DE BRY, Johann Theodor and J. I. DE BRY. Nova Alphati Effictio histories ad singulas literas correspondentibus, et toreumate Bryanaeo artificiose in aes incises illustrate…. Engraved title-page, 24 elaborately engraved plates of letters, all with grotesque Mannerist ornamentation. 4to., 325 x 212 mm, bound by Rivière in full crushed brown morocco, triple gilt fillet on covers, floral gilt ornaments in corners, spine with intricate floral tooling in compartments, a.e.g. Frankfurt: [De Bry], 1595.
First Edition of this celebrated and rare Renaissance Alphabet Book. "Elles représentent un grand Alphabet majuscule dont les lettres sont formées par découpures mouvementées ornées de figures de trophées, d'oiseaux, de fleurs et de fruits" (Guilmard, Les Maîtres Ornemanistes, p. 368).
The letters appear in uppercase and are embedded within elaborate ornamentation consisting of Biblical figures, nymphs, fauns, musical instruments, cherubs, lovers, insects, fruits, birds, trophies, fish, lobsters, flowers, splendid entrelacs and luxurious arabesques. These extravagant illustrations are characterized by a disintegration of reality, in which the forms have been redistributed in accordance with the fantasy of the De Bry brothers. The mixture of grotesque, classical and symbolic imagery executed with supreme artistic bravado elevates this work to the pinnacle of published ornamental alphabet books.
Each engraving is accompanied by a letterpress text in German and Latin on the verso, where the subject matter is identified. The engravings are individually "signed" with "J.T.B. fe." A second edition of the work appeared at Cologne in 1613.
The rarity of this first edition is attested by the recent facsimile of it (Ravensburg, 1997). No copies sold at auction as listed by ABPC; OCLC lists 7 copies in America (at Houghton, Morgan Library, NYPL, Walters Art Gallery, RISD, Newberry and the University of Virginia). There are also 7 copies listed in European institutions. This copy had the engravings cut out and mounted during the nineteenth century on large papier Hollande in a folio format. However, the size of the cut-out sheets (195 x 150 mm) remains fully intact; the folio sheets measure 325 x 212 mm. Some insignificant spots to interleaved sheets, binding with minor rubbing to extremities. This copy lacks the two dedication leaves, which includes the text to the letter A on the verso of the second leaf. A desirable copy nonetheless.
PROVENANCE: Sir John Stirling Maxwell (1818-1878) with his private ex-libris, his sale Christie's London 1958, Lot 59 and with the Nether Pollok "Arts of Design" ex-libris.
Berlin Katalog 5281. Guimard, Les Maîtres Ornemanistes, p. 368, No. 38. Bonacini 292 ("estremamente rara"). Brunet I, 1309. BMC German 161. See: Becker, The Practice of Letters, The Hofer Collection of Writing Manuals, 1514-1800, for the 1596 German edition of Alphabeten.
Item nr. 148318