 1470 and wrote several devotional, liturgical, historical and canonical texts. In the Epistola prohemiale of his Rosario della gloriosa Vergine Maria he says that he wrote the meditations and organised the images ‘acciò che gli idioti che non sanno legere habbino el modo de contemplare gli divini beneficii et de questa contemplatione ne habbino qualche frutto spirituale’.( fol. 6r. ‘So that even the illiterate have a means to contemplate gifts from the divine and to receive spiritual fruits from such contemplation’ (translations are mine).He states that he writes especially for the ‘ignoranti, illetterati, idioti’, and that a good Christian must hold the mysteries of the Rosary deep in his heart. (Literary and Visual Forms of a Domestic Devotion: The Rosary in Renaissance Italy. Erminia Ardissino). [ URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1163/j.ctvbqs499.2.

III• >-<

Hrabanus Maurus 

469J   Rabanus Maurus. 784-856?

 Magnencij Rabani Mauri De Laudib[us] sancte Crucis opus. erudcione versu prosaq[ue] mirificum. edited by Jacobus Wimpheling.

Phorçheim. [Pforzheim : In ædibus Thom[ae] Anshelmi., 1503.     $24,000

Folio 31 x 21cm. signatures: Aa6 Bb4 a-k6; A, B6 C4. [Complete] Types 3:109R, 4:180G; 40 lines of transcribed verse + headline, 40 lines of commentary + headline, red and black printing throughout, calligraphic woodcut initial (Proctor, fig. 24) M on title page, woodcut initials printed in red, and a figured prefatory poem, 28 carmina figurata, the first entirely xylographic, the remaining poems combining printed and xylographic letters with the versus intexti printed in red (except fig. xvi), enclosed by either woodcut figures (of the emperor, Christ, the Evangelists, Cherubim, etc.) printed in black or by Christian symbols and characters, most defined by metal rules in red.

∞ This copy is bound in a quarter bound vellum  spine over a 15th century printed leaf of a part of Luke from a Latin Vulgate Bible over boards with central gilt arms of Signet Library to covers,  Provenance: Signet Library (gilt arms to covers); and then Alan G. Thomas .(one of my favorite booksellers)∞In this copy the final 3 signatures (part II) were supplied from another copy.

This book  is one of the most  remarkable typographical achievement (ever),  probably the earliest attempt to reproduce a medieval manuscript.

It is also as far as I have found the most complicated and successful  Carmina figuratum, {acrostic/ figurative/ shape {concrete} }  sustained   collection of poems  ever written.* 

“Hrabanus Maurus, the abbot of Fulda, wrote in the midst of the ‘new monasticism,’ a period associated with a revival of literacy and learning. In religious and secular spheres. This ‘script culture,’ as Rosamond McKitterick has it, used the written word not only as a mode of communication but as ‘a resource, a guide, a key, and an inspiration,’ especially in the devotional practice of Christianity. printed in red and black, Roman type, 2 woodcuts, one of the author presenting his book to Pope Gregory IV, the other of two monks kneeling before the Pope, 30 full-page xylographic and typographic figurative verses, the figures including Emperor Louis I, Christ, cherubs, crosses and symbols of the Evangelists, woodcut MAIBLUMEN INITIAL or Lombard initials in red, title with small marginal losses, strengthened at inner margin verso and soiled, occasional marginal worming, some water-staining and finger-marking.

Louis the Pious

It is one of the earliest books printed at Pforzheim and earliest examples of figurative poetry (carmina figurata).     Includes preliminary verses by Sebastian Brant, Wimpheling, Johann Reuchlin and Georg Simler.

 woodcuts of the author presenting his book to the pope, and many woodcut figures (Christ, cherubs, crosses, symbols, etc.) printed on 28 pages of text. Some of the text within and near the outline figures is xylographic, the rest printed. The letters within the outlines are printed in red and may be read separately in a different sense. Printed in red and black, initials (except on t.p.) in red.

Many woodcut initials printed in red, two woodcuts of Alcuin interceding on behalf of Rabanus before Pope Gregory iv, and of Rabanus presenting his poems to the Pope; a figured dedicatory poem to Louis the Pious and a figured prefatory poem, 28 carmina figurata, the first entirely xylographic, the remaining poems combining printed and xylographic letters with the versus intexti printed in red (except fig. xvi), enclosed by either woodcut figures (of the emperor, Christ, the Evangelists, Cherubim, etc.) printed in black or  by Christian symbols and characters, most defined by metal rules in red.

