An Incunable Collection of Fifty Lenten Sermons

    Gritsch Conradus. Quadragesimale. [Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1481].

    Folio (11.375 x 7.375 inches; 288 x 189 mm). [197] (of 198) leaves. Lacking blank leaf [a1]. No foliation, signature marks, or catchwords. Double columns. Fifty-six lines plus headline. Capital spaces (no guide letters). Sixteen-line opening initial on [c1] recto supplied in red and blue, with elaborate penwork decoration extending down the margins, three-line initials supplied in alternating red and blue, paragraph marks supplied in red and blue, underlining in red, capitals stroked red.

    Old blindstamped pigskin over bevelled wooden boards with dark brown sprinkled sheep spine decoratively tooled in gilt (now faded) and blind. Front cover stamped in black with the initials "C S A C" (Cornelius Strauch Abbas Campoliliorum, Cornelius Strauch, Abbot of Lilienfeld, 1638-1650) and the date "1643." Lacking clasps. Edges stained dark blue. The binding is somewhat rubbed and soiled, the spine is fragile and starting to split in a few places, the front board has apparently been cracked, causing a slight indentation in the front cover, there are a few tiny wormholes to the lower edge of the front cover and to the spine. Occasional mostly marginal soiling or staining. Occasional early ink marginalia. Armorial bookplate on the front pastedown, with the name erased. Early ink ownership inscription erased from the head of leaf [a2] recto. Previous owner's small blue ink stamp, blue ink signature (dated 1935?), and a blue ink annotation on the verso of the last leaf, all now illegible. Overall, a very good, crisp copy. Protected in a wooden "treasure" box by the Bombay Company, Inc. (label on the bottom), with a brass label on the lid and brass hinges.

    This collection of fifty Lenten sermons is attributed in the printed editions to Johannes Gritsch (Johann Grütsch), an Augustinian canon and law professor at Basel. In fact, as shown by André Murith (Jean et Conrad Grütsch de Bâle, Phil. Diss., Fribourg 1940), the true author was Grütsch's brother Conrad (Conradus Gritsch), a Franciscan who served various churches in Switzerland (cf. Verfasserlexikon2, III: 291-294). The sermons, intended as a handbook for preachers, are enlivened by numerous exempla from the Bible and the Church Fathers, as well as from secular medieval and classical sources. This may account for the collection's popularity. First printed ca. 1474, the Quadragesimale was published in at least twenty-five incunable editions.

    BMC II, page 421. Bodleian Inc. G-256. Goff G-497. GW 11546. Hain-Copinger 8067*. ISTC ig00497000. Proctor 2013.

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    April, 2011
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