Oblong 4to. [25 x 19.5 cm], (1) ff. engraved title-page with putti and calligraphy instruments, (3) ff., 54 engraved plates, (1) p. ‘Nachricht.’ Bound in early half-vellum with patterned paper over boards; faint damp mark to upper left corner of some leaves. Generally fresh.
An unusually fresh example of the rare first edition of a Baroque German penmanship textbook self-published by this “Schul-, Schreib- und Rechnenmeister” from Frankfurt am Main, with 54 engraved plates. After assuring his readers that these methods have been honed throughout his tenure as a teacher of penmanship, Schirmer begins with simple morphological exercises—single ligatures and glyphs—that soon evolve into the writing of whole words, sentences, and finally paragraphs, a process that is repeated for each script: Kurrent, Kanzlei (chancellery), Fraktur, and Lateinische Cursiv (with a page on Rotunda and Quadrata). While this accretative method is not uncommon, Schirmer’s use of dotted or unbroken lines to mark the angle, length, and space between typographical features is more unusual—as is a plate comprised exclusively of tails, loops and figure-eights, to be practiced as if they were capital letters.
More visually striking are the 25 plates that follow, among which are a number of features rarely seen in contemporary Schreibmeisterbucher: entire plates devoted to a single word, exercises in trompe l’oeil, and the juxtaposition of detailed figurative engravings with their more decorative counterparts.
In these plates, Schirmer first provides a broad selection of edifying quotes in each script, often with elaborately decorated headlines. The ornamentation reaches a pitch in two plates of single words—Wir and Ich—whose capitals blossom into elegant intertwining mazes of leaves, scrolls, and fasces. The volume also contains a plate in which the crosshatched and shaded figures of a horse, swan, soldier, etc., are mirrored in the looping command-of-hand drawings popularized by the 17th-century Italian masters. Yet Schirmer’s last exercises, such as the trompe-l’oeil calling-cards, sample receipts and formal business letters, seem to suggest a uniquely German sense of calligraphy, not as fanciful (i.e. Italian) doodling, but as an artistic discipline of purpose and profit.
OCLC: Library of Congress, Winterthur, Newberry, Metropolitan Museum.
* Bonacini 1634, Doede 176; S.K.B. 4917. Not in Hofer (or Osley). New editions of the work appeared in 1772 and 1773; this is the earliest edition we have been able to locate.