This is a spectacular collection of poems all centered on veneration and meditation upon the cross.

“Hrabanus created  the various shapes and figures by highlighting individual letters in underlying poens in colour (in the printed editions red), and theses individual letters together make up meaningful text , ranging from simple declarations to very elaborate ones.  For example, Carmina 2 contains a simple cross inside a square (Hrabanus calls it a “tetragonum”)whose sides form a border for the poem as a whole. The text from the underlying poem that makes up the figure consists of six hexameters, each one an address to the cross beginning with the words ‘O crux…’ When we follow Hrabanus’s instruction in the accompanying prose text for reading these hexameters, we find the following: even though the verse that forms the top of the square is also the opening of the underlying poem, he insists that we begin reading with the stem of the cross, from top to bottom.” (Schipper)

Sunt quoque uersus duo in ipsa ccruceconscripti, quorum prior est:


a summo in ima descendens. Alter uero:


a dextra in sinistram crucis tendens ‡

‡“there are also two verses inscribed in the cross, The first of which is :

“ O cross , thou who art at the height of fame, a dedicated moment”

running from the top down.  And a second;

“O Cross thou who through the body of Christ art the blessed triumph”

running from the right to the left.”

Further more Hrabanus flips left and right the texts point of view alternates , Hrabanus tells us the cross is looking out at the reader, not the other way around. “ Only after we have read the hexameters in the cross are we free to read the verses in the four sides of the tetragon, and even then Hrabanus constrains the order in which they are to be read: first the top, then the bottom, then the right side then finally the left side.”

More complex figures present further challenges in reading. The figure in Carmen 25, for example, consists of eight letters of the word ‘ALLEVIA’ arranged around a small cross. It does not take much effort to notice that we need to start with the A, read down to the E, continue on the left, and end on the right of the figure; and that each time we trace out those letters we make the sign of the cross. It becomes more difficult when we also try and read the text that is enclosed in the figures. The letters of ALLEVIA are made of the following letters from the underlying poem.

                                                          A  crux[a

L  eter

L  na[de

         E  i]es[lave[v

L  ivis

V  in]arc

I   e]po

A  lorvm


‡ Eternal cross, thou art the praise of God, thou livest in the arc of the skies.

Peter Godman, Poetry of the Carolingian Renaissance (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), 249.

G. Rigg and G. R. Wieland, ‘A Canterbury Classbook of the Mid-eleventh CenturyAnglo-Saxon England 4 (1974), 113-30.

William Schipper, ‘Hrabanus Maurus in Anglo-Saxon England: In Honorem Sanctae Crucis’, in Early Medieval Studies in Memory of Patrick Wormald, ed. Stephen Baxter, Catherine Karkov, Janet L. Nelson, David Pelteret (Farnham, Surrey; Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2009), 283-98.

IV• >(o)<

500J Petrus de ROSENHEIM(1380-1433)..  (& Sebastian Brant (1458-1521);  Georg Simler aka Relmisius)

[ARS MEMORANDI.] Rationarium Euangelistarum : omnia in se euangelia: prosa. uersu. imaginibusq[ue] q[ue] mirifice co[m]plecte[n]s

Thomas Anshelm, Pforzheim, 1502.      $17,000

Quarto  8 x 5 3/4  inches:   a-c6 with 15 full-page mnemonic woodcuts. Now attributed to the “Meister der Pforzheimer Druckerei” Bound in modern vellum. FIRST EDITION

A wonderfully illustrated and curious book, based on the 15th century block-book “Ars Memorandi”, with the 15 woodcuts A series of Latin verses from Petrus von Rosenheim’s (who was, prior of the Benedictine monastery of Melk) “Roseum memoriale” accompanies each of the full-page woodcuts.


