Two books from our latest batch of incunabula include examples of those most frustrating of early ownership clues – unidentified coats of arms. Both are found in Italian books produced in the 1470s. We are convinced that ‘someone’ out there will immediately recognise these, so let’s take a look at each and wait with bated breath for the fruits of collective wisdom!
The first is in a book produced in Rome in 1474, a copy of Johannes Philippus de Lignamine’s edition of Italia illustrata by Flavius Blondus. The coat of arms is found some pages in, at the beginning of the preface following the work’s table of contents and dedicatory letter. It is incorporated into a pretty floral border, typical of 15th century book decoration; the page is further adorned by an illuminated ten line initial ‘C’. The coat of arms itself (which might possibly have been added separately from the rest of the page’s decoration) includes a stretched out red lion, somewhat reminiscent of a sausage dog. The earliest we know of this book’s provenance is that it was in France in the 18th century in the collection of Louise Jean Gaignat (1697-1768).
Our second mystery coat of arms consists of a shield within a pink disc (possibly representing a wax seal?) with another lion (but this time blue) who is wearing a gold crown (surely a clue!). It is found in our copy of Sallust’s Opera printed in Venice by Filippo di Pietro on 22 June 1478. The decorated opening page is less elaborate than our first example, but would certainly once have been more shiny and eyecatching, as the greyish hue of the shield is actually oxidised silver. It was also quite clearly painted by the same artist who was responsible for adding two major initials to the work, as can be seen from comparing its colours with the initial ‘O’ on the same page.
Thanks to an early inscription, we know that this book was owned by the Jesuits at the Bamberg College in Bavaria by 1619. Presumably this coat of arms therefore represents the earlier, possibly first, owner of the book. Was this another Bavarian owner, or did the book stay in Venice initially before travelling northwards?
Perhaps we will never know, but if we could identify the arms, we could perhaps fill in the gaps in the book’s history a little more …
The latest ten records to be fully indexed and described on the project website are:
- Statham, Nicholas: Abridgement of cases [Anglo-French of the law courts] [Rouen]: Guillaume Le Talleur, for Richard Pynson, [ca. 1488-90] [two copies]
- Caesar, Gaius Julius: Commentarii Treviso: Michael Manzolus, 30 June 1480
- Antoninus Florentinus: Summa theologica (Pars II) Venice: Franciscus Renner de Heilbronn, and Nicolaus de Frankfordia, 1474
- Blondus, Flavius: Italia illustrata Rome: Johannes Philippus de Lignamine, [not before 10] Dec. 1474
- Mesue, Johannes [pseudo-]: Opera medicinalia [Italian] [Modena]: Johannes Vurster, 25 June 1475
- Sallustius Crispus, Gaius: Opera [Venice]: Filippo di Pietro, 22 June 1478
- Crescentiis, Petrus de: Ruralia commoda Louvain: Johannes de Westfalia, [ca. 1483]
- Dioscorides: De materia medica [Greek] [Venice: Aldus Manutius, Romanus, post 8 July 1499]
- Psalterium [Latin and German] [Strassburg: Printer of Henricus Ariminensis (Georg Reyser?), ca. 1474]
Categories: Special Collections