The Grüninger Vergil –The First Illustrated Edition - An Annotated Copy in Original Pigskin

Vergilius Maro, Publius (70-19 B.C.)


Strasbourg: Johann Grüninger, 28 August 1502


Folio: 30 x 21.5 cm. A6, B-G8, HH+1, I-S8, T-V10, X-Z8; AA-VV8, XX6, YY-ZZ8, a-f8, aa-cc8, dd10


Illustrated with 214 large woodcut illustrations, including one double-page. Bound in contemporary half pigskin over wooden boards with a few defects, lacking clasps but with catches preserved. The pigskin is decorated in blind. The text is in overall fine condition with some light browning, minor repairs to the title, a few trivial stains, a single, pin-prick wormhole in the second half, and a few more on the final leaves. The upper blank corner of the final leaf is a bit rounded, not affecting text. The first "Eclogue", Books I-V of the "Aeneid", and the poem on the death of Maecenas have been annotated a contemporary reader. Provenance: extensive manuscript notes – Wittenberg (purchase record inscription dated 1509) – L.B. of Schellersheim (perhaps Friedmann Heinrich Christian Ludwig Freiherr of Schellersheim (1752-1836), collector of antiquities; inscription) – sold London, Sotheby’s, 1984, lot 257 – Schweinfurt, Otto Schäfer (monogram, bought in 1986).

The book, edited by Sebastian Brant, is extraordinary in the number and variety of its illustrations. “Grüninger’s artist applied to the work a skilled hand and a lively imagination."(Mortimer) There are 143 illustrations in the "Aeneid", 10 in the "Eclogues", 39 in the "Georgics", and 21 for the shorter and spurious poems. Another full-page woodcut graces the title page.

There is still debate over the artist who created the woodcuts, with Brant being the strongest candidate. "The subtle detail of the woodcuts would certainly escape the spectator who could not read the text and seem, rather, calculated to appeal to one whose familiarity with the poems would allow him to appreciate precise visual allusions. In several cases, Brant's work incorporates details drawn from the commentators' interpretations. As a humanistic scholar, he is said to have placed the stamp of his own thorough knowledge of Vergil upon the book by providing master sketches for the illustrators."(Eleanor Winsor Leach)

USTC 688629; VD16 V1332