Letters in Wood

Collectors of blockbooks


Watermark in Bodleian

Xylographic printing

Xylographic printing

The text of this indulgence, of which the Bodleian holds four copies, was printed from a single wooden block in the same way as pages of a blockbook. The text is known to have been published earlier, in movable type, by another printer; in this case xylographic printing came after the typographic version of the indulgence. Numerous copies are known to survive, all with a blank space for the name of the recipient, showing that they were never sold. Many of these have survived in bookbindings from the Franciscan convent in Munich.

XYL-34 (1), (2), (3), (4)

Sixtus IV, Pont. Max.: Forma Confessionalis et Absolutionis ad Opus Sanctae Cruciatae, 1482
The Forma confessionalis of 1482 records the right of the recipient, whose name is to be added by hand, to be granted the plenary indulgence instituted by Pope Sixtus IV in his bull Domini et Salvatoris (4 Dec. 1480) after the capture of Otranto by the Turks. It is followed by the Forma absolutionis. The letter of indulgence was printed many times, with almost identical wording, in the years 1482 and 1483.

Xylographic printing [opens new window]

[Augsburg: Johann Blaubirer, 1482]. Single-leaf woodcut with Latin text. 23 lines.

The xylographic edition is an exact copy of the typographic indulgence [Nuremberg: Friedrich Creussner, 1482]. At one time this edition was wrongly thought to be a forgery. It is assigned here to the workshop of Johann Blaubirer in Augsburg on the basis of the paper, which has a distinctive scales watermark, identical with the paper stock used for Sixtus IV, Summarium indulgentiarum bullae apostolicae contra Turcos [Augsburg: Johann Blaubirer, after 4 Dec. 1480] (S-237). A copy of S-237 was preserved as a pastedown in the same binding as that from which XYL-34(2) and XYL-34(3) were removed, of Bod-inc A-344, part III.

FIRST COPY XYL-34(1) Shelfmark: Arch. B b.5(1a).

SECOND COPY XYL-34(2) This is one of two copies removed in Apr.1918 from the binding of Auct.4Q inf.1.8: Antoninus Florentinus, Summa theologica, part III (Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 26 Jan. 1478)(A-344, part III). Shelfmark: Arch. B b.5(1b).

THIRD COPY XYL-34(3) This is one of two copies removed in Apr.1918 from the binding of Auct.4Q inf.1.8. Shelfmark: Arch. B b.5(1c).

FOURTH COPY XYL-34(4) Shelfmark: Broxb. 95.8.