The Ars memorandi, which is one of the oldest and most curious mnemonic treatises. The cuts are reduced adaptions from the early block-book Ars Memorandi editions. The prose text is practically the same, but these small quarto editions have the addition of Latin verse in couplets. It was intended for clerics and was to facilitate their learning of the main Greek biblical passages in its mnemotechnical processes.  The iconography offers strange allegorical representations of the Evangelists, each of them constituting innumerable instruments, objects and symbols.Each couplet commences with a different letter in the order of the alphabet (omitting K, X, Y, Z, but including vowel I). These letters correspond to the numbers that appear on the cuts, and together form a method of memorizing the events of the Scripture as told by each of the Evangelists.IMG_1656

“The woodcuts of the Ars Memorandi contain some of the most curious images ever printed. An eagle displays a pair of embracing lovers on its breast; an angel, a sack of grain perched on his head, carries a blazing sun in one hand and a figure of the Christ Child in the other. The oddity of these pictures, however, had its purpose. The eagle and the angel, as well as the lion and the ox, are symbols of the four Evangelists, and the additional objects or figures refer to specific events in the Gospels. These woodcuts, together with the accompanying text, were an aid for the reader in memorizing the events of the life of Christ”

IMG_1657Simler’s preface appears on the next leaf. There are fifteen full-paged woodcuts. Each is dominated by one of the Evangelists’ symbols with details that allude to events in Christ’s life. Each facing page contains the explanatory prose with numbers corresponding to the details on the cuts.  Below the prose are the Latin distichs by Peter von Rosenheim. ….The Ars Memorandi, one of the most remarkable early mnemonic works,and  is extremely rare.” (This quote is from the introduction of the first complete reproduction of the Ars Memorandi (1981) by Roger S. Wieck, Assistant Curator of Printing and Graphic Arts of the Houghton Library at Harvard University)

The purpose was twofold: first, a method of memorizing the contents of each Gospel by means of woodcut figures worked into compact symbolical form; second, a method by IMG_1660which the priest might instruct those who could not read, using the accompanying key in explainingthe pictures to the illiterate. Of the cuts, 3 are for St. John’s Gospel, 5 for St. Matthew’s, 3 for St. Mark’s, and 4for St. Luke’s. Each is constructed with one great figure in the back-ground, on whose arms, legs, head, body, etc. are crowded the other symbols. Thus the background for the St. John is a Phoenix. Such curious objects appear as a leper’s clappers. money changers’ dishes, and early musical instruments.

Thomas Anshelm was active as a printer circa 1488-1516, and worked at Strassburg (1488), Tubingen (1511), Hagenau (1516) and introduced printing at Pforzheim in 1500.

Adams P-926; Brunet I: 499-500; VD 16 P 1909; STC 687;Panzer VIII, 230, 20; Proctor 11761. –see Fairfax Murray German 43 (1503 edition).


V• )(*)(

Galileo’s “Starry Messenger” and Kepler’s “Dioptrice” Two of the Most Important Books in Early Observational Astronomy


263J Gassendi, Pierre (1592-1655); Galilei, Galileo (1564-1642); Kepler, Johannes (1571-1630)

Petri Gassendi Institutio Astronomica: Juxta Hypotheseis tam Veterum quàm Recentiorum. Cui accesserunt Galilei Galilei Nuncius Sidereus; et Johannis Kepleri Dioptrice. Tertia editio prioribus Correctior.

London: Jacob Flesher for William Morden, 1653.                                           $14,000


Octavo: 18.3 x 11.8 cm. 3 parts in one volume: [16], 199, [1]; 173, [1] p., 4 leaves of plates. Collation: A-N8, O4; A-L8 (including the final blank leaf)

SECOND EDITION THUS, Fourth edition overall of Gassendi

A nice copy in contemporary, blind-ruled English calfskin, rebacked.    The first title page is printed in red and black. Galileo’s “Sidereus Nuncius” and Kepler’s “Dioptrice” are introduced by separate title pages.  The text is illustrated with astronomical woodcuts including images of the moon, showing its uneven, mountainous surface as discerned by Galileo through the telescope and four full-paged woodcut illustrations of stars (the Pleiades, Orion’s belt, the Praesepe and Orion Nebulas.)


Gassendi’s “Institutio Astronomica,” has been called the first modern astronomy textbook. It is divided into three sections: the first details the so-called theory of the spheres, the second describes astronomical theory, and the third discusses the conflicting ideas of Brahe and Copernicus.

