Close BB-8 Donatus: Ars minor

[Donatus, Ars minor]. Incipit: ‘Artes orationis quot sunt. Octo que . . .’ If the poor survival of these ephemeral publications can be deemed sufficient to allow a judgement at all, then the blockbook editions of the Ars minor served to reinforce the production of typographically printed schools books, rather than being, as was once thought, their precursors. There were more than 350 typographic editions of this text during the incunable period; cf. D-124–D-147. The Bodleian leaves from the Ulm blockbook edition, which is printed on paper in chancery folio, with generous margins, and would have displayed an elaborate woodcut border on its opening page, indicates that there was thought to be a market for a fine, and no doubt relatively expensive, edition of such an elementary school text, notwithstanding its utilitarian function. They represent Haebler’s type three, which consists of those blockbook Donatuses where the xylographic text reproduces a handwritten, as distinct from a typographic exemplar. The text is based on the normal medieval recension, as found in the Netherlandish and German typographic editions and printed by Schwenke, 37–49, but with the paradigm ‘fero’ at the end after ‘volo’, an additional discussion of the inflection of passive verb forms, and repetition of the form ‘lectum’ (see Haebler 26–7). Anopisthographic leaves from this edition, with a nonsensical and aberrant text designating all the personal pronouns, including the first and second person, as ‘persone tercie’, attested in the von Klemperer collection and in Stuttgart LB, have been interpreted by Amelung as rejected proof leaves used as binding scrap in the Dinckmut workshop in Ulm, and provide evidence that the text for this edition was reworked.

refs. Sotheby I 129–44; K. Haebler, ‘Xylographische Donate’, Gb Jb (1928), 15–31; Schreiber, Handbuch, VI 55–7 nos 2990–7; Hind I 238; Donati, ‘Libri xilografici’, 258; Amelung, Frühdruck, 173–5 no. 88; Blockbücher des Mittelalters, 406–7, 440.

 [Ulm: Conrad Dinckmut, c.1476/80]. Chancery folio

 A perfect copy of the xylographic 27–line edition would consist of 26 leaves, all with xylographic text, and with a decorative border on the first leaf. The last quire, presumably of three, can be shown to have contained 10 leaves (Haebler 26). This is the only blockbook edition to contain a printer’s colophon: ‘Octo parcium orationis. donatus. Per Cůnradum. Dinckmůt Vlme(n)sis Oppidi. Ciuem impressus finit felicit(er)’ (fol. 26, Haebler’s counting). One of 10 recorded fragments of this edition, the others in Coleraine Ulster UL (1 leaf, formerly Jacques Rosenthal), Frankfurt (Main) StUB (1 leaf), Hannover KestnerM (2 leaves), Kaufbeuren DreifaltigkeitsK (1 leaf), Leipzig DB/BuchM (2 leaves, destroyed), Stuttgart LB (3 leaves, two copies of fol. 26), Ulm StB, Würzburg UB (bifolium), and attested in the private collections of Viktor Goldschmidt, Heidelberg (1 leaf, untraced), and Victor von Klemperer, Dresden (1 leaf, untraced). For details, see Haebler, Schreiber, and Amelung. Only 6 of the 26 leaves are attested. Haebler considers that the leaves might well derive from two distinct editions, to which Schmidt-Künsemüller adds a third, whereas Amelung shows that the evidence points to a single edition, with some variation in the form of majuscules. The dating of this edition is determined by two factors, the attestation of the style of decorative borders on the opening page, known only from the lost Leipzig fragment (reproduced by Weigel–Zestermann), in books printed by Johannes Zainer in the period up to 1476, and the watermark dating of the Stuttgart leaves to the years 1481–3, suggesting that the blocks may have been used over a period of years, as is likely with a xylographic school text.

ills. Sotheby I pl. XXIV no. I (Bodleian copy); Weigel–Zestermann II no. 290 (Leipzig copy, original state); Frühdrucke aus der Bücherei Victor von Klemperer (Dresden, 1927), ill. 5; Schramm VI pl. 1 (Leipzig copy, with modern additions); Schmidt-Künsemüller, 80 and 82 (Kaufbeuren copy); Ernst, Wiegendrucke, 94 (Hannover copy); Feisenberger, ‘Ulster Gift’, pl. 1 (Coleraine/Rosenthal copy); Amelung, Frühdruck, ills 115 and 128 (Stuttgart copy).

refs. Haebler 24–9; Schreiber, Handbuch, VI 57 nos 2994–5; GW VII col. 620; F. A. Schmidt-Künsemüller, ‘Ein unbekannter xylographischer Donat’, Gb Jb (1958), 78–83; K. Ernst, Die Wiegendrucke des Kestner-Museums, revised by C. von Heusinger (Hannover, 1963), 94 no. 3; H. A. Feisenberger, ‘The Henry Davis Collection II: The Ulster Gift’, The Book Collector, 21 (1972), 339–55, at 342.

copy 2 leaves, the first wanting the first line of text and beginning ‘terito imp(er)fecto vtina(m) legerem legeres legeret Et | pluraliter vtina(m) legeremus’, the second beginning ‘plusq(ua)m p(er)fecto cum latus essem vel fuissem esses’; probably fols 20 and 26 of the 26-leaf edition (Haebler). 281/290 mm (printed area 224 × 151 mm, originally 27 lines), and 289 × 198 mm (printed area 155 × 145 mm, 12 lines and 4-line colophon). Printed in black printer’s ink in a press on both sides of the paper; the second leaf, the last of the book, with a blank verso. The space for a 3-line deep initial on the verso of the first leaf has been left blank. No colouring. Worm-holes and minor damage to both leaves. Both the leaves, although much cleaned and restored, show traces of brown paste. This, taken together with marks which appear to be the offset from turn-ins, suggests that the leaves served as pastedowns in an early-modern binding. In their present state the leaves are preserved as separate items, trimmed, and inlaid into handmade wove-paper support sheets (375 × 259 mm) which predate the current guard-book binding. Both leaves have earlier repairs with a white handmade laid paper, and the trimmed remains of an earlier inlaid support sheet.

refs. Sotheby I 134 no. 1; Pr 10; Schreiber, Handbuch, VI 57 no. 2994; Schramm VI 3 and 18 (assigning the Bodleian Library copy to the British Museum); Hind I 258; Blockbücher des Mittelalters, 383, 407; Sheppard no. 8.

Binding: Mid- or late nineteenth-century guard-book, for the Bodleian Library. 410 × 302 × 35 mm. Blind-tooled inboard binding. Drab olive-green tanned calf over millboard. The tooling is executed with a three- and four-line fillet, and one roll. The spine has ‘donatus. | fragmenta | varia’ gold-tooled to the second panel. The second leaf has a window mount of machine-made laid paper (watermark: ‘[Abby M]ills | [Greenf]ield’), possibly from a twentieth-century Bodleian exhibition, tipped to the recto of its support sheet.

Provenance: Georg Franz Burkhard Kloß (1787–1854); sale 1835, cf. Sotheby I 134 note †. Samuel Butler (1774–1839); sale, part 3 (Christie’s 1841), lot 144. Purchased for £26. 5. 0; see Books Purchased (1841), 13. See D-124 for further details.

shelfmark: Auct. 2Q inf. 1.50.(14).