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small long-handed dish-knife, while the tool of the modern wood-engraver has a handle which is rounded at the top in order to accommodate it to the palm of the hand. The following is a translation of Hans Sachs' German verses descriptive of this cut."
I am a wood-engraver good,
We now proceed to quote the account of the first application of the art of wood-engraving to religious pictures, which is supposed by some authors to have been antecedent to the printing of playing-cards, but the present writer is of a contrary opinion:
"Wood-cuts of sacred subjects appear to have been known to the common people of Suabia, and the adjacent districts, by the name of Helgen or Helglein, a corruption of Heiligen, saints;-a word which in course of time they used to signify prints-estampes-generally. In France the same kind of cuts, probably stencil-coloured, were called 'dominos,' -the affinity of which name with the German Helgen is obvious. The word 'domino' was subsequently used as a name for coloured or marbled paper generally, and the makers of such paper, as well as the engravers and colourers of wood-cuts, were called' dominotiers.""
"As might a priori be concluded, supposing the Germans to have been the first who applied wood engraving to card-making, the earliest wood-cuts have been discovered, and in the greatest abundance, in that district where we first hear of the business of a card-maker and a woodengraver. From a convent situated within fifty miles of the city of Augsburg, where in 1418 the first mention of a Kartenmacher occurs, has been obtained the earliest wood-cut known,-the St. Christopher, now in the possession of Earl Spencer, with the date 1423. That this was the first cut of the kind we have no reason to suppose; but, though others executed in a similar manner are known, to not one of them, upon anything like probable grounds, can a higher degree of antiquity be assigned. From 1423, therefore, as from a known epoch, the practice of woodengraving, as applied to pictorial representations, may be dated."
"The first person who published an account of this most interesting wood-cut was Heineken, who appears to have inspected a greater number of old wood-cuts and block-books than any other person, and whose unwearied perseverance in searching after, and general accuracy in describing such early specimens of the art of wood-engraving, are beyond all praise. He observed it pasted on the inside of the right-hand cover of a manuscript volume in the library of the convent of Buxheim,
near Memmingen in Suabia. The manuscript, entitled LAUS VIRGINIS, and finished in 1417, was left to the convent by Anna, canoness of Buchaw, who was living in 1427; but who probably died previous to 1435. The reduced copy
[given in the following page] will afford a tolerably correct idea of the composition and style of engraving of the original cut, which is of a folio size, being eleven and a quarter inches high, and eight and oneeighth inches wide.
"The original affords a specimen of the combined talents of the Formschneider or wood-engraver, and the Briefmaler or card-colourer. The engraved portions, such as are here represented, have been taken off in dark colouring matter similar to printer's ink, after which the impression appears to have been coloured by means of a stencil. As the back of the cut cannot be seen, in consequence of its being pasted on the cover of the volume, it cannot be ascertained with any degree of certainty whether the impression has been taken by means of a press, or rubbed off from the block by means of a burnisher or rubber, in a manner similar to that in which wood-engravers of the present day take their proofs. This cut is much better designed than the generality of those which we find in books typographically executed from 1462, the date of the Bamberg Fables, to 1493, when the often-cited Nuremberg Chronicle was printed....In fact the figure of the saint, and that of the youthful Christ whom he bears on his shoulders, are, with the exception of the extremities, designed in such a style, that they would scarcely discredit Albert Durer himself. To the left of the engraving the artist has introduced, with a noble disregard of perspective, what Bewick would have called a bit of Nature.' In the foreground a figure is seen driving an ass loaded with a sack towards a water-mill; while by a steep path a figure, perhaps intended for the miller, is seen carrying a full sack from the back door of the mill towards a cottage. To the right is seen a hermit
known by the bell over the entrance to his dwelling-holding a large lantern to direct St. Christopher as he crosses the stream. The two verses at the foot of the cut,
Cristofori faciem die quacunque tueris, Illa nempe die morte mala non morieris, may be translated as follows:
