Very early document of cross-cultural theology, comparing the world's religions

Stamler, Johannes. Dyalogus de diversarum gencium sectis et mundi religionibus.

Augsburg, Erhard Ogelin & Georg Nadler, 1508.

Folio (215 x 310 mm). (2), XXXII, (2) ff. With a fine full-page title woodcut (210 x 185 mm) by Hans Burgkmair (repeated on verso), incorporating a xylographic title showing the 'Sancta Mater Ecclesia' enthroned with a complex allegory depicted below her, both woodcuts boldly and skilfully highlighted in red. Initials, underlining and rubrication throughout in red. 20th century binding using older vellum.


First edition of Stamler's dramatic dialogue comparing the religions of the Tartars, Turks, Saracens and Jews, superbly illustrated by Hans Burgkmair. A prefatory letter contains a very early reference to Columbus and Vespucci.

Hans Burgkmair's magnificent woodcut is an ambitious attempt to reproduce the ideas of the author graphically: it shows a seated female figure representing the Church with the globe as a footstool; she sits before a tent, surrounded by the banners of the Papacy and the Empire. The Pope and Emperor kneel before her, and on a lower step sit four queens representing the four non-Christian religions, each bearing a banner with a broken staff. Below them are the figures of the disputants who take part in the dialogue: Dr. Oliverius, theologian; Balbus, historian; Rudolphus, a layman; Arnestes, an apostate; Samuel, a Jew; and Triphon, natural philosopher.

Burgkmair (1473-1531) was the foremost woodcut designer of the early 16th century in Augsburg and became the chief designer for most of Emperor Maximilian's print projects. "With the year 1508, which shows him at the full height of his power in separate woodcuts, Burgkmair's real period as an illustrator of books begins [...] The frontispiece of Stamler's 'Dialogus' shows an unusual delicacy of feeling in the rhythmical articulation and distribution of the masses and the way in which the difficult allegorical subject is controlled and visualized" (Rupe, "Hans Burgkmair as an Illustrator of Books", Print Quarterly 10.2 [1923], p. 177).

In a letter to Jacob Locher dated 1506 on fol. a3v, Stamler refers to the New World discoveries: "I do not make any mention of the newly discovered islands, but of Christopher Colom, their discoverer, and of Albericus Vespucius; on the discovery of the New World (to whom our age is chiefly indebted) behold what treatise I send you" (transl. from Latin).

Later 16th century ownership inscriptions on otherwise blank last verso. A scattering of small wormholes affecting one or two letters, else very well preserved.


VD 16, S 8527. Alden/Landis 508/19. Sabin 90127. Harrisse 51. Church 26. JCB I, 47-48. Burgkmair: Hollstein V, 68.81. Dodgson II, 57.1; 70.7. Muther 858.