Close BB-1 Apocalypse

[Edition I/II state II]. Incipit: ‘Conuersi ab ydolis p(er) predicatione(m) b(ea)ti joha(n)nis drusiana (et) ceteri’. A cycle of 96 (or 92) pictures illustrating the Apocalypse, arranged in two registers on 50 (or 48) leaves, except for the full-page representations on pls 3(5)–5(7) and 32(32)–33(33) (Schreiber’s counting), and deriving from the tradition of the English illustrated Apocalypse manuscripts. The blockbook can be associated with a group of manuscripts known as the ‘picture-book’ Apocalypses, in which the revelations granted to St John the Evangelist on Patmos are framed by scenes portraying his persecution, banishment, miracles, last mass, and death (pls 1(1)–2(2), (3)–(4), 47(49)–48(50)), and which also contain, as an interpolation, a series of scenes from the life of Antichrist (pls 15(17)(b)–17(19)). These manuscripts, like the blockbook editions, lack the continuous text and commentary, but have short blocks of Latin text incorporated into the pictures, often inscribed on banderoles or charters. The inscriptions are mostly biblical, or derived from the Berengaudus commentary (with a few additions from the later commentary tradition). The most important ‘picture-book’ manuscripts are Brussels BR, Ms. IV. 834 (model sheet); London BL, Add. MS. 19896 (copied from blockbook edition I/II); Add. MS. 38121; London Wellcome Institute, MS. 49; Manchester JRL, MS. 19; Moscow SL, ин. 1678 / Berlin Kupferstichkab, Inv. 1237 (cuttings); New York PML, M. 524; New York NYPL, Ms. 15; Oxford Bodley, MS. Auct. D. 4. 17. Schreiber distinguishes six editions of the blockbook, of which I and II, being printed from the same blocks, are better described as two states of a single edition I/II (cf. Kristeller, Apokalypse, 6). State I was printed before signatures were added to the blocks, and also lacks pls (3) and (4). These two plates, whose content forms an essential part of the narrative of St John’s banishment to Patmos, are anomalous in that, although evidently the work of one of the three wood engravers thought to have been responsible for the original set of 48 plates (Kristeller’s ‘Meister III’, Apokalypse, 18–19), they repeat the signature ‘a’ of pls 1(1)–2(2). It seems likely that they were wanting in the manuscript model for edition I/II state I, and only became available to the designers of the blockbook subsequently. The illustrations contained on these two plates are also omitted in two Apocalypse manuscripts that are particularly close to the blockbook tradition, Wellcome MS. 49 and NYPL Ms. 15. Schreiber suggests that there could have been an intermediate state of 48 plates, with signatures, printed before the two extra leaves were added, and draws attention to the Bodleian copy as the only witness to state II that lacks these leaves. Purpus postulates four states of edition I/II: A (48 plates, without signatures – no copies extant), B (the same, but with an excision in line 4 of the text on plate 45(47) – Manchester copy), C (48 plates, with signatures and the excision – Bodleian copy?), D (50 plates, with signatures and the excision – all other copies). As will be shown below, the paper stocks used for the Bodleian copy are late, and the deterioration of the blocks shows that this copy must have been printed at a later date than the complete, or near complete, 50–leaf copies in Munich UB and New York, effectively ruling out the hypothesis that the Bodleian copy represents an earlier state. It is not evident for what reason the two anomalous plates were rejected or discarded in this copy. Pls (3) and (4) are also lacking in edition IV, and in its derivatives V and VI, which must therefore most likely have been based on an early state of edition I/II. Whereas the order of the 25 bifolia that make up edition I/II state II is determined by the alphabetical signatures, there is considerable variation in the arrangement of facing pages in the different extant copies. These differences could be due to uncertainty about the sequence of the facing plates on the part of the printers, as the individual plates appear to have been printed from separate blocks (Kristeller, Apokalypse, 5; Donati ‘Libri xilografici’, 213–14), or to transposition of the printed pages in individual copies of the blockbook in more recent times. There are major disruptions to the biblical sequence of the revelations in all copies of this edition, most notably in the ordering of the seven seals (pls 8(8)–7(11)), and in the sequences 21(20)–19(23)(Apo 11,15–12,7) and 42(37)–27(43)(Apo 18,1–20,9, 14,6–10). For facsimiles of edition I/II, see Kristeller, Apokalypse; Müller and Lengenfelder, fiche 5 (both reproducing the Munich UB copy of state II). For a transcription of the text, see Kristeller, Apokalypse, 27–55. For a concordance of signatures and the numbering systems used by Schreiber and Kristeller, see Müller and Lengenfelder 52.