The present edition is important for the inclusion of two seminal works of telescopic astronomy: Galileo’s “Sidereus Nuncius” (first ed. Venice, 1610), in which announces his discovery of Jupiter’s moons, and Kepler’s “Dioptrice” (first ed. Augsburg, 1611), Kepler’s brilliant explanation of how the telescope works.Galileo’s Discoveries with the Telescope:”Galileo’s ‘Starry Messenger’ contains some of the most important discoveries in scientific literature. Learning in the summer of 1609 that a device for making distant objects seem close and magnified had been brought to Venice from Holland, Galileo soon constructed a spy-glass of his own which he demonstrated to the notables of the Venetian Republic, thus earning a large increase in his salary as professor of mathematics at Padua. Within a few months he had a good telescope, magnifying to 30 diameters, and was in full flood of astronomical observation.

”Through his telescope Galileo saw the moon as a spherical, solid, mountainous body very like the earth- quite different from the crystalline sphere of conventional philosophy. He saw numberless stars hidden from the naked eye in the constellations and the Milky Way.

Version 2

Above all, he discovered four new ‘planets’, the satellites of Jupiter that he called (in honor of his patrons at Florence) the Medicean stars. Thus Galileo initiated modern observational astronomy and announced himself as a Copernican. (Printing and the Mind of Man)


Kepler’s Explanation of the Telescope:”In order that the enormous possibilities harbored in the telescope could develop, it was necessary to clear up the theoretical laws by which it worked. And this achievement was reserved solely for Kepler. With the energy peculiar to him, inside of a few weeks, in the months of August and September of the same year, 1610, he composed a book tracing basically once and for all the laws governing the passage of light through lenses and systems of lenses. It is called ‘Dioptrice’, a word that Kepler himself coined and introduced into optics. […]”In problem 86 in which he shows ‘how with the help of two convex lenses visible objects can be made larger and distinct but inverted’ he develops the principle on which the astronomical telescope is based, the discovery of which is thus tied up with his name for all time. Further on follows the research into the double concave lens and the Galilean telescope in which a converging lens is used as objective and a diverging lens as eyepiece. By this suitable combination Kepler discovers the principle of today’s telescopic lens. Even this scanty account sows the epoch-making significance of the work. It is not an overstatement to call Kepler the father of modern optics because of it. (Max Caspar, “Kepler”, pp. 198-199) Kepler’s work is also the first to announce Galileo’s discovery that Venus has phases like the moon.

Wing G293; Cinti 155; Sotheran, I p. 75 (1476); cf. PMM 113 and Dibner, Heralds of Science, #7 (the 1610 edition)

VI•. )))∞(((

The Ship of Fools – With Illustrations attributed to Albrecht Dürer
Brant, Sebastian (1458-1521); Dürer, Albrecht (1471-1528), attributed artist. Locher, Jacob (1471-1528), translator.

Stultifera navis. [Translated from German by Jacobus Locher Philomusus in collaboration with the author.]

Basel: Johann Bergmann de Olpe, 1 March, 1498.

Price: $60,000.00

Chancery quarto: 20 x 14.8 cm. 163 leaves (of 164, without final blank). Foliation: CXLIIII, [4], CXLV- CLIX, [1, blank and lacking]). Collation: a-s8, [long s]4, t-y4 (-y4 blank).


Illustrated with the original woodcuts of the first German edition (1494), of which the majority (73) are often attributed to Albrecht Dürer. Bound in 18th c. blindstamped pigskin over wooden boards, soiled, clasps intact, edges minor repairs. A nice, unpressed copy with a small defect to the title woodcut, only affecting some of the fine lines in the water, which have been deftly restored in ink. Some folio numbers shaved in the upper margin, one leaf with loss to lower blank margin, closed interior tear affecting one leaf; occ. toning or light stains. Provenance: Edward Powell (18th c. armorial bookplate).

The text is illustrated with 120 woodcuts, two with decorative borders, often attributed to Albrecht Dürer, two eponymous artists (the Haintz Narr Meister, the Gnad-Her Meister) and perhaps several other artists. This edition includes additional woodcuts not present in the 1494 German original. The title page woodcut shows the fools in their ship. Bergman’s ornate printer’s device appears beneath the colophon.

