Dialogus creaturarum moralisatus.(Cologne, Conrad Winters de Homborch, 24 October 1481)

MAYNO de Mayneriis (1481)


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Rubricated, initials painted in red.  

Folio (280 x 215mm). [62] ff (lacks first and last blank). Gothic type, double columns.  Early 19th century half-calf, marbled boards, spine tooled in gilt and blind (edges partially bumped, spine rubbed).

A rare unillustrated edition of the Dialogus Creaturarum (‘Dialogue of Creatures’), a famous and hugely popular collection of fables. The first edition was published the year before by Gerard Leeu in Gouda, 1480, illustrated with numerous woodcuts, this being the third edition. ISTC records 14 editions printed before 1500, mostly in Latin but also in Dutch and French, with the first English translation not published until c. 1530.

Composed in the fourteenth century, the 122 fables come from various ancient sources, including Aesop, and are presented in the form of dialogues largely populated by anthropomorphic ‘creatures’; sections include planetary bodies, the elements, gemstones, plants, fish, birds and animals (the fables from Aesop include The Lion’s Share, The Frog and the Ox and The Wolf and the Lamb). Traditionally the compiler is recorded as the Milanese doctor Magnus de Mayneriis, who died in 1368, or Nicolaus Pergamenus. More recently scholars such as Ruelle (1985) have concluded that the Dialogus was likely to have been compiled in Milan but not necessarily by Mayneriis.

“Each dialogue is divided into two sections, the first part depicting an encounter between these creatures – two is the usual number, though some dialogues have one or three – that ends in a violent conflict. This experience is summed up in a moral, typically delivered by the defeated party, which is then exemplified in the second half of the dialogue through citations from historiography, literature, and sacred scripture. Common texts cited include the pagan authors Seneca the Younger and Valerius Maximus, along with the Christian writers Paul, Augustine, and John Chrystostom and compilations such as the Vitae patrum (‘Lives of the Fathers’) and Legenda aurea (‘Golden Legend’).  

“The great precision with which these references are cited – often including book and chapter numbers – suggests that the Dialogus was designed as a reference text containing recommendations for further reading, and more specifically as a handbook for ‘constructing sermons’ (as indicated in the Preface). This purpose does not, however, detract from its entertaining style, which derives in no small part from the passionate dialogue that takes place between the ‘creatures’ and the fast-paced descriptions of their battles against one another. These features explain the popularity of the Dialogus, which ran through numerous editions from the late fifteenth century onwards.”(Stanford Global Medieval Sourcebook).

Provenance: a few early ink underlinings, marginalia and a manicule. Modern book label of the Schmitz-Otto family of Cologne, noted bibliophiles.

A few small wormholes affecting one or two letters. Damp stain affecting upper margin, a little heavier towards the end, occasional light damp staining affecting last few leaves, but mostly marginal. Generally a fresh and crisp copy.

ISTC id00159200 (34 locations, 40 copies and fragments). HC 6126. GW M22259. BMC I, 249. Goff N-153..

Stock Code: 242113

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