refs.A. Firmin Didot, Des Apocalypses figurées manuscrites et xylographiques: Deuxième appendice au Catalogue raisonné des Livres de la Bibliothèque (Paris, 1870); Dutuit I 101–54; Schreiber, ‘Holztafeldrucke’; Schreiber, Manuel, IV 160–216; Hind I 218–24; T. Musper, ‘Die Urausgabe der Apokalypse’, Die graphischen Künste, n.F. 2 (1937), 81–5; Musper, ‘Urausgaben’; Bing, ‘Apocalypse’; L. Donati, ‘Osservazioni sperimentali sull’Apocalisse xilografica (I–II, III)’, Bibliofilia, 58 (1956), 85–124; Donati, ‘Nota supplementare alle osservazioni sull’Apocalisse xilografica (I–II, III)’, Gb Jb (1958), 47–8; Musper, Urausgaben (facsimile); E. Fischer, ‘Johannes Aabenbaring som blokbog’, Fund og forskning i det Kongelige Biblioteks samlingar, 9 (1962), 9–37, 187–9; Donati, ‘Libri xilografici’, 207–15, 230–4, 250–1; Donati, ‘L’Apocalissi’; L. von Wilckens, ‘Hinweise zu einigen frühen Einblattholzschnitten und zur Blockbuchapokalypse’, Anzeiger des Germanischen Nationalmuseums (1978), 7–23; R. Emmerson and S. Lewis, ‘Census and Bibliography of Medieval Manuscripts containing Apocalypse Illustrations ca. 800–1500’, parts I, II and III, Traditio, 40 (1984), 337–79, 41 (1985), 367–409, 42 (1986), 443–72; Blockbücher des Mittelalters, 396–9, 430–2; Purpus, ‘Blockbücher der Apokalypse’; Purpus, ‘Die Vorläufer der Blockbücher der Apokalypse’, in Blockbücher des Mittelalters, 99–118; S. Lewis, Reading Images: Narrative Discourse and Reception in the Thirteenth-Century Illuminated Apocalypse (Cambridge, 1995); N. Morgan, ‘A Model Sheet of Apocalypse Drawings, the Fifteenth-century Netherlandish and German Manuscript Apocalypses, and the Early Block Books’, in New Offerings, Ancient Treasures. Studies in Medieval Art for George Henderson, ed. P. Binski and W. Noel (Stroud, 2001), 389–414; J. Hamburger, in Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at the New York Public Library (in press: Turnhout, 2005), with a description of NYPL, Ms. 15.

 [Netherlands or Germany, mid-1460s, impression c.1466–70]. Chancery folio.

