Stephan Füssel, ed. Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, no. 92

Stephan Füssel, ed. Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, no. 92. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2017. 288 p. ISBN 9783447108324. EUR 75.00.

Frustrating as the delayed arrival of this volume was, it had the effect of whetting my appetite all the more to read the contents. I will first discuss the contributions which caught my eye as closest to my own interests. A regular contributor, Marvin J. Heller, continues his survey of Hebrew printing in early modern Europe by focusing on the town of Verona, which had a thriving Jewish community, amounting to some nine hundred at the end of the eighteenth century. A feature of Jewish life there was the sporadic printing of Hebrew books from the late sixteenth to the mid seventeenth century, first by Francesco dalle Donne who issued a small number of Hebrew and Yiddish books from 1592 to 1595, and then by Francesco de’ Rossi between 1645 to 1652. De’ Rossi began printing in Italian before issuing titles in Hebrew. Imprints in the latter language issued up to 1652 numbered more than twenty. Heller points out that it was not only understandable but also not surprising that neither printer was Jewish. For me the interest in reading this text was marred by an obvious want of careful proof-reading.

Hebrew typography is covered further by a lengthy study by Zvi Narkiss, Jakob Gonczarowski and Yehuda Hofshi of the first-named’s design of Hebrew book fonts. The study draws on the long series of meetings between Narkiss and Gonczarowski from 2003 and 2005. The features of the Narkiss Alpha font are described in detail before concluding with an assessment of the role Narkiss played in the design of twentieth-century Hebrew fonts. He was responsible for over a dozen original typefaces and his legacy is continued by several designers.

In a subsequent contribution, Huub van der Linden describes a little-known copy of a Dutch translation (Gouda: Geraert Leeu, 1480) of pseudo-Jerome’s Vitae sanctorum patrum, a series of biographies and sayings of early Christian hermits, a popular type of literature in late mediaeval and Renaissance Europe. The readership of this material was mainly female, as is shown partly by the provenance of this copy. This is the only incunable in the holdings of the Fondation Custodia in Paris, which represents the wide range of art and antiques brought together by Frits Lugt. That apart, the volume is of interest in its fifteenth- and sixteenth-century provenances connected with Leyden. The work of one of the most important Dutch printers of the fifteenth century, the publication is one of nearly sixty items in Latin and Dutch from his entire press. The work under discussion is a folio of some one hundred and ninety leaves, whose first printed page is decorated with a woodcut border. In the Fondation Custodia’s copy this border has been painted in various colours by a contemporary hand. Van der Linden traces the ownership of this volume through Dutch and English auction houses in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The volume’s concern for typography continues with Oriol Moret Viñals’ re-assessment of the role played by Sébastien Truchet, an engineer and mathematician, in the work of the Romain du Roi, a project set up to examine the state of trades and arts under Louis XIV. Truchet’s work, well illustrated here by tables and diagrams from his and others’ hands, is now acknowledged as a precedent for eighteenth-century standards such as Fournier’s or Didot’s point-systems. Truchet devised three schemes, built on official, legal measures, the second of which Moret Viñals assumes at first to be incomplete. She then argues that it was intended not for moveable types but for medals or replicas of such, an argument supported by the official decision made in 1695 that all medals should be reduced to the module of eighteen lines.

Helmut Claus outlines the current state of identification and description of works by Luther printed in his lifetime. Some earlier descriptions of these have required updating due to the increased use of computer technology. Perhaps the most useful part of this contribution is the three-page-long list of those few editions previously unknown to specialist Luther bibliographers.

Although Ulm had an important place in German printing during most of the incunable era, a decline set in during its final years. Gisela Möncke looks at the printing shop of Matthias Hoffischer, who took over two fonts from Johann Zainer II. Möncke identifies a third font used by him in the years 1525 to 1530, which he acquired from Augsburg. To the 10 texts and a calendar known to Benzing from Hoffischer’s shop Möncke now lists 22, which she describes at the end of her contribution. This is an excellent example of how our knowledge of the early book history of a town can be improved by concentrating on the work of an individual printer.

As always the visual attractiveness of the volume is a testament to the skill of Harrassowitz.

W. A. Kelly
Scottish Centre for the Book
Edinburgh Napier University