Eyn schön nützlich büchlin und underweisung der kunst des Messens mit dem Zirckel, Richtscheidt oder Lineal. Zu nutz allen kunstliebhabern, furnehmlich den Malern, Bildhawern, Goldschmiden, Seidenstickern, Steynmetzen, Schreinern, auch allen andren, so sich der kunst des Messens (Perspectiva zu latein gnant) zugebruchen lust haben.(Simmern, getruckt unnd volnendet zu Siemeren uff dem Hunessrucke, in verlegu[n]g Hieronimi Rodlers, Fürstlichen Sectretarien daselbst [privately printed by Rodler for Duke Johann II of Pfalz-Simmern], (24 July), 1531).



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21 full-page woodcuts and 35 woodcuts in the text, mostly half-page, of these 11 woodcuts printed with unusual red perspective lines; title-page printed in red, first initial in black, and with a fine three-quarter woodcut depicting the ducal workshop of artisans and artists (see below), large woodcut armorial printer’s device on last leaf verso.

Small folio (296 x 195mm). 45 leaves, printed in the ‘Dürer’ Fraktur. Recent vellum over paste-boards.

(Simmern, getruckt unnd volnendet zu Siemeren uff dem Hunessrucke, in verlegu[n]g Hieronimi Rodlers, Fürstlichen Sectretarien daselbst [privately printed by Rodler for Duke Johann II of Pfalz-Simmern], (24 July) 1531). 

Rare first edition of this early, elegantly produced work on perspective aimed at painters, sculptors, goldsmiths, embroiderers, masons and carpenters; the first of the Kunstbüchlein.  

Rodler’s preface (A2) explains that the work was influenced by Dürer’s Underweysung der Messung (1525) but that this new text was given to him by an anonymous author who was at pains to furnish a work specifically designed to be understood and used by artists and artisans. The work was written in a more practical, easily digestible style, ‘die kunst Perspectiva schlechter [here used to mean ‘easier’] und begreifflicher dann Dürers Bücher aussweisen anzuzeygen’. The identity of this anonymous author has only been revealed recently. It was noted that the large initials of the first fifty-four paragraphs in the main text spelled out the name of Rodler’s patron Johann II of Pfalz-Simmern: JOHAN SPFALFZ GRAF BEJ REIN HERTZOG JN BEYRN UND GRAF ZU SPANHEJM (see Wunderlich, pp. 25-27).

‘Duke Johann II installed a private press in his Simmern residence and on it produced a remarkable series of eight first editions translated or illustrated by his own hand. An expert woodcutter (he is known to have made wooden sculptures for a neighbouring convent) and a fair draughtsman and painter (pupil of Conrad Faber who gained fame as Schöffer's illustrator of Livy and Caesar), the Duke was also a man of letters. His court was bilingual in French, … in a word; he was the perfect Renaissance prince’.  

‘He knew and admired Dürer’s recent works on perspective and proportion, but he had already absorbed the Italian influence to a far greater extent than the master whose heavy-handed ‘Northern’ seriousness he disliked. The present treatise is a revolt against specialist dogmatism, written in an easy vernacular and illustrated with a simple elegance and deftness that points towards the French school. Most of the full-page views were drawn from life in the grounds, halls, corridors of the castle, and the title-page presumably shows the workshop there, with a self-portrait of Duke Johann II at work’.  

‘Only the very first woodcuts used on the press, those on Rüxner’s Thunier-Buch, are signed HH, for Herzog Hans, or Hans von Hunsrück, the Duke’s vernacular name. The same signature occurs once more, in Sebastian Münster’s Cosmography which includes a cut of Simmern and mentions the press. Münster acknowledged his Hunsrück material to have been contributed by Duke Johann II. Hieronymus Rodler, who supervised the press and to whom the present work continues to be wrongly attributed (his own preface clearly mentions another anonymous author) was the Duke’s secretary’ (Wiebenson, III-B-2).  

A few contemporary mss notes in the margins; five leaves with faint browning A4-6 B1-2, some leaves strengthened in gutter in the 18th century, the final blank cut away, but a very good, crisp and large copy.

E. Bonnemann, Die Presse des Hier. Rodler, (1938), no. 3; Fairfax Murray, German, 367; Berlin Kat. 4681; Brunet II, 913; Schlosser-Magnino, pp. 276-280; Vagnetti, Perspectiva, EIIb10.

Ref: Werner Wunderlich, 'Johann II. von Simmern. Autor und Gelehrter auf dem Fürstentron', Euphorion, 1991, pp. 25-27. D. Wiebenson (ed.), Architectural Theory and Practice from Alberti to Ledoux (Charlottesville, 1982), III-B-2.

(COPAC locates V&A and University College London; OCLC locates in US: Getty, Morgan, National Gallery of Art Washington, NYPL, Library of Congress, Yale, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, Columbia (imperfect, lacks 10 leaves).)

Stock Code: 230929

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