  A complete copy of edition I/II state II has 50 leaves, all with woodcuts and xylographic text printed on one side of the paper. Collation: [1–252]. Each plate appears to have been engraved on an individual block, with the grain running vertically, and printed in pairs. Pairs of signatures, consisting of the letters a, a (repeated), b–u, x–y, +, and ×, have been added in the upper register on the facing pages of every bifolium. The Manchester JRL (Spencer) copy is the unique witness to state I. State II is known from 2 complete copies, in Munich BSB and New York PierpMorg. In addition there are 7 imperfect copies, including the Bodleian copy (48 leaves) and those in Glasgow UL (32 leaves), The Hague MMW (38 leaves), Munich UB (48 leaves, two leaves double), Paris BnF (38 leaves), Louvre (42 leaves), and St Petersburg NL (30 leaves); fragments in Dresden LB (2 leaves), New Haven Beinecke (1 leaf), New York PML (10 leaves), Paris BnF (2 single leaves from different copies). The dating and localization of the blockbook editions have been the subject of controversy. The extreme position postulated by Musper, who dated the Apocalypse to c.1420, plus or minus a decade, and followed the Netherlandish scholarship of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in situating the early blockbook production in Haarlem, has found no favour in more recent studies. Musper’s claim, on stylistic grounds, that the editio princeps is edition III, rather than I/II, has similarly found no acceptance. The Manchester copy of state I of Apocalypse I/II is datable on watermark evidence to c.1450/2 (Stevenson 240–1, see Fischer, ‘Johannes Aabenbaring’, plate p. 24; PiccP V 351–77 [1450–5] and one further attestation in the Wasserzeichenkartei Piccard, Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart Best. J 340, not included in the printed volumes, apparently identical with PiccP V 373, on paper used in Louvain in 1450 [ex informatione Peter Rückert]). The numerous copies of state II, however, document the reuse of the blocks more than ten years later, perhaps not before the mid-1460s. The anchor watermark of the Paris BnF copy, which U. Baurmeister dates to c.1462, is combined in the Bodleian copy with the datable shield-of-Troyes watermark from c.1466 and bull’s head watermarks attested in the Netherlandish Speculum humanae salvationis, weakening the case for an early date for state II. Kristeller dates the blocks, on the basis of a comparison with a woodcut Mass of St Gregory (Schr. 1462, Schreiber, Handbuch, XI pl. 69) and a group of woodcuts now in Cologne (Schr. 602, 1790, and 1168, Schreiber, Handbuch, XI pl. 68), to the period before the mid-century, and contemplates a dating of c.1425 on the basis of the style of costume (Kristeller, Apokalypse, 24). More recent scholarship has placed the woodcut style in the 1440s (Purpus, ‘Blockbücher der Apokalypse’, 94). There is no firm evidence to suggest that the blockbook Apocalypse emerged significantly earlier than c.1450. The blocks and the early Manchester copy are likely, on stylistic grounds as well as on paper evidence, to be Netherlandish. The provenances of the surviving copies of state II, however, point to distribution, and thus possibly production, in Germany. That the Bodleian copy, like all but one of edition III, is uncoloured is a weak indicator that it might be Netherlandish rather then German; Schreiber suggests Cologne, Aachen, or Liège as the likely places of production for this edition. The use of a very precisely identifiable paper stock that was also available to the printer of the Dutch Speculum humanae salvationis makes it very likely that this copy was printed in the Netherlands, most likely in a centre such as Louvain or Utrecht. The use of a common watermark in three different blockbooks, as documented below, indicates that the revival of edition I/II state II in the 1460s took place in a workshop which was in a position to print and market the Apocalypse alongside examples of more recent blockbook production such as Biblia pauperum edition III and Canticum canticorum edition I.

ills. Heinecken, Idée, pl. 11; Sotheby I pls I (Manchester copy), II–III (Bodleian copy); Schreiber, Manuel, VII pl. L (Munich BSB copy); VIII pl. LXXVIII (Manchester copy); Bouchot II no. 186 pl. 105 (Paris BnF, Estampes Ea 5 rés. boîte 13); Kristeller, Apokalypse, pls VI and IX (Munich BSB copy); Sotheby’s catalogue, 18 July 1919 (Fairfax Murray sale), plate of lot 11 (New York copy); Hind I 219 fig. 92 (Manchester copy); Bing, ‘Apocalypse’, pls 37(b), 38(b), 41(b, e) (Bodleian copy); Blum, Primitifs, pls XLI–XLIV (Paris copy); Fischer, ‘Johannes Aabenbaring’, 33 fig. 4 (Manchester copy); Donati, ‘Libri xilografici’, pls 1–2, 13, 15, 17, 20, 22–3 (Paris BnF copy); Purpus, ‘Blockbücher der Apokalypse’, 86 ill. VII.6 (Paris BnF copy); Purpus, ‘Vorläufer’, 103–5 ills VIII.3–7, 107 ill. VIII.9, 113 ill. VIII.15, 115–16 ills VIII.16–17 (Manchester copy); Baurmeister 160 ill. 6 (Paris copy); Palmer, ‘Biblical Blockbooks’, ill. 8 (Manchester copy).

refs. Meerman I 234–9; Heinecken, Idée, 358–62 (‘edition 3’); Sotheby I 3–17 (‘edition 2’); Firmin Didot 46 (‘edition B’); Dutuit I 125–8; Schreiber, Manuel, IV 163, 167–216; Hind I 222; Purpus, ‘Blockbücher der Apokalypse’, 83–4; Stevenson 241–2; CIBN I pp. iii–iv (AA-1); Müller and Lengenfelder 50–4.

