9 Highlights from the Maurice Burrus Collection

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BIBLE, LATIN. VOL. I ONLY (Genesis-Psalms). [STRASSBURG: JOHANN MENTELIN, NOT AFTER 1460]. Royal Folio (407 × 295 mm), 215 leaves [a–i12k10l–r12s13], 2 columns- 49 lines, Proctor type 1. Rubricated, fi rst folio illuminated in the XIXth century for Heinrich Klemm, blue blind-tooled shagreen on wooden boards in a retrospective design, metal center and corner-pieces, 2 clasps, untrimmed edges, title and date 1458 gilt on the spine (German binding for Heinrich Klemm, c 1880)



The 1460 Latin Bible is the fi rst book printed by Johann Mentelin (c. 1410–1478), Strassburg’s fi rst printer and fi rst known printer outside of Mainz. The proof-sheets copy (Vol. I alone) preserved in Cambridge has been thoroughly studied by Paul Needham (“The Cambridge Proof Sheets of Mentelin’s Latin Bible”, in Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 9, 1986, pp. 1-35), and our description owes a lot to his discoveries. Like most Mentelin’s books, the B-49 was published without a date, but the copy in Fribourg bears rubrication inscriptions: «Explicit psalterium. 1460» (vol. I) and «Explicit apocalipsis Anno domini M°. cccc°.lxi°» (vol. II). As both volumes were printed together, printing was fi nished in 1460: «The traditional priority over the Mentelin Bible accorded to the 36-line Bible, almost certainly printed in Bamberg rather than Mainz, is ungrounded. The rubrication date of 1460 in vol. I of the Freiburg copy of Mentelin’s Bible establishes that the entire edition was completed by that date, for volumes I-II were printed concurrently. The earliest reliable date associated with the 36-line Bible is 1461, the rubrication date of the Wolfenbüttel copy» (P. Needham). The 1460 Latin Bible is a Royal folio of 427 leaves (215 leaves for vol. I, with 215v blank, and 212 leaves for vol. II - absent in the Burrus copy). The 851 printed pages were set in two columns of 49 lines, printed with a single type, Mentelin’s type 1. This attractive semi-gothic type, inspired by the distinctive hand found in the XVth century Alsatian manuscripts, testifi es of Mentelin’s capacities as a scribe. Worn out after printing a large folio Bible, it had to be replaced. It is only found in this book, except for the 1461 indulgence letter recently discovered (Günter Hägele, «Ein unbekannter Mentelin- Druck von 1461 im Stadtarchiv Baden im Aargau», in Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, Bd. 89, 2014, pp. 68-85).

The 1460 Bible “was printed on a single stock of Royal paper, watermarked with Bull’s Head. This stock is the same as that found in the 1460 Mainz Catholicon (Goff B-20) – or rather in paper copies of the fi rst printing of the Catholicon…The mill providing both Mentelin and Gutenberg with this paper was located in the Piedmont, near Turin. Earlier the same mill had supplied the chief stocks of the Gutenberg Bible, and later it supplied most or all of the paper of Fust and Schöffer’s 1462 Vulgate (Goff B-259), and of Mentelin’s second book, Aquinas Summa theological II (Goff T-208)” (P. Needham). “We are fortunate in that, although Mentelin’s exemplar has not been identifi ed, we know what it was: a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, entirely of the fi rst setting and apparently without substantial manuscript corrections”. The study of Cambridge proofs shows that “in general the correction was careful…It is clear enough that correction consisted of collating the proof against the exemplar” (P. Needham).

“ The most interesting aspect of the Cambridge proofs …the cyclical pattern of their paper stocks” shows that composition proceeded sequentially, in textual order, from the fi rst page of a quire to the last. As for the Gutenberg Bible, composition was divided in 4 units, 2 in each volume. In Vol. I, the two groups of quires (1-10 (a-k), ff. 1-118, Genesis to 3 Regum,with 118 verso blank), and (11-18 (l-s), ff. 119-215, 4 Regum-Psalms, with 215 verso blank), represent the result of two separate, independent sequences of composition. “The paper-stock pattern suggests that the fi rst quire was set and printed fi rst and by itself, before copy was divided for concurrent setting. The pinhole pattern corroborates this, with 8 pinholes. The next quires show only 4 pinholes… “(P. Needham).