Brant first published his “Narrenschiff” at Basel in 1494; a second, enlarged German edition appeared the following year and this served as the basis for the Latin translation by Jacob Locher, “Stultifera Naus”, first published in 1497 (the year in which Locher was named poet laureate by Maximilian I.) Those publications were followed by this enlarged Latin edition, edited by Locher, expanded with additional poems by Brant and Thomas Beccadelli.

The attribution of the woodcuts to Dürer is still speculative. For arguments in favor of the attribution, see Winkler, Dürer und die Illustrationen zum Narrenschiff (1951); Lemmer, Die Holzschnitte zu Sebastian Brants Narrenschiff (1964), and R. Schoch, M. Mende, A. Scherbaum, eds, “Albrecht Dürer: das druckgraphische Werk”, Bd. 3: ‘Buchillustrationen’ (München: 2004), pp. 86-127. For a recent critique of the attribution, see Peter Schmidt in “Der Frühe Dürer” (The Early Dürer), Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 24 May-2 September (exhibition catalogue, Nuremberg 2012.). Schramm attributes them to a “Meister der Bergmannschen Offizin”, an anonymous artisan in Bergmann’s print shop (Schramm, Vol. 22. p. 29, plates 147-177)

The book is also notable for containing the earliest literary reference to the discover of America: Hesperie occiduere rex Ferdinandus, in alto Aequore nunc gentes repperit innumeras” (leaf k4v.)

“The ‘Ship of Fools’ is the most important of a long line of moralizing works in which the weaknesses and vices of mankind are satirized as follies. The tradition goes back to early medieval times both in England and on the Continent (Lydgate’s ‘Order of Fooles and Wireker’s ‘Speculum stultorum’). It was the first original work by a German which passed into world literature… and helped to blaze the trail that leads from medieval allegory to modern satire, drama and the novel of character.

“In a ship laden with one hundred fools, steered by fools to the fools’ paradise of Narragonia, Brant satirizes all the weakness, follies and vices of his time. Composed in popular humorous verse and illustrated by a remarkable series of woodcuts… the book was an immediate success. Brant’s purpose was a moral one: he wanted to improve the life of his contemporaries and to help in the regeneration of the Holy Roman Empire and the Church. The follies of the clergy did not escape his censure… [In Brant’s work, there is a foretaste of the movement of reformation.] Incidentally, the book also contains the earliest literary reference to the discovery of America; the Columbus Letter had been published by the same printer the year previously.

“The influence of ‘The Ship of Fools’ was extensive and prolonged: thirty-six editions were published between 1494 and 1513… Its most immediate imitators were Geiler von Kaisersberg, Thomas Murner, Hans Sachs and Johannes Fischart in Germany, where the ‘Narr’ as a type has lived until today. Erasmus’s ‘Moriae Encomium’ was directly inspired by it.”(PMM 37)

The book impressed Brant’s learned contemporaries, including such diverse figures as Johannes Trithemius, who compared Brant to Dante and opined, “[Brant] should not have called his book a ‘Ship of Fools’ but rather a ‘Divina Satira’, and the humanist Jacob Wimpheling, who observed, “[Brant’ has interspersed [his book] so adroitly with stories, fables, and the wisdom of the greatest masters that I do not believe you can find a comparable book in our language.”

Brant’s student and the translator of the “Ship”, the poet Jacob Locher, linked Brant’s work with the Roman satirists, Horace, Persius, and Juvenal. Badius Ascensius, who published Erasmus’ “Praise of Folly” and wrote a work inspired by Brant, “the Ship of Foolish Women’, stressed this same connection when he wrote, “[Brant] teaches and castigates the infatuated and the foolish who are infinite in number, with his witty and pleasantly readable argumentation, so that they are attracted by his sharp and humorous conversational tone and do not notice that they themselves are the butts of his satire, until he has already crept in on them and is playing with their innermost feelings [as Persius observed about Horace.] Thus he makes them regain their minds and forces them to accept the opinions of the wise, provided that there is any possibility of improvement in them.”.

ISTC ib01091000; H 3751*; GW 5062; BSB-Ink B-821; Bod-inc B-513; Goff B-1091