copy 281 × c.214 mm (woodcut on a1: 261 × 202 mm). Watermarks: Bull’s head with eyes, nostrils, single-contoured staff and cross, twin watermarks; not listed in the printed edition of Piccard, cf. PiccO VII 221–722, but identified by Stevenson in the Archives de l’Aube at Bar-le-Duc (accounts for 1465–7, Stevenson 241) and identical with the twin watermarks attested in the first Dutch-language edition of the Speculum humanae salvationis ([The Netherlands: Prototypography, c.1471], The Hague MMW copy), see WILC (, last accessed 2 July 2004), WM I 02414/60236–7 and WM I 02416. Shield of Troyes, type Briquet 1045–7, this variant firmly identifiable in the Wasserzeichenkartei Piccard, Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart Best. J 340 (, last accessed 26 May 2004) as no. 24440 (Kleve 1466), cf. the shield of Troyes recorded alongside anchor watermarks for the St Petersburg copy of the Canticum Canticorum edition II (Kroll, ‘Bruchstück’, 168). Eleven distinct anchor marks (including at least two pairs of twins), all surmounted by a Latin cross, including PiccAn types II 339 (Xanten 1457), II 351–2 (Utrecht 1445–6), II 391 (Rhineland 1464), II 412 (Upper Rhine 1467–8), II 811 (Louvain 1462), II 826 (Freiburg 1465), II 988–96 (Louvain 1460–3), cf. Stevenson 241. The anchor on n2 is identical with that observed by U. Baurmeister in the Paris copy of Apocalypse edition I/II state II (CIBN I, AA-1.1, pl. I no. 2; PiccAn II 811), also found in the Berlin SB copy of Biblia pauperum edition II, Libri impr. rari fol. 135, fol. 35, which contains an added Low German (Westphalian) translation, and most likely the same as that found by von Hößle in the Munich BSB and UB copies of Apocalypse edition II and Canticum Canticorum edition I (F. von Hößle, ‘Wasserzeichen xylographischer Werke der Kgl. Bayer. Hof- und Staatsbibliothek’, Der Papier-Fabrikant, Fest- und Auslandsheft 1910, 32–8, at 34 no. 4 (pl. I)); cf. WILC (, last accessed 2 July 2004), WM I 02795, attesting a very similar watermark in an edition of Ludovicus Pontanus, Singularia iuris [The Netherlands: Prototypography, not after 1472?], ILC 1794. Stevenson notes anchors ‘apparently from the same moulds’ in the Zurich ZB copy of Biblia pauperum edition I. See Sotheby III pl. A, for reproductions from the Bodleian copy. Taking all the evidence into account, Stevenson’s dating of the paper stocks for this copy to c.1466 remains possible, but the association with early Netherlandish prototypography might point to a later dating. Printed in greyish-brown ink on one side of the paper by rubbing. The state of the blocks shows that this is a relatively late impression, as they show signs of wear, with some broken borders; demonstrably later than the Munich UB copy, and probably also later than the copies in New York and Paris; cf. pls t2, u1, and u2. For the Paris copies see Baurmeister’s remarks in CIBN I p. iii. This is one of only two copies of edition I/II to have remained uncoloured, except for some yellow for the beast, the thuribles, crowns, and angels’ wings on pls k1–l1; the detail of the woodcut printing is much more clearly visible than in the Munich UB copy on which the facsimiles are based. The versos, which show signs of once having been pasted together, are blank. Some leaves, most notably h1/2 and n1/2, have been closely trimmed during the process of repair; the outer edges of n1/2 have been made good with added strips of paper. The order of the plates in this copy is, in Schreiber’s numbering: (1), (2), (5)–(16), (18), (17), (19), (20), (22), (21), (24), (23), (25), (26), (28), (27), (29)–(42), (44), (43); it is possible that in some cases the two halves of a bifolium have been transposed in more recent times. The sequence of bracketed numbers inscribed at the head of each plate, partly cut away by the binder, indicates that previous to the early nineteenth-century rebinding pls d2 and e1 ((10) and (11)), which may be presumed to have been pasted together, were positioned out of order after pl. c1 ((7)). Handwritten annotation in an early hand, indicating the biblical chapter numbers, on pls e2, k1, n2, o2, and u2; on r2 the full text of Apo 16,21 is supplied by hand (‘et magna sicut . . . vehementer’).

