Over the years here at St Marys Books we have had many impressive early prints and engravings, but nothing with quite so much significance as the following album which we have acquired this month:
A hugely impressive compilation of over 100 original engravings all from the sixteenth century, it features some of the biggest names of the period. All are very well preserved and in excellent condition considering they date back nearly 500 years, and the unique eighteenth century stunning gilt decorated red morocco binding is something to be behold alone.
Engraving as an art form has actually taken place since prehistoric times. It was only in the fifteenth century that it began to take off considerably and the art was refined, since it formed the matrix for printing. Nowadays there are many different techniques and forms of engraving but at this time Burin, or Line Engraving was the predominant method. The burin is a tool consisting of a thin steel bar with a sharp end cut crosswise and several different shapes. During engraving a plate is laid on a leather cushion filled with sand to keep it from shifting under the pressure of the artist's hands but also to allow him to move it as he worked. To create curves the burin is held stationary, and the cushion rotated. The engraved lines in the metal hold the ink for printing, and the result is a drawing with sharp clear lines that constitute the main characteristics of this technique.
Durer and Salvator Rosa are such hugely popular and iconic engravers that their original engravings have been copied numerous times by hundreds of different impressionists. Original engravings can sell for tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds and are incredibly difficult to come by. As a result there is high level of collectability for the earliest and best impressions. For example the four engravings after Durer within this volume depict four saints and are almost exact replicas of those originally done by him between 1514 and 1526. They are near identical mirror images and given the date of the volume, very early impressions. This makes them highly sought after, and the same can be said for the huge number of 24 Salvator Rosa engravings.
The rest of the album consists of original engravings by a number of well respected artists of the period, including the Wierix Brothers, Bodart, Brueghel and Peter Hus among others. They are recognisable by the initialled, dated hallmark and style of engraving. The Weirix brothers were a Flemish family of artists from the later sixteenth/early seventeenth century and they were highly productive and known for their attention to detail and superb technique. Brueghel was a very significant Dutch and Flemish Renaissance artist known for his landscapes and peasant scenes, he was a pioneer in making both types of subject the focus in large painting. He was also a prolific designer of prints for the leading publisher of the day for some time.
All in all it makes for a very important body of work, and interesting reference for any art historian. It is very unusual for such a large number and wide body of work from the same period to be preserved in such great condition, and it is certainly the most impressive piece of it's kind we have seen in almost thirty years of book and print selling.
If you are interested in this volume, or if you have any questions please don't hesitate to get in touch. Viewing is strongly recommended due to the unique nature of the volume.