Close XYL-3 Andrea, Zoan: Ornamental design with naked putti and sphinxes

[Italy (Venice), c.1530]. Woodcut book cover with monogram.

 Two woodcuts printed side by side. The design for the upper board, printed to the right, consists of an escutcheon set in the centre of a circular band surrounded by four naked putti holding cornucopia and lilies and occupying an oblong panel, set against a woven trellised background. Between the two putti at the top is a small plaque, surmounted by a flowering plant and bearing the monogram ‘Z. A.’. Single-lined frame. The second woodcut, that for the lower board, to the left, has an escutcheon set in the centre of a circular band surrounded by two naked putti above, fighting each other with toys, and two sphinxes seated below, and occupying an oblong panel, set against a woven trellised background. Single-lined frame. Two vertical chequered strips in the centre of the sheet are designed as ornament for the spine of a book. Evidently intended as an outer paper cover to be pasted to the binding of a volume in 4o. One of two almost identical editions, printed from different blocks. The first of these is known from the Bodleian copy and from a pair of book covers in the Essling collection, now separated from the volume they once contained, whereas the second forms the covers of the only attested copy of Donato con strutto nouamente correto (Venice: Guilielmus de Fontaneto, 26 July 1532), also in the Essling collection (Essling no. 444, illustrated I 394–5), signed with the monogram ‘Z. B.’. The monogram ‘Z. A.’ is that of Zoan (Juan) Andrea Vavassori, attested in the period 1515–72 as a Venetian printer, editor, bookseller, cartographer, and engraver, for whom see Essling IV 109–16.

ills. Essling I 396–7 (Essling copy); Baer, Holzschnitte, pl. 15 (Essling copy); Sander, Copertine, pls IX, X (Essling copy); Sander VI ills 865–6 (Essling copy); Rauch sale catalogue no. 3 (Geneva, 1953), 45 no. 62 (Bodleian copy).

refs. L. Baer, Mit Holzschnitten verzierte Buchumschläge des XV. und XVI. Jahrhunderts (Frankfurt a.M., 1923), no. IX.

copy Chancery half-sheet, divided into two separate leaves: 202 × 139 mm (woodcut for the lower board 200 × 132 mm); 202/3 × 140 mm (woodcut for the upper board 199 × 128 mm). Chain-lines horizontal. The watermark, which is divided between the two leaves and is unidentified, has elements similar to a cardinal’s hat with monogram (see Briquet 3413, 3484). Printed in black ink in a press on one side of the paper. The position of the watermark leaves no doubt that the woodcut with two putti and two sphinxes was printed to the left, and that with four putti to the right. Uncoloured. Traces of paste on the reverse. Described by Rauch as a proof copy. The outer edges of the leaves have been trimmed, incurring partial loss of the frames. The escutcheon on the woodcut to the left is inscribed in a sixteenth-century hand with the letter ‘A’, that on the right with ‘V’, possibly for ‘Andrea Vavassori’.

Binding: Mounted on card and kept in a folder made for the Bodleian.

Provenance: Albert Ehrman (1890–1969); purchased from Nicolas Rauch of Geneva in 1953 for £180; ledger no. ‘R 1138’. Presented in 1978 by John Ehrman.

shelfmark: Broxb. 95.34.