Gregorius IX 1473

GREGORIUS IX, Pont. Max. (c. 1148–1241).
Decretales.
Commentary by Bernardo Bottoni of Parma (d. 1266).
Printed on vellum.
Mainz: Peter Schoeffer, 23 November 1473. (06327)

According to a document of 1477, Schoeffer printed 360 copies of this work on paper and 40 copies on vellum, a half-share of which belonged to Johann Fust’s heirs. Compiled for Pope Gregory IX in 1324, the Decretales collected all of the canon laws that had been approved since the completion of the Decretum of Gratianus in 1140. Bridwell Library’s vellum copy is distinguished by beautifully painted miniatures and a spectacular pictorial binding. Both forms of decoration were executed by the prolific Austrian illuminator and binder Ulrich Schreier, who served important patrons at Salzburg and Vienna from the 1460s to the 1480s. The binding is an outstanding example of Schreier’s cuir-ciselé (carved leather) technique, in which the outlines of a pictorial design are incised with a knife in the calfskin while the “background” is brought into relief by means of stippling with a round punch. Remarkably, Schreier carved and painted an image of the seated Pope Gregory on the top board, which closely matches the composition of his illumination for Book V. Below the Pope is a heraldic shield bearing a large black hen. The likeliest patron is Johann Han (d. 1500), Canon of Pressburg, Slovakia, who commissioned work from Schreier on other occasions. His coat of arms consists of a similar hen (Han in German).

The Latin verse following the colophon on the penultimate leaf states that two men of Mainz by the name of Johann were the first to print books, and that one Peter, superior in cutting letters, was “later to arrive but first to enter.” This alludes to the arrival of the apostles John and Peter at the tomb of Christ (John 20:3-8), in which John reached the sepulcher first, but Peter was the first to enter the holy place. The passage must refer to the first printers, Johannes Gutenberg and Johann Fust of Mainz, who were followed by the surpassing skill of Peter Schoeffer.

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The Great Law Books
Gregorius IX 1473