VIGERIUS, Marcus. Decachordum Christianum.

Folio (303 x 206mm), 270 leaves with the blank leaf aaa8. Author's coat-of-arms on title within woodcut border signed by F.V., 10 full-page cuts, probably metal (Mortimer), the one of the Nativity signed "L" and the Pentecost also signed "F.V.", within one of two repeated woodcut borders, 33 smaller cuts from 27 blocks illustrating the life of Christ, all but two in criblé style. Title with light soiling, re-hinged and re-margined at top, some scattered minor spotting and toning. Later vellum, gilt-lettered spine label. A good copy.



First edition of the finest and most beautiful book produced by the Soncino at Fano and the first book printed there. ‘At the instance of his grat-uncle Pope Sixtus IV (Francesco della Rovere), Vigerius entered the Franciscan order, and rapidly rose to power, becoming bishop of Senigallia in 1476, protector of the order, and ultimately cardinal in 1506. An accomplished humanist, Vigerius resumed his studies in 1506, completing the Dechacordum Christianum, a work of ascetic piety for which two Franciscans, Guido de Sancto Leone and Francesco Armillino were employed as correctors of the text. The work treats the mystery of Christ's Incarnation with episodes from his life, beginning with the Annunciaton and concluding with the Ascension'. (The Collection of Otto Schäfer. Part I: Italian Books. Sotheby's New York, 1994). The book is famous for its beautiful illustrations, ‘the Soncino Nativity block was used by Luc'Antonio Giunta in his 1511 Bible, and then copied by Saccon at Lyon in a Bible printed for Koberger in 1516. The Annunciation cut appeared in Palermo in 1515, in the Pastas' editon of Giovanni Giacomo Adria's De laudibus virtutis. In the 1517 Hagenau reprint, Hans Schäufelein of Hagenau omitted the small Passion cut and made ten new cuts based on those of Soncino. Because of the presence of the initials FV in the borders and on the base on those of the arch in the Pentecost scene, attribution of both the cuts and the borders to Florio Vavassore persists. However the imprint of the Dechacordum Christianum predates Vavassore's period of activity. Similarly Kristeller's analysis of Luc'Antonio degli Uberti (Early Florentine Woodcuts, xl-xlv) has disproved the link of the initial L in the Nativity cut with that artist. However, on the basis of style, the cuts continue to be generally associated with Venetian Missal illustrations and with the school of Giovanni Bellini. The Soncinos, a Jewish family of itinerant printers, were perhaps the most important Hebrew printers of the 15th century. In reflection of a series of religious persecutions and bans, Girolamo (Gershon ben Moses) worked successively in Soncino, Brescia, Barco, Fano, Pesaro, Ortona, Rimini, Cesena and Saloniki. He was the ultimate peripatetic printer of his generation, and everywhere he set down he produced books of unusual interest. Girolamo's longest settlement was in Fano, where he established that city's first press in 1502, and remained until 1507. The main activity of the press was then transferred to Pesaro, and Soncino returned to Fano only briefly from 1515 to 1517. However, three books with the Fano imprint dated 1507 and 1508, including the Decachordum, coincide so closely with several Pesaro imprints as to make it appear that Soncino for a time maintained shops in both towns. Shortly after the press was established at Fano, Soncino engaged the services of Francesco Griffo, who cut the italic type for his 1503 edition of Petrarch's Opere volgari; in the dedication of that work Soncino Griffo with having both designed and cut all of Aldus Manutius's typefaces. The corpus of the press comprises over 150 works in Latin, Hebrew and Italian, buti t is the Vigerius that stands out as Soncino's masterpiece, both for the beauty of the prints and the excellence of the typography'. (The Collection of Otto Schäfer. Part I: Italian Books. Sotheby's New York, 1994).


Adams V-746; Sander 7589; Essling I: 145; Mortimer 537.


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