Leaf from a very rare psalter edition by the Fust and Schöffer-workshop in Mainz
32 Psalterium Benedictum Congregationis Bursfeldensis – A single leafMainz: Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer, 29 August 1459. From the second psalter printed by Fust and Schöffer.
Large-2°, 350 x 220 mm. Leaf 48 [E8]. – Printed in red and black on vellum, 23-24 lines,Textura, red printed lombards, the four-line initial ‘U’, which was lacking in the set of types, was painted so as to imitate the style of the types: a red letter with blue Maiblumen-decoration. Musical staves and notation were likewise completed by hand. – The present single leaf from the large and splendid psalter edition had been reused to cover a binding. The folds for the edges of the binding are visible within the justification of the text, two corners have been cut off diagonally, resulting in the loss of one or two letters.The portion formerly providing the spine of the book is missing along with a few millimetres of the line-beginnings or endings.
PROVENANCE: 1. Ernst Hauswedell, Hamburg, sale 145, 1966, lot 202. Sold to H. P. Kraus for 2. Collection Otto Schäfer, Schweinfurt, OS 588.
TEXT: The edition was conceived for the monasteries of the congregation of Bursfeld, the leading congregation of the Benedictine reform in Germany during the late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance. Founded by Johannes Dederoth († 1439), abbot of Clus and Bursfeld, the congregation spread over large parts of German-speaking Europe, the Netherlands and Denmark during the 15th century. By 1459 the success of the reforms had already become apparent; 24 monasteries had joined the congregation, and the number of members was steadily increasing. Material restoration and spiritual renovation developed side by side, and the liturgical reforms of the congregation of Bursfeld enjoyed the support of the intellectual and ecclesiastic authorities of the 15th century (Geldner 1954, p. 77), not least cardinal Nicholas of Cusa and Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, the humanist pope Pius II. The monasteries of the congregation were ready customers for this edition, which, due to the use of parchment of large folio format, the large type and the colour printing of the initials, must have been an extremely expensive project.
PRINT: Single leaf from the second psalter printed by Fust and Schöffer, executed with the same materials and in the same technique as the Mainz Psalter of 1457. In contrast to numerous anonymous incunabula, the psalter of 1459 provides detailed information on the printing process which can be found in the few surviving complete copies for example in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich (cf. Geldner 1954).The impressum gives the names of the city, workshop and printer and provides the year and date of printing: ad laudem dei ac honorem sancti Jacobi. The edition was commissioned and overseen by the Benedictine monastery of Saint James (Sancti Jacobi) in Mainz, whose abbot was Eberhard of Venlo, one of the first patrons and supporters of the emerging art of printing. One of the brothers at the monastery, P.Adrian,was repeatedly involved in correcting prints of the Fust/Schöffer-workshop during this period, and probably had a hand in the psalter edition here.
PRINTER: The book was printed by Peter Schöffer, Gutenberg’s most talented collaborator. After the bankruptcy of Gutenberg’s firm, Schöffer concluded a partnership with Johann Fust, whose financial support paved the way for his career as one of the best and most successful printers of the incunabular age.With three different colours, two sizes of types and two- to six-line initials, the psalters from his press are technical masterpieces. Although Schöffer did not invent the art of printing he mastered his profession very quickly, improving the lettering both technically and formally. An accomplished calligrapher, he knew how to reproduce the aesthetics of medieval script by means of a convincing range of ligatures and abbreviations in his typeset to create a credible Textura for his incunabular prints. Having already contributed to the development of the typeset for the Gutenberg-Bible (see no. 31), he deserves further credit for executing a comprehensive system of connecting types. Apart from producing extraordinary and opulent incunabula comprising important works of canon law, theology and didactic prose, Fust and Schöffer took on jobbing work and printed ‘profane’ items, such as official gazettes and political pamphlets. They also worked in the field of classical literature: a second edition of Cicero’s De officiis was the last work they produced as partners, before Johann Fust died of the plague in 1466.
RARITY: Very rare. Due to daily use in the monasteries liturgical books usually became worn very quickly. Hence, only a very few copies of the complete psalter (with 136 leaves) survive anywhere in the world: just 13, most of them lacking a couple of leaves, as well as 10 fragments of single leaves have been recorded (according to ISTC).
LITERATURE: Arnim 1984, no. 279. Hain 1826, 13480; BMC I, p. 19 (lacking 5 leaves); Goff 1964, P-1062; Geldner 1954; BSB-Ink P-851 (lacking 11 leaves); GW M36286; ISTC ip01062000.