52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings: Week 15

Friday 23 September 2011

John Duns Scotus’s Quaestiones in quatuor libros Sententiarum, printed by and bound for Anton Koberger

Blind stamped title found at the head of TypGN.A81KD.
The front board of TypGN.A81KD, bound in Nuremberg in the 15th century.

Although small, St Andrews’ incunabula collection has a wealth of contemporary bindings. Because the majority of our early print collection came to the university as fit contemporary need and not as specimens of fine print (fewer than 30 incunabula have been purchased in the past two centuries), many of the books are still housed in their original, if worn, bindings.  St Andrews’ copy of John Duns Scotus’s Quaestiones in quatuor libros Sententiarum una cum Quodlibet, printed by Anton Koberger in 1481, is a fine example of late 15th century German binding.

TypGN.A81KD is bound in contemporary calf on heavy oak boards, both of which are blind tooled using stamps of foliage, fleurs de lys, roses and griffins and the front board has “Scotus cu[m] Quodlibe[t]” blind stamped in a Gothic script at the head of the board. The book originally had two clasps and four ornate corner bosses, which have been detailed with blue enamel, on both boards as well as two central bosses. Two of the clasps, and two of  the corners and both central bosses are now missing; however those bosses that remain show the craftsmanship that went into this binding. It is assumed that this book was bound for Koberger, or even in his shop, because the two leaves of printed waste that have been used as fly-leaves were also printed by Koberger (both leaves from his 1481 issue of Nicolaus de Lyra’s Postillae super Biblia). This style of binding was very popular in Nuremberg at the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century; another very similar binding is found on a different work by Koberger at St. John’s College Library, Cambridge.

Part of the waste fragment used as a fly-leaf for TypGN.A81KD, also printed by Anton Koberger (f. 366 of his 1481 issue of Nicolaus de Lyra's Postillae super Biblia).

The beauty and craftsmanship of this binding is complimentary to its contents. Koberger was the first printer and publisher in Nuremberg, and quickly became the most successful in Germany. The work put into this large tome is exceptional, and beautiful. The text is rubricated throughout in red and blue, and the initials at the beginning of each part are decorated by a large, ornate capital. The initial to part 1 is illuminated and decorated in red, blue and green (see below).  TypGN.A81KD was given to the University by Patrick Young as part of his gift for the foundation of the Common Library at St Andrews (a library founded as a separate entity from St Salvators or St Leonards).

Illuminated initial at the beginning of Part 1 of John Duns Scotus's Quaestiones in quatuor libros Sententiarum.


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