Close XYL-6 Assumption of the Virgin

[Italy (Bologna?), c.1491]. Woodcut book cover.

 The Virgin Mary in a long robe, crowned and with a halo, her hands pressed together in a gesture of prayer, surrounded by a glory, is seated on the arc of the firmament within a mandorla. To her left and right are two naked putti playing musical instruments. Above her there is a haloed head with two trumpets issuing from the mouth, within an arc from which tongues of fire descend; beneath her feet the head of an angel. The mandorla is supported by four clothed angels positioned in the corners of the outer frame. A second impression of this woodcut is known from the first page [a1r] of the unique copy of the Miracoli della Madonna, Bologna: Guiglermo Piemontese, 14 June 1491, formerly in the Antonio Bertoloni, Fairfax Murray, and Tammaro de Marinis collections; see Catalogue d’une collection d’anciens livres à figures italiens appartenant à Tammaro de Marinis, introd. by S. de Ricci (Milan, 1925), no. 122 with pl. CXLVI; Sander 4310 with pl. 466. This edition forms the basis on which an approximate date and place of origin can be assigned to the woodcut.

refs. Nixon, Broxbourne, 38 (brief notice).

copy Chancery half-sheet. Two identical impressions printed side by side on one side of a half-sheet of heavy chancery paper. 255 × 349 mm (woodcuts 206 × 144 mm; 206 × 144 mm; 14 mm apart); the measurements of the sheet, as given here, include the turn-ins. Chain-lines horizontal. No watermark visible. Printed in red-brown ink, probably in a press. The condition is good, although a little rubbed. The printed sheet with the two woodcuts was folded and turned in on all edges, in order to serve as a one-piece, limp paper-case binding for a slim printed book in 4o (c.212 × 155 mm), which appears to have been removed in the mid-twentieth century. According to Alfred Ehrman’s acquisitions ledger, at R 284, it was an ‘Orazione Funerale, Florence 1574’ (with an added note ‘taken out – not contemp.’), no longer in the Broxbourne collection and most likely to be identified with one of several printed funeral orations for Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (see Ottavio Bandini, Orazione funerale di m. Ottauio Bandini fiorentino. Da lui fatta e recitata il di XIX di Giugno MDLXXIV nell’esequie del sereniss. Cosimo de’ Medici primo gran duca di Toscana (Florence: Giorgio Marescoti, 1574); Benedetto Betti, Orazione funerale publicamente recitata nelle esequie del sereniss. Cosimo Medici (Florence: appresso gli heredi di Iacopo Giunti, 1574); Leonardo Salviati, Orazione funerale del cavalier Lionardo Saluiati, da lui pubblicamente recitata nell’esequie del Serenissimo Cosimo Medici Granduca di Toscana . . . celebrate l’vltimo di d’aprile dell’anno 1574 (Florence: appresso i Giunti, 1574); another edition of the same (Florence: Bartolomeo Dermartelli, 1574)); cf. EDIT16, ed. Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico (, last accessed 30 Apr. 2004). All that now remains is the printed cover, the pastedowns, and the remains of sewing supports. 212 × 156 × 2 mm. The printed book was originally sewn on three single-cord supports and cased in with no boards. Further strips of paper, which evidently served as flanges in the original endleaf construction, are visible underneath both pastedowns at the spine-edge. Although this appears to be the first use of the printed book covers, in the estimation of the annotator of Ehrman’s ledger the binding was ‘not contemporary’ with the volume from 1574.

Binding: Kept in a cloth-covered portfolio gold-tooled on the upper board ‘woodcut binding 1491’.

Provenance: Albert Ehrman (1890–1969); armorial book-plate; purchased in 1945 from Sotheby/McLeish for £24; ledger no. ‘R 284’. Presented in 1978 by John Ehrman.

shelfmark: Broxb. 31.7.