Each day that thou the likeness of St. Christopher shalt see, That day no frightful form of death shall make an end of thee. They allude to a popular superstition, common at that period in all Catholic countries, which induced people to believe that the day on which they should see a figure or image of St. Christopher, they should not meet with a violent death, nor die without confession. To this popular superstition Erasmus alludes in bis
Praise of Folly;' and it is not unlikely, that to his faith in this article of belief, the squire, in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales,' wore
'A Cristofre on his breast, of silver shene.' The date Millesimo cccc° xx° tercio'1423-which is seen at the right-hand corner, at the foot of the impression, most undoubtedly designates the year in which the engraving was made. The engraving, though coarse, is yet executed in a bold and free manner; and the folds of the drapery are marked in a style which would do credit to a proficient. The whole subject, though expressed by means of few lines, is not executed in the very simplest style of the art. ries a diminution and a thickening of the lines, where necessary to the effect, may be observed; and the shades are indicated by means of parallel lines both perpen
In the drape
dicular, oblique, and curved, as may be seen in the saint's robe and mantle. In many of the wood-cuts executed between 1462 and 1500, the figures are expressed, and the drapery indicated, by simple lines of one undeviating degree of thickness, without the slightest attempt at shading by means of parallel lines running in a direction different to those marking the folds of the drapery or the
outlines of the figure. If mere rudeness of design, and simplicity in the mode of execution, were to be considered as the sole tests of antiquity in wood engravings, upwards of a hundred, positively known to have been executed between 1470 and 1500, might be produced as affording intrinsic evidence of their having been executed at a period antecedent to the date of the St. Christopher."
The same volume of the Laus Virginis contains another cut, similarly printed and stencilled, of the Annunciation; and Lord Spencer also possesses a third of the same class, representing St. Bridget. Of both of these Mr. Jackson has given reduced copies. They are without dates; but we may mention here, in further illustration of this part of the subject, that Heineken mentions two other Heilgen, preserved in the monasteries of St. Blaze in the Black Forest, and at Buxheim, the former representing the martyrdom of St. Sebastian, with the date 1437, and the latter figures of St. Dorothy and St. Alexius, dated 1443. In the Royal library at Paris is an ancient wood-cut of St. Bernardin, who is represented on a terrace, the pavement of which consists of alternate squares of yellow, red, and green. To this is attached the date 1454.
We now proceed to the next stage in the progress of wood-engraving, which was the production of BLOCK BOOKS. Letters had been sparingly introduced in the engravings already described; but in these block books the art of printing with moveable types was in some measure anticipated; that is to say, the pictures of which they consisted were accompanied by several lines of inscriptions, all laboriously cut out of the wood. They, in fact, closely resembled the designs in stained glass which at that period occupied the windows of churches, and perhaps still more closely the paintings which were made on the walls both of churches and houses, with long histories underneath them; specimens of which have come down to modern times in the Painted Chamber of the Palace of Westminster, in the cathedrals of Chichester and Salisbury; in the chapel at Stratford upon Avon (the paintings of which were published in fac-simile by the late Mr. Fisher); and in many parish churches.
"The most celebrated Block-books are the Apocalypsis, seu Historia Sancti Johannis; the Historia Virginis ex Cantico Canticorum; and the Biblia Pauperum. The first is a history, pictorial and literal, of the life and revelations of St. John the Evangelist, derived in part from the traditions of the church, but chiefly from the book of Revelations. The second is
a similar history of the Virgin, as it is supposed to be typified in the Songs of Solomon; and the third consists of subjects representing some of the most important passages in the Old and New Testament, with texts either explaining the subject, or enforcing the example of duty which it may afford."
These works bear no date, but our author supposes they were produced between the years 1430 and 1450. He regards the Apocalypsis as the earliest, and its designs as belonging to the Byzantine Greek style. With respect to that commonly known as the Biblia Pauperum, he has made an important correction of preceding writers.
"It is a manual or kind of catechism of the Bible," says the Rev. T. H. Horne, "for the use of young persons and of the common people, whence it derives its name of Biblia Pauperum,-the Bible of the Poor, who were thus enabled to acGENT. MAG. VOL. XII.
quire, at a comparatively low price, an imperfect knowledge of some of the events recorded in the Scripture." Introduction to the Critical Study of the Scriptures, vol. ii. p. 224.
