Mainz and Cologne

Ivo Schöffer, Q
Mainz, Schöffer Q
Ivo Schöffer, R
Mainz, Schöffer R

Ivo Schöffer of Mainz published the Greek text of The New Testament in Mainz in 1532: »Novum testamentum ab Erasmo Roter. novissime recognitum« (VD16 ZV 1918). This book contains a lot of small historiated initials, and towards the end come two initials with a dance of death (pictures to the left and right).

The picture to the right shows Death with a sickle rather than a scythe. The R is used as the first letter of St. John's Revelation ("Reuelatio Iesu Christi"), and as Schwab(1) points out, it is precisely here in the last book of the Bible that a sickle is used extensively as a metaphor for Judgment Day: »the Son of Man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand! […] "Use your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is fully ripe." So the one who sat on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped. Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. […] and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, "Use your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe" So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and he threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God« (Revelation 14:14-19).

Civilis historiae iuris, T
Mainz, Schöffer T

In 1533 he published »Civilis Historiae Iuris« by Aymar du Rivail (VD16 D 3048), which featured the T shown to the left.

The same initial was used two years later in »Novvm Testamentvm Ab Erasmo Roterod. Nouiß. Recognitum« (VD16 B 4257).

Ivo Schöffer, I, monk
Mainz, Schöffer I

In 1535 Schöffer published »Der Römischen Keyser Historien« (VD16 T 20), which contains even more initials and among these is a monk (to the left).

Here is a selection of the other initials:
Paul Hunter with bird Adam and Eve Satan tempting Jesus David with Goliat's head Jesus enters Jerusalem

Francis Douce writes about a single initial letter:

Bibliothecae Ecclesiasticae, V
Mainz, Ecclesiastica V

In Vol. II. p. 118 (misprinted 208) of Steinwich's "Bibliothecæ Ecclesiasticæ." Colon. Agrip. 1599, folio. There is a single initial letter V only, which may have been part of an alphabet with a Dance of Death. The subject is Death and the queen. The size nearly an inch square.
(Francis Douce, 1833, The Dance of Death, p. 220)

Douce is right: In the book »Bibliothecæ Ecclesiasticæ« by Cornelius Schulting from Steinwich / Steenwijk published in 1599 in Agrippinensium (= Cologne) om page 118 (misprinted as 208) we find the V shown to the right. Whether it represents a young woman or a queen I'll leave to others to decide.

But the story starts long before 1599. Namely 65 years earlier; and in another city.

Peter Jordan, M, Death with hourglass
Mainz, Jordan M
Peter Jordan, D, The king
Mainz, Jordan D

In the period 1531-1535 the printer Peter Jordan had settled down in Mainz.

Jordan's greatest achievement was as a subcontractor of the bigger printer Peter Quentel in Cologne: to print Dietenberger's Bible: »Biblia beider Allt unnd Newen Testamenten«. This Bible from the spring of 1534 was the Catholic "preemptive comeback" to Luther's German Bible, which was published a little later the same year.

Peter Jordan, M, The landsknecht?
Mainz, Jordan I
Peter Jordan, D, The king
Mainz, Jordan W

The Bible was handsomely decorated with engravings by Sebald Beham, in fact this series of 80 images was even expanded with two new ones featuring Samson,(2) and Jordan laced the text with a myriad of small alphabets in the same style as Schöffer's: Images from The Old Testament, the life of Jesus, putti, humans and a few scenes from dances of death.

Here are some other of Jordan's initials:
Adam and Eve The Red Sea King Solomon Putti Moses' scouts The burning bush Gideon? Jesus and Magdalene Harvest

Peter Jordan, V, The young woman
Mainz, Jordan V
Peter Jordan, V, The child
Mainz, Jordan V

A curious detail is that even though Jordan had only a few initials with dances of death, two of them were a V (pictures to the left and right). The one to the left is the one Douce reported.

Things didn't go too well for Jordan economically, and the following year he gave up on his career as a printer. His last work was »Predige Euangelischer warheit vber all Euangelien«. After that he left Mainz, and in 1540 at the latest he settled down in Cologne.

