By Jen Meyer, Curatorial Assistant, Rare Books
Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to be in David Pearson’s course Provenance: Tracing Owners & Collections at Rare Book School in Charlottesville, Virginia. We were just beginning to learn about the history of bookplates when a familiar sight appeared in his presentation:
This woodcut bookplate with an angel holding a shield bearing on ox first caught my eye three years ago when Princeton University purchased a two volume set of Astesano, Summa de casibus conscientiae [Strasbourg: Johann Mentelin, ca. 1472?]. At the time, I knew nothing of the bookplate’s history or importance, but I did know I was looking at something unusual.Three years later, at Rare Book School, the same image appeared on the screen and I learned that this was the one of the earliest known bookplates. It belongs to Hilprand Brandenburg of Biberach (1422-1514), a learned cleric who donated “450 books large and small” to the Carthusian Monastery at Buxheim in Swabia, Germany1. The donated books were also carefully inscribed by librarian Jakob Louber around 1505 with the title and provenance of each gift2.
When I returned to Princeton after my trip to Virginia, I looked up the recent purchase I had remembered and spoke to my colleague Eric White, Curator of Rare Books, about the experience. It turns out Princeton University holds more examples from Hilprand’s library and the Carthusian monastery at Buxheim. I set out to read about and explore their provenance.
Princeton’s holdings from Buxheim share their early history through the year 1883. The monastery was dissolved in 1803 as part of the German Mediatisation, and the books became the property of Graf von Ostein, passing to his sister, Gräfin von Hatzfeld, in 1809, and then to their cousin, Graf Friedrich Karl Waldbott von Bassenheim, in 1810. The books were finally sold by Graf Hugo von Waldbott-Bassenheim (1820-1895) via auction in Munich on Sept. 20, 1883 (through Carl Förster).
After the 1883 auction in Munich, each of Princeton’s copies came to the University through different paths and with varying evidence of their provenance.
- Lot 3308 at the Munich 1883 auction.
- Bindings: From the “Phönix” workshop (Kyriss 162), covers with blind fillets forming a panel design, differing between the two volumes but using some of the same stamps. Titles lettered in ms. at head of spines “Summa casuum Astexandi”; chased brass center-and corner pieces with bosses, two fore-edge leather and brass clasps on lower covers.
- Lot 30 at Leipzig 1913 auction via C. G. Boerner, Katalog der Bibliothek des Königlichen Baurats Edwin Oppler.
- On front pastedowns, gold-stamped leather book label of E.P. Goldschmidt.
This volume has Louber’s inscription on the front endpaper as well as evidence of the removal of Hilprand’s bookplate. There are also two stamps of the Carthusian monastery of Buxheim on the first leaf. At the base of the spine is a Buxheim library shelfmark in red: E 307. Last but not least, painted at the foot of leaf 9r is a small blue shield with a white ox, Hilprand’s armorial. Additional provenance evidence for this volume includes:
- Lot 3254 at the Munich 1883 auction.
- Binding: 15th-century pigskin over boards, blind stamped, including the name-stamp ‘Meister.’ Johannes Meister was active in the book trade in Basel.
- On front pastedown, there is a book dealer description pasted down. Additionally, there are various pencil and ink notes here and through the book.
- On rear pastedown, there is a book label reading: E LIBRIS | GULIELMI NORTH | A.M. | SID. COLL. | CANTAB. This is the book label of William North, fl. 1854-1919, Sidney Sussex Coll. Cambridge, BA 1878, MA 1888.
This book was purchased for the Scheide Library in 2017. It features Louber’s inscription recording Hilprand’s gift, but again no bookplate. However, between the inscriptions, one can see some faint coloring left over from the blue shield and angel’s wings. On the first leaf of the text there is an inscription “Carthusiae in Buxheim” and the oval stamp of Buxheim library. At the base of the spine is a Buxheim shelfmark in black: N 173. Additional provenance for this volume includes:
- Lot 3306 at the Munich 1883 auction.
- Binding: 16th-century blind-stamped pigskin over beveled wooden boards (possibly executed in Buxheim); concentric rectangles decorated with rolls in a floral design; two metal clasps; manuscript fragments from a 12th-century Missal with heightened neumes used as pastedowns.
- Book label from the Library in Milltown Park on verso of front flyleaf. From the library of William O’Brien (1832-1899), Irish judge and book collector who bequeathed his library to the Jesuit community at Milltown Park, Dublin.
Petrarca, Francesco (1304-1374). Capitula in librum Francisci petrarche de vita solitaria incipient and Secretum Francisci Petrarche de Flore[n]cia poete laureati De co[n]temptu mundi incipit foeliciter. [Strasbourg: The R-Printer (Adolf Rusch), not after 1473].
This book also has Louber’s inscription recording Hilprand’s gift, but again no bookplate. On the first leaf of text is an inscription “Carthusiae in Buxheim” and the stamp of Buxheim library. At the base of the spine a Buxheim shelfmark appears in black: H 419. Additional provenance for this volume includes:
- Lot 2872 at the Munich 1883 auction.
- Binding: 15th-century blind-stamped pigskin over thick wooden boards, sewn on 4 split tawed thongs: from Kyriss shop K162 ‘Phoenix’, which Hummel & Wilhelmi (Katalog der Inkunabeln in Bibliotheken der Diozese Rottenburg-Stuttgart. Wiesbaden, 1993) localize to Biberach, and which Ernst Kyriss asserted had bound many volumes for Hilprand Brandenburg. Catches and clasps present.
- Presented to Princeton by Junius Spencer Morgan in June 1896. There is a bookplate on the front pastedown acknowledging a gift simply from “M.” The accession no. “100364 Sesq. 364” is written in.
As evidenced by the Princeton holdings listed above with traces of removed bookplates, many Hilprand bookplates did get separated from books they were originally placed into. An example of a removed Hilprand bookplate is held in our Graphic Arts Department. The brown stains may provide clues as to which book it was removed from long ago.
While investigating Princeton’s holdings, I was able to consult with my colleagues Eric White and Paul Needham, who have written articles about Hilprand and his legacy. They also have kept a census of known copies of his books, including more than 40 manuscripts and 130 printed volumes.
It is interesting to see the various ways these early bookplates have survived – or not survived – over the past 500 years. The chance to see these examples firsthand and explore their provenances has been a great opportunity to delve deeper into history and our collections._________________
1 Paul Needham: “The Library of Hilprand Brandenburg.” In: Inkunabel- und Einbandkunde. Bibliothek und Wissenschaft 29. Wiesbaden 1996, pp. 95-125; Friedrich Stöhlker: Die Kartause Buxheim 1402-1803. Folge 4 (1976), p. 844.
2 Eric Marshall White: “Three Books Donated by Adolf Rusch to the Carthusians at Basel.” In: Gutenberg Jahrbuch 2006, p. 231.