The "Ship of Fools" - With More than 100 Woodcuts by Tobias Stimmer

Brant, Sebastian (1457-1521); Locher, Jakob (1471-1528); Stimmer, Tobias (1539-1584)

Stultifera navis mortalium .. per Iacobum Locher Latinitati donatus.

Basel: Sebastian Henricpetri, March 1572


Octavo: 17.5 x 11 cm. 16 lvs. (last 2 blank), 284 p., 2 leaves (the last blank). Collation: [alpha]-[beta]8, a-s8 ([beta]7-8 and s8 blank and present)


Bound in contemporary blind-stamped calf over wooden boards, lacking clasps, discreet repair at head of spine. Title worn and soiled, inner margin strengthened, final leaf backed. The text is otherwise very clean throughout. There are 2 early (one 16thc., one 17thc.) ownership inscriptions on the title, one of them illegible due to wear. A third inscription, on the title verso, records the purchase of this book in 1605. Other annotations appear on the verso of the final text leaf. An original pastedown, rather worn and tattered, has been preserved and has yet more annotations.

Sebastian Brant's celebrated 1494 "Das Narrenschiff" ("Ship of Fools)", in the Latin translation (1497) of Jakob Locher. This is the first edition to include the fine woodcuts of Tobias Stimmer.

"Peter Paul Rubens described Tobias Stimmer's woodcuts as 'a special jewel of our art,' and Stimmer's fame in fact spread primarily through prints. The son of a schoolmaster and artist, Stimmer had at least five brothers who were artists. From 1565 he owned a workshop in Schaffhausen, designing everything from banners to escutcheons. Unfortunately, many of his paintings were large decorative schemes now destroyed and known only from drawings and written sources. His first major commission, frescoing the facade of a fine house, now reconstructed, shows Stimmer as a proud and majestic artist. He also painted portraits that display his interest in the sitter's psychology. In 1570 Stimmer moved to Strasbourg, where he illustrated anti-Catholic books and pamphlets, created chiaroscuro woodcuts, and made portraits. He also designed decorations for Strasbourg Cathedral's astronomical clock and was considered an authority on architecture and geometry. He widely influenced Swiss artists of the 1570s and 1580s, including Daniel Lindtmayer."(Getty)

"The exhibition Spätrenaissance am Oberrhein, which took place at the Kunstmuseum in Basel in 1984, and its catalogue first exposed Stimmer’s oeuvre to a large audience and was a cornucopia of late Renaissance art from the upper-Rhine-region. It made clear Stimmer’s prominent and outstanding achievement as a painter, draughtsman and printmaker amongst his contemporaries…


"Without exception, Stimmer as a printmaker was an illustrator. He provided designs for woodcuts, which were then carved, more or less successfully, by specialized block-cutters. Stimmer collaborated with Christoph Murer (1558-1614), who was twenty years his junior, and who also explored the medium of etching, for some years in Strasbourg. Only a few years after Stimmer’s death, engraving took over as the dominant medium for illustration. Nevertheless, Stimmer’s artistic output during the latter half of the 16th century has left a prominent and lasting mark. His stupendous ability to represent scenes in a highly dramatic way is not only evident in some of his drawings, but can equally be detected in his book-illustrations… He did not turn to his Mannerist contemporaries for inspiration, but rather harked back to the famous masters Dürer and Holbein who had produced art half a century earlier."(Publishers of the Hollstein series)

Brant first published his "Narrenschiff", in German, in 1494 at Basel; a second, enlarged German edition appeared the following year and this served as the basis for Jacob Locher's Latin translation, "Stultifera Naus” of 1497.

VD16, B 7081; BM STC, German Books p. 147; Adams B 2673; For Stimmer, see Geelhaar, Stimmer 1984 54; Andresen, Der Deutsche Peintre-Graveur 1864-78, III.210.1