The Dietenberger-Bible became quite widespread and was printed by Quentel in many versions, but it was only the version from 1534 that included Beham's engravings and the many small initials. The two extra images of Samson disappeared shortly after.(3)

The world's smallest dance of death?
Mainz, Hourglass
The world's smallest dance of death?
Mainz, Coelestium I

The picture to the left shows Peter Jordan's printer's mark: Two arms holding a stone over an hourglass on a flying globe. The motto goes: »Das fliegende Glück / Leßt nit seyn dück«; the image is reminiscent of The escutcheon of Death by Holbein.

Let us finish with the initial to the right: The book is »En Tibi Nunc Iterum Candide Lector, Coelestium Rerum Disciplinae« printed by Peter Jordan for Quentel in 1535. What's going on in the background?

Go forth

The next chapter is about books published in Augsburg.

The previous subject was Christoph Froschauer of Basel.

Biblia: D
Mainz 1534: Biblia: D
Schöffer Q
Mainz 1532: Schöffer Q
Schöffer R
Mainz 1532: Schöffer R
Schöffer T
Mainz 1533: Schöffer T
Schöffer I
Mainz 1535: Schöffer I
Jordan D
Mainz 1534: Jordan D
Jordan M
Mainz 1534: Jordan M
Jordan I
Mainz 1535: Jordan I
Jordan W
Mainz 1535: Jordan W
Jordan V
Mainz 1534: Jordan V
Jordan V
Mainz 1535: Jordan V
Coelestium I
Mainz 1535: Coelestium I
Mainz 1534: Hourglass
Ecclesiastica V
Mainz 1599: Ecclesiastica V
Initial H
Mainz 1566: Initial H
Dietenberger D
Mainz 1534: Dietenberger D
Dietenberger M
Mainz 1534: Dietenberger M
Dietenberger V
Mainz 1534: Dietenberger V
Dietenberger V
Mainz 1534: Dietenberger V
Dietenberger I
Mainz 1534: Dietenberger I
Dietenberger W
Mainz 1534: Dietenberger W


Other alphabets

The next chapter is about printers in Augsburg
Augsburg, Ulhart A

Hans Holbein (1524)
Wolfgang Köpfl (1526)
Christoph Froschauer (1527)
→ Mainz and Cologne (1532)
Augsburg (1534)
Johannes Schott (1536)
Greek alphabet (1538)
Andreas Vesalius (1543)
Cologne (1548)
Heinrich Lödel (1849)
Douce reprint (1858)
Douce, revisited
Odds and ends

Footnotes: (1) (2) (3)

Winfried Schwab, Schick deine Sichel aus und ernte! Mainzer Todes- und Totentanz-Initialen im Buchdruck des 16. Jahrhunderts, in Gutenberg-Jahrbuch 2010, page 166.

Beham's Bible series was all new and had been published in 1533/34. The series included a scene with Samson tearing a lion apart (which coincidentally was also the printer's mark of Quentel), and one of Samson dislodging the pillars of the temple.

Two new scenes were created for Dietenberger's Bible: One of Samson carrying the gates of the city and one of Samson and Delilah. These were executed by a lesser hand.

The disappeared images . . .: Quentel/Dietenberger never used Beham's engravings again. The second edition from 1540 as well as the later editions instead contained copies of Beham, but the two extra scenes (city gates and Delilah) were not among these.

In an even later edition from 1587 by Quentel's heirs a new set of copies were used, and in these copies were included the scenes with the city gates and Delilah. Furthermore an image was added with Samson killing 1,000 men with the jawbone of an ass.

Beham's engravings were from the beginning used in Egenolphus' Bible in Frankfurt. In later editions of Egenolphus' Bible (1551), Beham's original engravings had been supplemented with new ones. The stories of Samson had been expanded with the two scenes (city gates and Delilah) and yet another scene, where Samson uses foxes to set the Philistines' fields on fire.