Hystori und wunderbarlich legend Katharine von Senis / der hailigen junkfrawen / mit sampt zwayen predigen … [colophon:]. RAIMUNDUS DE CAPUA, / / / ROBERTUS DE LICIO, Hans SCHÄUFELEIN, CATHERINE OF SIENA.
The First German Life of St. Catherine of Siena
With Woodcuts By Hans Schäufelein, Collaborator of Dürer
Augsburg, H. Otmar and J. Rynman, 1515.

Hystori und wunderbarlich legend Katharine von Senis / der hailigen junkfrawen / mit sampt zwayen predigen … [colophon:].

4to [28.5 x 19.5 cm, ], LXXXIX ff., woodcut title page from 5 blocks, 49 17-line woodcuts in text, woodcut initials. Quarter bound in contemporary blind-stamped pigskin over wooden boards with beveled edges, spine in four compartments, title in faded ink on spine & paper label affixed to top of upper board, remnants of clasps, catches missing, remnants of vellum manuscripts in binding material. Some rubbing & minor worming to spine and boards; w/o front pastedown & endpapers; edge wear and light handsoiling to first few leaves, light stain on verso of title from removed label, small marginal puncture affecting first 4 leaves; very minor staining and handsoiling here and there, minor worming at inner margins sometimes entering textblock; insignificant marginal paper loss at fols. lvii & lxxvi. A genuine, fresh and attractive example.

Very rare first German-language edition (1515) of Raymond of Capua’s (c. 1330-99) Life of St. Catherine of Siena (1337-80), finely illustrated with 49 woodcuts (7 of which are repeated) by Hans Schäufelein (c. 1480-1540), one of Albrecht Dürer’s most gifted pupils and a key inheritor of the master’s innovative graphic style. These woodcuts with their subjects are indexed in an appended register to help readers “search and find” (zü süchen unnd zü finden) them, a clear indication of their reference importance and perhaps of their devotional function as well. The volume – here preserved in entirely contemporary German blind-stamped pigskin and wooden boards – forms a substantial and important part of Schäufelein’s graphic oeuvre, which numbers some 1200 woodcuts. The artist, “a gifted storyteller [who] seems to have found a natural outlet for his particular talents in the graphic medium” (Ainsworth, p. 135) and whose “prints and paintings provide[d] an important link in the spread of Dürer’s style to Augsburg and Nördlingen” (Bartrum, p. 148), is principally known in the book-arts for his woodcuts for Der Beschlossen Gart der Rosenkrantz (1505) and for the Speculum Passionis Domini Nostri Ihesu Christi (1507), both from the Nuremberg press of Ulrich Pinder (see M. C. Oldenbourg for a full account of Schäufelein’s book-illustration). Schäufelein, whose authorship of the illustrations is confirmed both by stylistic means and by the appearance of his ‘H-S’ monogram on the woodcuts of the title page and at folio lxvii, illustrates Catherine’s life with scenes of her birth, youth, education, and early convent life, her visions, asceticism, torment by devils, charity, diplomatic missions, stigmatization, her long illness, and death.


The volume’s interest is not, however, confined to its suite of woodcuts: The Dominican Raymond of Capua was both confessor and principal biographer of Catherine of Siena, herself a mystic of primary importance in the history of late-medieval spirituality, an author of classic texts in the Tuscan vernacular, a diplomat and ambassador sent on numerous journeys to resolve tensions between papal authorities and Italian city states, the founder of the convent at Belcaro, and today one of two patron saints of Italy (with St. Francis). Buried near the Pantheon in the Roman church of Sta. Maria sopra Minerva, her head was early taken to the Sienese basilica of S. Dominico, where it is still venerated. Catherine’s visions and extreme ascetic austerities (she died of what today would be called anorexia) coupled with her unprecedented political boldness have cemented her primacy among modern medievalists (see J. Hamburger and G. Signori for the most sophisticated recent work on Catherine, and J. Jungmayr’s edition of the Legenda maior for a full textual history).


The present volume, given the German title Hystori und wunderbarlich legend, contains in addition to Raymond’s Life of St. Catherine two sermons translated from Robertus de Licio’s (Roberto Caracciolo) Sermones de laudibus sanctorum (printed 1489), one on St. Catherine, the other on St. Vincent Ferrer.


OCLC records only one copy in the United States, at the NYPL.


* VD16 R 134 (also R 2679 and VD16 R 2680); Schreyl 778-82; Hollstein 887-1039; M. Consuelo Oldenbourg, Die Buchholzschnitte des Hans Schäufelein: Ein Bibliographisches Verzeichnis ihrer Verwendung, (Baden-Baden: Heitz, 1964); Jörg Jungmayr, Die Legenda maior (Vita Catherinae Senensis) des Raimund von Capua: Edition nach der Nürnberger Handschrift Cent. IV, 75, (Berlin: Weidler Buchverlag, 2004); Maryan Ainsworth, “Schäufelein as Painter and Graphic Artist in The Visitation,” Metropolitan Museum of Art Journal, no. 22 (1987), pp. 135-40; Giulia Bartrum, German Renaissance Prints 1490-1550, (London: British Museum, 1995); Jeffrey Hamburger and Gabriela Signori, eds., Catherine of Siena: The Creation of a Cult, (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013).

Price: $18,500.00