An early witness to pre-reformation popular piety and the growth of devotion to the rosary
43 Alanus de Rupe, Von dem psalter unnd Rosen krancz unser lieben frauen. Wie man den beten solAugsburg: Anton Sorg, 1492. Second edition by Sorg.
4°, 194 x 135 mm. 86 leaves, complete: a-k8, l6. – In gothic book type of 25 lines, with printed woodcut initials. Five full-page woodcuts (uncoloured) in clear prints. – With wide margins. Partly with brown stains, one tear carefully repaired. – Contemporary half-leather binding over wooden boards with one brass clasp. Handwritten label inscribed “Rosenkrantz” in the upper portion of cover. Spine restored, recased, endpapers renewed using old material.
PROVENANCE: 1. In 1644 owned by a bishop (cf. engraved armorial bookplate with initials I.A.Z.I.V.D.P.V. on paste-down). 2. Private collection, Europe.
TEXT: Alanus de Rupe (Alain de la Roche) was born c. 1428, probably in Brittany. After entering the Dominican house in Dinan he studied and taught in Paris, and in 1462 was among a group of friars who joined the reforming monastery at Lille. In 1464 the Master General of the order, Konrad von Ast, united this house with several others in the ‘Kongregatio Hollandica’, a reforming congregation within the Dominican order patronized by the Dukes of Burgundy. In the same year,Alanus de Rupe experienced a vision of the Virgin, which led him to write the Marian Psalter (the threefold rosary) and to re-establish the brotherhood of the Rosary. Although his work proved controversial, at one point even bringing him before an ecclesiastical court, from the mid 1470s the Brotherhood grew into an important popular movement, especially in the city of Cologne. Alanus’ literary legacy has not yet been comprehensively studied, but one of the few works generally accepted as being authentic is his apologia in defence of his Liber principalis Psalterii dated 1475, the same year that he died in Zwolle. Rupe’s brotherhood of the rosary was based upon the 150 clauses of Dominic of Prussia. Considering the name ‘Rosarium’ too worldly and erotic, he named his brotherhood the ‘Confratria Psalterii Beata Mariae Virgine’. It was through this confraternity, and especially through Rupe’s disciple Jakob Spengler in Cologne, that the rosary spread, rapidly and widely, throughout Europe. The first German edition of Rupe’s text was printed in Ulm 1483 by Conrad Dinckmut, the first by Sorg appeared in 1490.
ILLUSTRATION: The book opens with a depiction of the Virgin and child and a group of people praying the rosary. In quire c, three leaves, each with five roundels, follow one after another (fol. c3, c4 and c5).The first depicts the childhood of Christ, the second his Passion and the third scenes from the Resurrection, Pentecost and Last Judgement. These three groups form respectively the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of the rosary. Fol. h2 concludes with a depiction of Dominic, presenting a rosary to a knight. The illustrations are the work of an anonymous artist, employed by Anton Sorg towards the end of his life, who for the most part copied pre-existent woodcuts, as new compositions were in all likelihood too expensive to produce. The facial types of his figures, with large, close-set eyes and pronounced lids, as well as the vivid lines of draperies, resemble the style of Sorg’s Columna Master.The five woodcuts were copied from Dinckmut’s edition of the rosary psalter printed in Ulm in 1483 (GW M39199), with slight variations to the roundels of the life of Christ (Schmid, p. 102).
PRINTER: The exact dates of Anton Sorg’s life are unknown, although his press is known to have flourished in Augsburg between 1474 and 1493. He was apprenticed in the workshop of the monastery of St. Ulrich and Afra, where he became director between 1473/74 and 1477. It is certain that Sorg knew Latin, which placed him among the more highly educated printers of the period. He also worked as a calligrapher and cartographer. Sorg was one of the most prolific of early printers, publishing 40 works between 1482 and 1484 alone. Altogether, 180 editions left his press. He had close professional ties to the Schönsperger and Bämler families, as they purchased paper from the same sources and helped each other with illustrations. Unlike most printers of his time, Anton Sorg acquired, and maintained for more than a decade, a position of considerable wealth. After setting up his own press and becoming the owner of a paper mill in 1485, however, his book production declined (Künast p. 54). His last dated publication was Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ, dated 9th December 1493, some copies of which name Hans Schobser, his son-in-law as printer. Schobser and Sorg evidently had a close relationship and for a time lived in the same house.
strong>RARITY: Extremely rare, the book at hand is one of four copies of this edition. ISTC mentions only the three copies in public libraries: Munich (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek), Vatican (Biblioteca Apostolica) and Yale (Beinecke library). Sorg’s 1490 edition is also scarce: only seven copies survived. Both editions have neither been recorded in the German antiquarian market since 1959, nor in international auctions since 1975.
LITERATURE: Hain/Copinger 1895, 14040; Schreiber 5164; Schramm 1920, IV, fig. 2936-2941; Goff 1964, R-362; ISTC ir00362000; GW M39193. Geldner 1968, I, pp. 139-142; Schmid 1971, pp. 101-102; exh. cat. Cologne 1975; Künast 1997, passim.