Boner: The Gemstone

16. I Eth. 2° - Herzog August Bibliothek (Wolfenbüttel, Germany)

Alternate Titles:

Boner: Der Edelstein

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Boner: Der Edelstein

Type
Extent / Format

176 pages / 28.3 x 18.3 cm

Origin
Date
1461
Style
Genre
Content

Collection of 100 fables

Language
Artist / School

Author: Ulrich Boner
Printer: Albrecht Pfister

Illustrations

101 colored woodcuts

Short description

The collection of fables with the title The Gemstone by the Bern Dominican Ulrich Boner was a beloved moralist text of the 14th century. Transmitted in a variety of editions, the specimen from the Wolfenbüttel represents a preeminant anomoly, for one thing, it is probably the first work printed with moveable type in the German language, on the other hand, the earliest example of a printed work illustrated using woodcuts. This entertaining and also instructive text is illustrated with lovingly designed images.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Boner: The Gemstone

The collection of fables with the title The Gemstone by the Bern Dominican Ulrich Boner was a beloved moralist text of the 14th century. Transmitted in a variety of editions, the specimen from the Wolfenbüttel represents a preeminant anomoly, for one thing, it is probably the first work printed with moveable type in the German language, on the other hand, the earliest example of a printed work illustrated using woodcuts. This entertaining and also instructive text is illustrated with lovingly designed images.

Aesopian Fables in Swiss Vernacular

Playful monkeys leap through the picture, a sly cat steal birds from a nest, animals and humans come together in harmony. The collection of fables by Ulrich Boner combines entertaining stories with general moral instruction. The fables are illustrated in beautifully colored woodcuts and make the lectures of the book more enjoyable as a result. Originating in Switzerland in the first half of the 14th century, Boner, who was identifiable in Bern during this time, assembled fables from Latin sources in his text underpinned by the example of Aesop. The text is written in the Old Swiss-German dialect, nevertheless is easily understandable and readable.

Colored Woodcuts with Instructive Content

The Duke August Library in Wolfenbüttel houses, among its numerous other treasures from the world of book art and early printed books, a particular specimen with Boner’s The Gemstone. The specimen, printed in 1461, is the first of the beloved and widely circulated work to be published. It was printed in the Bamberg printing shop of Albrecht Pfister and was decorated with numerous artistic woodcuts as an additional distinctive feature. The woodcuts are lovingly colored and inserted into their respective position in the text. Set in a black border, the pictorial scenes are always accompanied by a man dressed in red with a turban-like head covering, who refers to the pictures with a pointing finger. In this way, the meaningfulness of the moralist aspect is stressed in the illustrations.

A Milestone of Book Art

The Wolfenbüttel Edition of Boner’s The Gemstone represents the beginning of an important development. As the presumptive first book printed with moveable type, it preempted the following revolution in book production. The use of moveable type for book printing, made famous by Johannes Gutenberg, arose after 1450, about a decade before the emergence of the Bamberg edition of The Gemstone in 1461. It is for this reason that the book represents a milestone of book printing and takes a unique place in the history of book art.

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