It turns out that this is a little anticipation in the history of the diffusion of knowledge. Mr. Horne and his predecessors scarcely considered that the inscriptions are in Latin, and much contracted; that the rich of that day could seldom read, and none of the common people. In fact, there are manuscripts (of earlier date) which bear the same title, and some of them exceedingly splendid, and therefore only within the means of the rich. But Mr. Chatto has solved this difficulty by a quotation he has made from the proemium of the Speculum Salvationis (the work next to be noticed) which shows that the persons for whose use that work, and no doubt the Iiblia also, was intended, were the Friars Minors, commonly called the Poor Preachers. The passage is as follows:
Predictum prohemium hujus libri de contentis compilavi,
Et propter pauperes predicatores hoc apponere curavi;
The Speculum Humanæ Salvationis, or "Mirror of Man's Salvation," occupies a middle place between the block-books and those produced by moveable types; being partly printed in one way, and partly in the other: the cuts having been taken off by means of friction with a rubber or burnisher; and the types in a press. The cut we have selected, however, may be considered as a specimen of the block-books. It is one half of the first page, which contains two subjects, the Fall of Lucifer, and the Creation of Eve. The inscription" casus luciferi" is engraved on the block.
The mouth of hell is "extended above measure," receiving into its jaws Lucifer and his rebellious fellows, driven from Heaven by the obedient angels, at the sentence of God, who appears in the centre. The "Speculum" has been the theme of much controversial discussion, from having been claimed by the advocates of Laurence Coster, of Harlem, as the proof of that person having invented the art of printing with moveable types. Mr. Chatto, after reviewing the controversy, states that there is no satisfactory proof that Coster was a printer at all, and that this work was probably printed in the Low Countries, after the typographic art had been introduced into those provinces about 1472.
Our authors next proceed to notice a very early set of wood-cuts, hitherto undescribed, of which a copy, perhaps unique, was bequeathed to the British Museum by Sir George Beaumont. It consists of an alphabet of large capital letters, formed of human figures arranged in suitable attitudes; Mr. Jackson has given copies of the K, L, and Z. In the first a lover is kneeling to his mistress, presenting to her a ring, and holding a scroll, upon which is engraved a heart, " and the words, (says our author) which he may be supposed to utter, mon ame." We here beg to remark that the correct reading of the last word will be found to be aves; and the whole of the scroll, including the picture of the heart, was evidently intended to be read-mon cœur avez, being a sort of hieroglyphic or rebus, like the Italian sonetto figurato copied in p. 473.
We shall conclude our notices of block-books with the following extract relative to some which consisted of text only, without pictures:
"The early wood engravers, besides books of cuts, executed others consisting of text only, of which several portions are preserved in public libraries in Germany, France, and Holland; and although it is certain that block-books continued to be engraved and printed several years after the invention of typography, there can be little doubt that editions of the grammatical primer called the 'Donatus,' from the name of its supposed compiler, were printed from wood-blocks previous to the earliest essays of Gutemberg to print with moveable types. It is indeed asserted that Gutemberg himself engraved on wood a 'Donatus' before his grand invention was perfected.... The art of wood-engraving, having advanced from a single figure with merely a name cut underneath it, to
the impression of entire pages of text, was now to undergo a change. Moveable letters formed of metal, and wedged together within an iron frame, were to supersede the engraved page; and impressions, instead of being taken by the slow and tedious process of friction, were now to be obtained by the speedy and powerful action of the press. If the art of wood-engraving suffered a temporary decline for a few years after the general introduction of typography, it was only to revive again under the protecting influence of the PRESS: by means of which its productions were to be multiplied a hundred fold, and, instead of being confined to a few towns, were to be disseminated throughout every part of Europe."
Moveable types came into use at Mentz about 1452, suggested by Gutemberg, and given their real power by Scheffer, who first proposed to have them cast.
"In the first book which appeared with a date and the printers' names-the Psalter printed by Faust and Scheffer, at Mentz, in 1457-the large initial letters, engraved on wood and printed in red and blue ink, are the most beautiful specimens of this kind of ornament which the united efforts of the wood-engraver and the pressman have produced. They have been
imitated in modern times, but not excelled. As they are the first letters, in point of time, printed with two colours, so are they likely to continue the first in point of excellence.... In consequence of those large letters being printed in two colours, two blocks would necessarily be required for each; one for that portion of the letter which is red, and another for that which