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The Apocalypsis: the Latin text, vernacular commentary, and celebrated illustrative cycle

Apochalypsis Ihesu Christi.


Apochalypsis Ihesu Christi. . Venice, Alessandro Paganino, 1516. (bound with:) Apocalipsis iesu christi. hoc est reuelatione fatta a sancto giohanni euangelista... Venice, Alessandro Paganini, 1515.

Two works in one volume, folio (301x257 mm). I. Collation: [*]8. [16] leaves. On the title-page a large woodcut (165x118 mm) depicting Jesus and the Apostles in a sailboat on a stormy lake, below the inscription ‘FLVCTVABIT SEDNON DEMERGETVR'. Gothic type. Text in Latin in two columns, with fifteen full-page woodcuts printed opposite. Blankspaces for capitals, with printed guide letters. II. Collation: [*]2, A8, B-P6. [2], XCI leaves. Lacking the last blank leafP6. Gothic, roman and italic type. Text in Latin and Italian in two columns. Title-page in black and red, within a whiteknotwork-patterned border on criblé ground. Numerous woodcut initials, in similar style, on black ground. Blank spaces for capitals, some of which are filled in a contemporary hand. Seventeenth-century vellum over pasteboards. Spine with five raised bands, inked title on the second compartment, inked ornament on the third one. Covers somewhat soiled and stained, spine slightly rubbed and wormed. A good, unsophisticated copy. Wormholes to the upper blank margin of the first three leaves and lower margin of the first edition bound, occasionally and slightly affecting borders of woodcuts. In the second edition bound, title-page and gutter of fol. P1 anciently reinforced. Small wormholes to the blank margins, without any loss. Fols. G3 and G4 uniformly browned. One manicula in the margin of fol. F2r, with the note ‘ilcom[m]entatore ha sbagliato in questo uersicolo', referring to the controversial question of Christ's horoscope.

Provenance: the Italian archpriest Nicola Antonio Flora (d. 1752; ownership inscription on title-page, ‘ex libris Archip.riD Nicolai Antonij Flora', repeated on the verso of rear flyleaf, ‘Ex libris Flora'); the Italian physician Carlo Longo(stamp on the recto of front flyleaf).

An exceptionally complete copy of one of the finest early Italian illustrated books: the Apochalypsis issued by Alessandro Paganini, containing fifteen woodcuts adapted from the Apocalypse series by German artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). Dürer's series illustrating the popular Book of Revelation of St. John contains just fifteen woodcuts supplemented by the biblical text, and was first published in German in 1498 (Die heimliche Offenbarung Johannis). Its Latin version – Apocalysis cum Figuris – followed in 1511. Its influence was tremendous, owing to the immediate and unrivalled force of the images, a narrative cycle that vividly condenses the spiritual sense of the Revelation. Dürer's iconographical model had enormous success, and some images –such as the celebrated woodcut of the Four Horsemen – became a definitive standard in visual art. Its influence is also clear in the series produced by Paganini in Venice in 1515: faithfully adhering to Dürer's template, Paganini's cycle likewise contains fifteen full-page woodcuts, introduced by a pictorial title-page, and facing the biblical text, taken from the Vulgata and set in two columns. The Venetian woodblocks were designed and cut – as Essling first stated – by two different artists. The title-page and eight plates (nos. 1, 3, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15) bear the monograms ‘IA' or ‘ZAD', while the Figura decima is signed ZOVAN ANDREA', i.e. a certain ‘Zoan Andrea', an elusive figure or – as Ilaria Andreoli states – a veritable ‘Arabian Phoenix' in the history of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italian print. These ten signed woodcuts are reverse copies after Dürer, although the model is somewhat simplified and decorative elements are overlooked. Stylistic features have led some scholars to unconvincingly attribute the signature ‘Zoan Andrea' to the Venetian printer Giovanni Andrea Vavassore – also called Guadagnino –who worked as a woodcarver for other Venetian printers as well, including Alessandro Paganini, or to a certain Mantuan artist named Zoan Andrea, who has recently been identified by Susanne Boorsch as Giovanni Antonio da Brescia, an engraver active in the Mantegna's circle. However, the debate regarding the possible identity of the artists who produced these fine illustrations remains open, given that ‘Zoan Andrea' and ‘Ioannes Andreas' were very popular names in northern Italy during the sixteenth century, and that various designers signed their prints with identical monograms. Further, the 1516 edition contains five unsigned woodcut illustrations that reveal significant freedom towards Dürer's iconographical model, and whose execution was assigned by Essling to the leading printmaker active in Venice, Domenico Campagnola (ca. 1500-1564); meanwhile, the design for the Figura secunda, which illustrates the vision of the Seven Candlesticks, has occasionally been attributed to one of the greatest Italian Renaissance painters, Titian. More recently, Dreyer has ascribed the five unsigned woodcuts to Ugo da Carpi (ca. 1480-1520/32), the first Italian practitioner of the art of the chiaroscuro woodcut. In 1515 Paganini had already published a work related to the Revelation: the rare second and revised edition of the commentary in the Italian vernacular – the Apocalipsis iesu christi, hoc est reuelatione expositione – written in 1393-1394 by the Dominican theologian Federigo da Venezia, which was first issued in Rome in 1469, and which possibly constitutes the first biblical commentary to be printed in Italian. A copy of this Paganini edition, highly appreciated for its fine title-page framed in a large knotwork-patterned border on black ground, is bound in the volume offered here, which as a whole therefore represents an exceptional visual as well as textual commentary on the Book of Revelation.

I. Nuovo, Alessandro Paganino (1509-1538), 39; Essling 205; Essling-Ephrussi, “Zuan Andrea et ses omonymes”, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1 (1891), pp. 401-445, and II, pp. 225-244; P. Dreyer, “Ugo da Carpis venezianische Zeit imLichte neuer Zuschreibungen”, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 35 (1972), pp. 22-301; C. Karpinski, “Some woodcutsafter early designs of Titian”, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 39 (1976), pp. 263-268; S. Boorsch, “Mantegna e i suoi incisori”, Andrea Mantegna, Milano 1992, pp. 55-65; G. M. Fara, Albrecht Dürer: originali, copie, derivazioni, Firenze 2007; I. Andreoli, “Dürer sotto torchio. Le quattro serie xilografiche e i loro riflessi nella produzione editoriale veneziana del Cinquecento”, Venezia Cinquecento, 37 (2009), pp. 5-135; N. O'Hear and A. O'Hear, Picturing the Apocalypse. The Book of Revelation in the Arts over Two Centuries, Oxford 2015. II. Nuovo, Alessandro Paganino (1509-1538), 17; A. Vaccari, “Sprazzi di luce su esegeti in penombra”, Ead., Scritti di erudizione e di filologia. II., Rome 1958, pp. 407-416; A. Luttrell, “Federigo da Venezia's Commentary on the Apocalypse: 1393/94”, The Journalof the Walters Art Gallery, 27/28 (1964/1965), pp. 57-65.