A well-preserved wallet binding

Erasmus, Desiderius (1466-1536).

Paraphrases in omnes epistolas Pauli germanas, & in omnes Canonicas. Basel, Johann Froben, March 1521.

Erasmus, Desiderius (1466-1536) Paraphrases in omnes epistolas Pauli germanas, & in omnes Canonicas. Johann Froben, March 1521.

Four parts in one volume, 8° (168x114 mm). Collation: a-z8, aa-mm8; nn-tt8; A-L8, M10; N-Q8, R10. 473 of [474] leaves, lacking the last blank leaf. Roman and italic type. Each title within a fine woodcut border; the first, second and third border also including Froben's printer's device. Woodcut section borders on fols. a6v, l7r, t7v, dd7v, gg7r, ii6r, ll3v, nn5r, ss3v, tt5r, and A5r. Larger printer's devices on fols. mm8v, M10v, and R9v, with some variants. Numerous woodcut animated initials in different sizes, mostly on black ground, the initial on fol. a2r on ten line, with the inscription 'DIOGENES. ARISTIPPVS'; woodcut headpieces. Contemporary wallet-style German binding, blind tooled pigskin over pasteboards, the lower cover overlapping the upper one. Covers within border of fillets and foliate roll, central spaces filled with floral and foliate tools. Spine with three raised bands, underlined by multiple fillets. Compartments decorated with floral motifs, trace of early inked title on the first one. Head-edge darkened. Metal attachments missing, a small hole to the upper cover. A very fine copy, with strong impression of the woodcut borders. A few paper flaws, loss to the blank outer lower corner of fol. nn1, not affecting the woodcut border. A few contemporary marginalia, and reading marks. Pencilled bibliographical notes on the recto of the front flyleaf; on the front pastedown, the inked note '88-76-5'.

Provenance: John Jermain Slocum, the famous Joyce collector, and Joyce co-bibliographer (1914-1997; pencilled note on the recto of the front flyleaf, 'Ex Coll. John Slocum'); Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow, acquired from Goodspeed's Book Shop, 1975 (ex-libris on the front pastedown; see The Collection of Arthur & Charlotte Vershbow, Christie's New York, 9-10 April 2013, lot 170).

A fine copy – from the celebrated library of Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow – of the first edition of this important work by Erasmus, rarely found complete with all four parts and presented here in its original, well-preserved wallet-style binding.

The first part of the Froben edition contains Erasmus' paraphrases of the Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians; the second part covers those of Timothy, Jude, James and John; and the third part is devoted to the canonical letters of Peter, Jude, James and John. This Basel edition also contains, as a fourth and final part, the paraphrases of the letters to the Hebrews (In epistolam Pauli apostoli ad Hebraeos paraphrasis per Erasmum Roterodamum extrema), which is not mentioned on the title-page nor in the list of contents. The text of this section was printed on five quires added during the printing, and owing to this circumstance complete copies with all four parts very rarely appear on the market.

The present edition is also praised for the fine title borders and initials, some of them – like that on fol. b5r – were cut by Johann Faber after drawings by the renowned artist Hans Holbein the Younger, who often worked for Froben. The border on fol. A1 is instead signed by Ursus Graf, with his monogram 'VG'.

A further point of great interest in this copy is its blind-tooled pigskin binding, a handsome example of wallet-style binding, in which the lower cover extends along its length, folding over the fore-edge. This sort of binding was adopted to protect precious manuscripts against the possibility of getting damaged, and it was also used in intensively-used volumes such as account books, textbooks, prayer books, archival documents, and more generally for volumes intended to be carried around by their owners, merchants, school masters, or – as the content of Erasmus' volume suggests – preachers. Few of these bindings have survived.

Adams E-793; VD16 E-3375; STC German 115; Heckethorn, The Printers of Basle, 170; Bezzel 1526; Bibliotheca Erasmiana Bruxellensis, 325; F. Hieronymus, Basler Buchillustration 1500 bis 1545, Basel 1984, no. 374; C. Müller, Hans Holbein d. J. Die Druckgraphik im Kupferstichkabinett, Basel 1997, no. 24; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 71.

$ 27.000