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Guldenmundt, Jacob. A 16th century German silverpoint sketchbook.

Amberg, 1584.

8vo (130 x 193 mm). Sketchbook comprising 18 leaves of stiff, prepared vellum, bound in a light brown full calf binding with fore-edge flap, fastened with three chased silver hinge clasps, the silver drawing pen (176 mm) serving as the pin. Covers gilt with ornamental borders and fleurons in all corners; upper cover bearing the name and profession of the binder encircling the arms of Amberg in a central medallion, as well as the date "1584"; lower cover showing a lozenge-shaped tendril ornament as central ornament. Spine gilt with a rosette in each of five compartments. Stored in custom-made half morocco case with gilt spine.

A highly uncommon example of a well-preserved silverpoint sketchbook of the type that accompanied the artists of the Renaissance, bound by and possibly prepared for the use of a bookbinder from an artistically inclined Franconian family.

The booklet contains 18 leaves of smooth, ivory-coloured vellum primed on both sides (i.e., all 36 pages) with hide glue and bone ash, upon which the metal stylus would leave a fine, silvery line. The bookbinder identifies himself as "Iacob Guldemundt Buchbinder zu Amberg" in a name stamp encircling the arms of his native town. The Guldenmund family were long established in Franconia: Kunz (Konrad) Guldenmund was a merchant in Nuremberg during the mid-15th century who resurfaced as a printer in Naples in the 1470s; around the turn of the century, Hieronymus Guldenmund is known as a goldsmith in Nuremberg, and Hans Guldenmund (d. 1560) was active there as a printer, pamphleteer, illuminator and possibly woodcutter. Wolf Guldenmund (d. 1580) is credited as the first printer of the neighbouring town of Amberg; Jacob, who fashioned the present sketchbook, was his son.

Silverpoint was the precursor to the pencil, which emerged in the 16th century as the increasingly preferred drawing instrument, as it required less elaborate preparation of the support and allowed for starker lines, soft blending and easy erasing. Although the heyday of silverpoint was nearing its end by the 1580s, this sketchbook is still entirely typical of the kind that was in so much wider use a half-century earlier, and silverpoint books continued to be used well into the 17th century - for drawings, but frequently also for private notes and calendars. Almost none have survived intact: Meder cites an example from 1400 in the Galleria delle stampe, Rome, and two more from 1596 (Figdor collection, Vienna) and 1659 (Linz Museum). As Meder writes, "these little sketchbooks with their leaves prepared for silverpoint merit separate discussion as they form a technical class of their own, contrasting with the great mass of ordinary sketchbooks. Although examples are not infrequent, it is to be regretted that they are almost invariably cut up and their leaves dispersed [...] They served assistants as collection books and masters as a place to record their impressions outside their workshop. Leonardo recommends these booklets, primed with bonemeal, as a vade mecum for jotting down events observed on the streets. They are likewise known to have been used by Dürer and other masters, and from the surviving remains of individual leaves, primed on both sides, we may infer their general usage. Indeed, it is to be assumed that such 'pen-booklets' continued to be used long after the great age of silverpoint drawings was past: we may take the small portrait sketches on cream-coloured grounded paper produced by Goltzius or his student Jac. de Gheyn as the residue of sketchbooks. Even Rembrandt's double-sided silverpoint leaflets showing landscapes once belonged to such a booklet" (p. 96f.).

Few specifics are known of Jacob Guldenmund's work: he assisted his father in printing and, when this source of income proved inadequate, also in bookbinding (cf. Weigel), probably later taking over his shop. Wolf and Jacob Guldenmund had the privilege of cutting and printing the arms of Amberg on all official publications, for which service Wolf received half a guilder from the treasury in 1555. Although Haebler does not record the Guldenmunds as bookbinders and no other bindings with Jacob's stamps appear to be known, the fact that Jacob Guldenmund had a signature punch cut for his bindings (probably soon after his father's passing in 1580) would suggest that his personal output was not entirely insignificant. Considering the strong artistic strain in his family, it is quite possible that he produced the sketchbook for his personal use.

Includes the crozier-shaped original drawing rod which doubles as the fastening pin - a rare example of a stylus made entirely of silver, as most counterparts were brass with just a silver tip soldered to one end. Pages mostly blank with a few 19th and 20th century sketches interspersed. Spine spilt with slight chipping and loss; extremeties rubbed and bumped, calf worn away in places; binding generally a little rubbed but most of the giltstamped decoration is well preserved. In spite of its minor flaws, this is an utterly charming specimen of a type of Renaissance sketchbook that has rarely survived even in museums.


Cf. Maximilian Weigel, "Buchdrucker und Druckschriften in Amberg bis zum Beginn des Dreißigjährigen Krieges", in: Verhandlungen des Historischen Vereins für Oberpfalz und Regensburg 92 (1951), pp. 175-185. Meder, Die Handzeichnung (Vienna, 1923), p. 96f., with figs. 39-40. Fiedler, Graphik-Vergleichs-Sammlung (Vienna, 1975), 189f. LGB² III, 305.