We don’t know how many copies were printed of the Mentelin Bible, but it is a very rare book: 30 copies are currently known, several incomplete, all preserved in public institutions, including 3 French libraries (BNF, Colmar, Chantilly) and 4 American libraries (Boston, New York Public Library, Pierpont Morgan Library, Princeton). No copy appeared at auction since the Henry Yates Thomson copy now in the Pierpont Morgan Library, sold in 1921 (Catalogue of fourteen illuminated manuscripts and fi fteen early printed books... The property of Henry Yates Thomson, Londres, 22 June, 1921, Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, lot 73).

The Franciscains de Saverne-Hoym-Shuckburgh copy was bought privately in May 2001 by the late William Scheide’s and entered his extraordinary collection (now donated to Princeton University), a widely commented purchase: «COLLECTOR ASSEMBLES A RARE QUARTET OF BIBLES: In a bibliographic convergence that has not occurred in more than 150 years, copies of the fi rst four printed editions of the Bible have come under the ownership of a single person … Mr. Scheide completed the rare-book grand slam late last year with his quiet, seven-fi gure purchase of a Mentelin Bible, printed by Johann Mentelin in 1460 in Strasbourg…Only two other individuals, King George III of England and the second Earl Spencer… have ever owned copies of all four of the Bibles… THE MENTELIN BIBLE, EVEN RARER THAN THE GUTENBERG, joins a Gutenberg, the fi rst major Western book printed from movable type, in 1455 in Mainz; a copy of what is known as the 36-Line Bible, printed in Bamberg in 1461, possibly by Albrecht Pfi ster; and the 1462 Bible, also printed in Mainz, by Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer” (New York Times, June 10, 2002 – More details in For William H. Scheide: fi fty years of collecting, [Princeton, N.J.]: Princeton University Library, 2004). The Gutenberg and the 1462 Bibles had been purchased by William Scheide’s father. He himself had bought in 1991 the Liverpool copy of the B-36 Bible (incomplete, lacking 400 leaves of 884, Christie’s, London, 27 Nov. 1991, lot 50, £1,000,000).


AN UNTRIMMED, UNPRESSED AND EXCEPTIONNALLY TALL COPY, in very good internal condition (for Klemm’s restorations, please refer to the printed catalogue).

Triple signature in fi rst quire, double signature after. Space for large 6 or 7-line initials left blank. Rubrication in red: title, running-titles, headings, chapter numbers, large initials extending in the margins, 2-line initials, initial strokes. To complete his work, the anonymous rubricator used a copy of Gutenberg Bible’s Tabula Rubricarum. But the space left for rubrication was quite small. Rubricating the Psalms proved very diffi cult, with misnumberings (from Psalm 55 onwards) and mistakes and inversions. The rubricator even had to write in the margin of f. 202v (we warmly thank Eberhard König for noticing this and letting us know).

A few manuscript notes on ff. 24, 61, 129, 175 sqq. and 201, chapter numbering corrected throughout.

In the mid-1880’s, the copy entered the library of the great Dresden bibliophile Heinrich Klemm (1819-1886). A successful publisher of fashion magazines, his economic success allowed Klemm to build up an extensive collection of early printed books, including a Gutenberg Bible printed on parchment. Klemm’s “Bibliographisches Museum” was described in 1884 (Beschreibender Catalog des bibliographischen Museums von Heinrich Klemm). It was bought the same year by the state of Saxony, and passed in 1886 on to the Buchgewerbemuseum recently founded in Leipzig. The museum suffered heavy losses in the Second World War, and the most valuable items of Klemm’s collection were sent to Russia in 1945. These holdings have been held ever since by the Russian State Library in Moscow.

Immediately after selling his collection, Klemm began a new one. It was sold at auction after his death (Catalogue d’une importante collection de livres anciens, rares et précieux ... provenant de la bibliotheque de feu M. Henri Klemm…le lundi 18 Mars 1889. Dresde, V. Zahn & Jaensh, 1889). The Mentelin Latin Bible (vol. I only) was described under lot 154, and it was bought for 330 marks by the Leipzig booksellers List & Francke (many thanks to Roland Folter for kindly telling us about it).

Klemm, as he frequently did, had the title decorated in the manner of Johann Bämler (many thanks to Eberhard König for his information). It was a good idea, as Bämler rubricated at least 3 Mentelin imprints. Until recently, it was thought that Bämler, who started printing in Augsburg in 1469–1470 but continued to work as an illuminator and rubricator, had been trained in Mentelin’s workshop (Sheila Edmunds, «New light on Johannes Bämler», Journal of the Printing Historical Society, 22, 1993, pp. 29-53).

