The life of St. Francis in contemporary colour

Bonaventura (Saint). Die Legend des heyligen Vatters Francisci. Nach der Beschreybung des Engelischen Lerers Bonaventure.

Nuremberg, Hieronymus Höltzel for Caspar Rosentaler in Schwaz, 7 April 1512.

4to (158 x 198 mm). (106) ff. Title-page with large woodcut vignette of St. Francis receiving the stigmata, 57 woodcuts in total (including duplicates) by Wolf Traut, 5 of which full-page, all with fine contemporary hand-coloring. Contemporary full pigskin over wooden boards with bevelled edges, panelled and decorated in blind. Spine with raised bands in four compartments. Remains of clasps. Edges stained blue.


The rare first German edition of Bonaventura's life of St Francis ("Legenda major beati Francisci"), printed by Höltzel on behalf and at the expense of the Tyrolean benefactor of the Franciscan church in Schwaz, Caspar Rosenthaler.

This volume, a remarkable copy in contemporary colour, is also the first to incorporate Wolf Traut's striking woodcuts, ranking among the artist's masterpieces (while some are dated, none are signed). The Nuremberg artist, a student of Albrecht Dürer's, completed 51 woodcuts for this work, which would prove to be his greatest contribution to illustrated books. Traut was in Dürer's workshop from 1505, or possibly earlier, when he produced woodcuts for Pinder's "Der beschlossen Gart des Rosenkrantz Marie".

Binding somewhat rubbed and bumped. F3 and V1 with marginal repairs, L1, O1, and T4 torn and restored with loss of text. Some minor spotting or staining, one or two instances of marginal worming.

Provenance: Paul Kramer (contemporary ink signature and motto, "Omnia cum deo", to front free endpaper). Virtue and Cahill Library of Portsmouth Cathedral (oversized bookplate to front pastedown, with number 8363), dispersed in 1941 after German bombing and subsequently preserved in the Presbytery at Winchester; deaccessioned by the Bishop and Cathedral Chapter "for better care and to the advantage of scholars" in 1967 (stamped over bookplate).

A masterpiece of German book illustration, rarely encountered complete even in an uncoloured state.

VD 16, B 6559. BM-STC German 140. Dodgson I, 502f., 1. Not in Adams. Cf. Einhorn, "Die Holzschnitte des Wolf Traut zur 'Legend des heyligen vatters Francisci' nach Bonaventura, Nürnberg 1512", in: Franziskanische Studien 60 (1978), pp. 1-24.

Art.-Nr.: BN#50214 Schlagwörter: , ,