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The first authentic Western source for the Near and Middle East - with the first printed Arabic alphabet

Breydenbach, Bernhard von. [Peregrinatio in terram sanctam, germanice:] Dis buch ist innhaltend die heyligen reyssen gen Jherusalem zu dem heiligen grab [...].

[Speyer, Peter Drach, between 1502 and 1505].

Folio (216 x 316 mm). 112 unnumbered ff. With numerous red Lombardic initials, large coloured title woodcut showing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, 8 coloured woodcuts (1 repeated from the title), 7 woodcut alphabets, and 1 coloured full-page woodcut; further with 7 folding coloured woodcut views. Contemporary blind-tooled leather remboîtage rebinding over wooden boards with bevelled edges, both covers prettily ruled and rollstamped in blind.

Third German edition of the first modern travelogue of a journey from Venice to the Holy Land, attributed by Proctor to Erhard Reuwich from Mainz but now agreed to have been printed by Peter Drach in Speyer. "The first illustrated book of travel ever printed [...] the folding panoramic views [...] are the first authentic representations of the famous places depicted, i. e., the ports usually visited by every pilgrim of the period [... The] artist was Erhard Reuwich [..., who] graphically record[ed] the impressions of the voyage" (Davies).

The present edition contains the same woodcuts which Drach had cut for the Latin edition of 24 November 1502; they are a little worn compared to that earlier impression. The splendid folding views show Venice (ca. 160 cm long), Porec and Corfu (both ca. 40 cm), Methoni, Crete and Rhodes (all ca. 80 cm) as well as Jerusalem (ca. 130 cm).

This work is considered the first authentic Western source for the Near and Middle East, as the illustrations were prepared from actual observation of the lands and people described. Breydenbach travelled to the Holy Land in 1483/84 with a large party including the Utrecht artist Erhard Reuwich, who drew the maps and views from his observations on the journey. Following the traditional route, the group travelled from Venice to Corfu, Modon, Crete, Rhodes and Jaffa before arriving in Jerusalem, and then through the Sinai desert to Mt. Sinai, Cairo, and Alexandria on the return journey. First published in Latin and then German in 1486, the book quickly became extremely popular and was translated into French, Dutch and Spanish before 1500. Earlier literature refers to the present edition as an incunable or immediate post-incunable, as indeed the present copy appears to be. It includes studies of Middle Eastern costume, a glossary of common Arabic words, and pictures of animals encountered on the journey (including a crocodile, a camel, and even a unicorn).

Covers show restored traces of worming, clasps re-fitted; modern spine. Professional remboîtage re-binding using early endpapers. First ten and last twelve leaves have edge damage with slight worming and more noticeable fingerstaining. Last leaf fully rebacked on blank verso. Quite unobtrusive paper flaw to upper gutter throughout; occasional old remarginings and repairs. A few underlinings in brown ink by an early hand. Views variously restored (by early as well as more recent hands) and coloured in very authentic style; occasional paper flaws supplied or retouched. Title-page has early 17th century ownership of the judge Gregor Lehner from Deggendorf in Bavaria. Altogether a complete, elaborately appointed and professionally restored copy of a much sought-after work frequently encountered only in severely damaged or incomplete copies even in research libraries.


VD 16, B 8259. Davies, Breydenbach, no. VI. Hain 3958. Goff B-1195. GW IV, 656a. Schreiber 3632. Proctor 158. BMC II, 499. IGI I, 266. Pellechet 2984. CRF V, 229. CRF XIII, 235. VB 2026.5. BSB-Ink B-913. CIBN I, 400. Borm IG 599. Collijn 1173. Sack 816a. Schlechter-Ries 422. Walsh, Harvard, 866a. Fairfax Murray 97. CIH S. 263. IBEPostinc 59. IBPPostinc 14. IA 124.180. ISTC ib01195000.