Klemm also ordered a “pastiche binding”. A binding of very similar design is on his copy of the Catholicon kept in Moskow (T. A. Dolgodrova, N. P. Cherkashina, Katalog inkunabulov i paleotipov iz sobranii a Genrikha Klemma, Moscou, Pashkov, 2011). For other examples of metal pieces in Klemm’s collection, see G. Adler, Handbuch Buchverschluss und Buchbeschlag, Wiesbaden, Reichert, 2010, pp. 175-180. The date 1458 gilt on the spine is the date, well-known to the XIXth century bibliophiles, given by Giovanni Filippo De Lignamine in his 1474 Chronica, stating that Mentelin, as well as Gutenberg and Fust, was printing everyday «300 cartas» (“Iohannes quoque Mentelinus nuncupatus apud Argentinam eiusdem provincie civitatem ac in eodem artificio peritus totidem cartas per diem imprimere agnoscitur”).

With Maurice Burrus’ ex-libris (n°113).

Goff B528; H 3033*; Pell 2278; CIBN B-363; Sack (Freiburg) 610; Pr 196; BMC I 51; GW 4203; ISTC ib00528000. Karl Schorbach, Der Straßburger Frühdrucker Johann Mentelin (1458-1478): Studien zu seinem Leben und Werke, Mainz, 1932.




JOHANN MENTELIN, born c 1410 in Schlettstadt (today Sélestat in Alsace), is the FIRST STRASSBURG PRINTER (and the FIRST KNOWN PRINTER OUTSIDE OF MAINZ). Thus he is also the FIRST PRINTER ON THE ACTUAL FRENCH TERRITORY, ten years before Paris, as Alsace and Strasbourg have been incorporated to the French kingdom by Louis the XIVth in the XVIIth century. Very few new biographical details have been added to the pioneering study Karl Schorbach devoted to him in 1932. We don’t know where he studied (the famous Sélestat Humanist Latin School that was to receive Beatus Rhenanus’ library was founded only in 1441). On 18th April 1447, Johann Mentelin gained Strassburg citizenship,registered in the painter’s guild as a calligrapher and illuminator. A testimony of his prior activities was discovered in 1977, a manuscript of Ludolphus de Saxonia’s Vita Jesu Christi with a colophon dated 1444 and signed by Mentelin (British Library, Add MS 10934-10935: D. MERTENS, «Eine Mentelin-Handschrift. Landesgeschichte und Geistesgeschichte. Festschrift für Otto Herding, Stuttgart, 1977, pp. 169-187). He was also serving as a notary to the episcopal court, at the same time as Heinrich Eggestein, Strassburg’s second printer, was the bishop’s sigilifer (whose duties included the supervision of notaries).

Mentelin’s first printed work is the Latin Bible printed in 49 lines per page (lot 76), undated but printed not after 1460. Considering the time needed for technical investments and printing equipment, it is assumed that Mentelin had already begun to settle his printing-house earlier, c. 1458. During the next ten years, Mentelin combines his several duties of scribe, episcopal notary and printer, which allows us to suppose that Robert (Ruprecht) von Pfalz-Simmern, bishop of Strassburg, sponsored the installation of printing in his town, as will his colleagues in Bamberg (for Pfister), Augsburg and Ulm (for the Zainer brothers, both married in 1463 and 1465 to Strassburg women and who learned the art of printing when working for Mentelin). When Mentelin sells in October 1461 a copy of his Latin Bible to the Strassburg priest Johannes Kuon in three installments of four guilders each, he signs as episcopal notary (Arch. Mun. Strasbourg, Chambre des contrats, 3 f° 31). And when he is mentionned in Strassburg “Helbelingzollbuch” (wine tax role), he is described as a scribe, a notary and a printer.

The next printed work – excepted a 1461 Indulgence recently discovered – is the not after 1463 Thomas Aquinas’ Summa theologiae II (Sélestat copy received a note by Jean Fabri: «Anno Domini 1463 emi praesentem librum a Johanne Menteli notario et scriba, cive Argentinensi»). It was not until 3 other years that the next printed work was produced, the first that bears Mentelin’s name (in the editor’s preface, not at the colophon), Augustine’s Tractatus de arte praedicandi, not after 1466. The same year he completes his German Bible. Replaced in December 1468 in his episcopal notary office, Mentelin seems to have devoted his last 10 years to printing and publishing activities, with several books published every year until 1477. Mentelin quickly achieved business success, and became a wealthy man. In 1466, he was granted nobility and a coatof- arms by Emperor Frederick III. His two daughters married the Strassburg book-printers Martin Schott and Adolf Rusch (the printer with the bizarre R, who probably worked in association with Mentelin and succeeded him), both printing from c .1472 onwards. After about 20 years as a book-printer, Mentelin, luckier than Gutenberg, died in Strassburg on December 12, 1478, rich and successful («Multa volumina castigate ac polite Argentinae imprimendo factus est brevi opulentissimus”, Wimpheling, Epitome rerum Germanicarum, 1505).