 This volume and an uncoloured copy of the editio princeps of the blockbook Biblia pauperum (edition IV), now in Washington LC, Rosenwald Collection Incun. X. B 562, were at one time bound together, along with an as yet untraced Ars moriendi, as a ‘Sammelband’. Thomas Frognall Dibdin’s report of 1814, based on information provided by the dealer Alexander Horn of Regensburg, who had broken the volume up and sold the three parts as separate items, records an early binding with a tooled inscription ‘stamped, at the extremity of the binding, towards the edge of the spine’: ‘Hic Liber Relegatus fvit per Plebanum – Ecclesie – Anno domini 142[8]’; see T. F. Dibdin, Bibliotheca Spenceriana (London, 1814–15), I p. iv. The Apocalypse and the Biblia pauperum are now housed in identical bindings, made for John Bellingham Inglis some time before 1826; that they must previously have formed parts of a single volume is suggested by identical brown vertical lines on some of the blank versos. That the Washington volume, which passed through the hands of Inglis, Lord Vernon (1803–1866), Robert Stayner Holford (1808–1892), and the Rosenbach Company of Philadelphia and New York, before coming into the possession of Lessing J. Rosenwald (1891–1979), is identical with the book attested for Alexander Horn, is first recorded as a fact by Schreiber, Manuel, IV 5. Samuel Leigh Sotheby, who claims to have seen the Apocalypse in the sale room before it was rebound for Inglis, comments that the book had a remarkable binding, thus providing additional confirmation for the identification of this item as part of the Horn ‘Sammelband’; Principia typographica, I 17.

refs. Sotheby I 4; Dutuit I 128; Pr 40; Schreiber, Manuel, IV 163; Blockbücher des Mittelalters, 383, 398; Purpus, ‘Blockbücher der Apokalypse’, 83; Stevenson 241; Douce Legacy, 41 no. 66; Sheppard no. 1.

Binding: Early nineteenth-century blind-tooled inboard ‘spring back’ account-book binding for John Bellingham Inglis, probably dating from about 1820. 291 × 230 × 17 mm. Brown tanned morocco over millboard. New ‘made’ endleaves of green surface-coated paper and buff wove paper were added to the textblock for the current binding. The textblock is sewn on three wide (19 mm) parchment tapes and the volume is covered over a laminated-paper ‘spring back’ hollow to give a wide opening. The trimmed printed leaves have been guarded into bifolia by the nineteenth-century binder, except n½, x½, +½, and ×½, which remain conjoint. The earlier spinefold of +1/2 can be clearly seen with possible evidence of earlier sewing holes. The edges of the textblock were ploughed and coloured red, now faded, possibly for the current binding. The fore-edges of +2 and ×1 were not trimmed for the current binding and retain traces of an earlier yellow colouring. The last printed leaf is lined with paper which predates the current binding and may be part of earlier endleaves. All tooling is blind, executed with 1 roll, 3 fillets, 2 gouges, and 9 small tools. Three of the small tools are rectangular and were used to form a decorative border reminiscent of a roll; a stylized flower (32 × 10.5 mm), the face of a cherub (24.5 × 10 mm), and a tall flower flanked on either side by four leaves (18 × 10 mm). The spine has the title ‘Apocalypsis’ gold-tooled in black-letter type reading from tail to head. The same black-letter type and title layout is used on the spines of three Inglis books now in the Bodleian Library: Auct. 7Q 3.33, Auct. 2Q inf. 1.11, and Auct. O 4.22 (see A-513(2), C-092, and S-017). Two further items were bound for Inglis by the same binder: Auct. Q sup. 2.25 and Douce 46 (see A-149 and G-339). Sotheby comments in Principia typographica, I 17 that this copy still had its original binding before it was rebound.

Provenance: Alexander Horn (fl. 1762–1820). John Bellingham Inglis (1780–1870); sale (9 June 1826), lot 1664. George Hibbert (1757–1837); sale (16 Mar. 1829), lot 410. Francis Douce (1757–1834); armorial book-plate. Bequeathed in 1834. An added bifolium, at one time tipped to the upper flyleaf but now kept loose with the book, in the handwriting of Francis Douce, contains a brief description of ‘Blockbooks at the Bodleian’, referring to BB-2, BB-6, and BB-7. Formerly exhibited in a glass case in the Arts End of Duke Humfrey’s Library; see W. D. Macray, Annals of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, A.D. 1598--A.D. 1867 (Oxford, 1868), 321; List of Books, Manuscripts, Portraits, etc. exhibited in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Oxford, 1881), 4; Macray (2nd edn) 263–4 [1890].

shelfmark: Douce 249.