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Kansas City Collections: Art, Antiques, & Jewelry

Sat, Oct 28, 2023 11:00AM EDT
Lot 108

1469 Catholicon Printed Incunable Leaf (Gutenberg attr.)

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An early printed leaf of the Catholicon of Johannes Balbus of Genoa. Mainz, first printed in 1460, this from the second impression in 1469. Galliziani folio with Gothic type in Latin, 66 lines in two columns. This leaf containing dictionary entries from "Arrepticius" to "Asintheton." 14 1/4" x 11 1/4", and housed in a mat that measures 18 1/2" x 14 1/2".


Originally written in 1286, Balbus's Catholicon was a significant encyclopedic text, and following Gutenberg's invention of the printing press, it would become the first work of secular learning ever printed. The first edition of the Catholicon was printed in three impressions, dated 1460, 1469, and 1472. Printed on Galliziani paper, this leaf is from the second impression, the rarest of the three.


There is debate about the printer of the Catholicon: at one point presumed to be Johannes Gutenberg, the identity of the printer is now viewed as less than conclusive. The most recent leading theory, espoused by incunabula scholar Paul Needham is that the Catholicon was printed from 2-line slugs (stereotype) by Gutenberg, a process previously thought to have been developed a few decades later. If that is the case, not only would Catholicon be Gutenberg's final printed work, but it would also represent another significant technological leap forward as the first example of stereotype. According to this theory, the second impression in 1469 was printed by Peter Schoeffer and Konrad Humery from Gutenberg's original slugs.


Provenance: A private collection, acquired from H.P. Kraus Rare Books and Manuscripts (New York).


The leaf is archivally hinged at the left edge to the backing mat. Good condition, with very slight chips to the edges and top right corner. Mild browning to the edges.

Overall Dimensions
Height: 18.50 in
Width: 14.50 in
Depth: 0.25 in

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