When and where Mentelin learned the technique of book printing is not known. Mainz and Strassburg have for a long time been in competition for the title of the town where printing was invented. If Gutenberg, expelled from Mainz, stayed in Strassburg at least between 1434 and 1444, his partnership with Strassburg patricians is now admitted to concern mass-producing frames for pilgrim mirrors, «and the Strassburg documents by no mean impose the conclusion that Gutenberg was engaged there in typographic printing» (Martin Davies). But the two men may have known each other, and it is likely that Mentelin either got his knowledge directly from Gutenberg (but he is not known for having left Strassburg in the 1450’s, except maybe in April 1450) or through a middleman. Anyhow, he used a copy of the Gutenberg Bible to establish the text of his first book, the Latin 1460 Bible.

We know 41 editions printed by Mentelin between 1460 and 1477, most of them undated: 10 placards or ephemera (indulgences, almanacs, book-advertisements – amongst them the oldest known «Bücheranzeige») and 31 books: “Johannes Mentelin, a curious instance of active production which can be followed almost from book to book, despite the fact that it was not until he had been at work at least 13 years that he printed either his name or a date in any of his productions. To compensate for this silence, we have an unusual abundance of external evidence in the shape of dates of purchase or rubrication, and of two advertisements…. By the aid of this external evidence, that derived from Mentelin’s typographical practice is shown to be unusually trustworthy. If he made a change, he seems to have stuck to it, and the career of a printer who does this is mostly easy to follow. In a few early books he used 4 pinholes, in those printed in the years 1466-72 he used 2, in those of 1473 and onwards none. He changed one 92 type for another about the end of 1468; for his larger text type he began with 118, increased it to 121, and then, about 1467, fixed on 112 as the best size, speedily changing his first fount of this measurement for a second, and this again about 1472, for a third… With all these different kind of clues to help us, the books for the most part fall easily into a sequence, evidence of one kind being often neatly corroborated by that of another (Alfred W. Pollard, Catalogue of books printed in the XVth century now in the British Museum, Part I, Introduction, Londres, 1908, p. XXIV).

Mentelin’s printing and publishing list is composed of well-chosen and well-edited works, text correctness being duly ensured by scholarly proofreaders. Mentelin first focused on the Church market in the Alsace and southern Germany with his 1460 Latin Bible and the first edition of the German Bible in 1466. Of his 31 editions, half (16) are princeps or first editions: among others, works of Augustine (De Arte praedicandi, Confessiones, Epistolae - see his De civitate Dei, lot 77), Thomas Aquinas, both Vincent de Beauvais’s Speculum historiale and morale, and the 2 first books «adversus Judaeos», by two Spanish writers: Paulus de Sancta Maria’s Scrutinium scripturarum (lot 78) and Alphonsus de Spina’s Fortalitium Fidei. Mentelin also published the first editions of texts of classical antiquity (Aristotle’s Ethica ad Nicomachum and Valerius Maximus). He was also the only German printer to publish medieval German chivalric literature, with the editio princeps of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival and Albrecht von Scharfenberg’s Titurel.

F. Geldner, Die deutschen Inkunabeldrucker, 1. Stuttgart, 1968, pp. 55-57. – Gutenberg et les débuts de l’imprimerie à Strasbourg. Strasbourg, 1968 - Cinquième centenaire de la mort de Jean Mentel (1410-1478), Sélestat, 1978 – François Ritter, Histoire de l’imprimerie alsacienne aux XVe et XVIe siècles, Strasbourg, Paris, 1955 - Paul Needham, “The Cambridge Proof Sheets of Mentelin’s Latin Bible”, Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society, 9 (1986), pp.1-35; Jean-Luc Kahn, «Mentelin et l’imprimerie à Strasbourg jusqu’en 1475», Bulletin du bibliophile, 1990, pp. 345-370.

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