Re: The "Mantegna": 1450's Bologna?

mikeh wrote:
Hinks wrote:A certain variation in the detail of the letters might be produced by striking a little obliquely and so varying the amount of burr to be smoothed away; also by touching up with the graver names imperfectly punched, as well as by irregularity in inking and roughness of paper. The strong evidence for punching is the irregularity of orientation, of spacing, and of alignment, much easier to explain as due to difficulties of punching than of engraving between parallel scribed liens.
Hinks meets my opinion, well, and he has the better English to describe the idea.
Another example: the backwards N. Is that because the engraver slipped and wrote it the wrong way, or the puncher slipped and used a punch for making type rather than a punch for making engraved letters? I would think the former would be an easier mistake to make, but I am no specialist.

I am not saying that the letters on the "Mantegna" weren't punched. I'm just saying that it's way beyond my competence to say one way or the other. Maybe yes, maybe no. Where does that leave us?

And in any case, we're only dealing with the letters, not the figures. We know from the St. Gallen manuscript that at least those might have been done without any lettering, or indeed without the accompanying animals.
I assume, that a N is much easier wrong punched than wrong engraved.
Breithaupt - from memory - made the argument, that nothing is more difficult for an engraver than letters.

If you don't fill color to all parts of an engraving, you can print only parts of it. That's one way to make a reduced engraving, another would be to cover the paper partly.
But probably a lot of engravings are composed from different plates, especially when there are details, which reappear more often. Or animals, which could be used also in other decorations.

"Where does that leave us?" ... at the usual insecure point, that we can't take it as a full argument ... :-) ... just a small piece of justified suspicion.

Re: The "Mantegna": 1450's Bologna?

Huck, I read with pleasure your story about Mantegna. Yes, it's possible that Mantegna developed an idea for Marcello's deck and didn't get a chance to carry it out. Then he goes to Ferrara, maybe talks to people there about it, who knows? And helps it along later, as I've already suggested. Mantegna designed very "Mantegna"-like Muses for his tomb, or so its' said, as I mentioned at the end of my first post in this thread. I don't go with 1475 and Lazarelli, of course, but the rest, why not? I already knew the story about Mantegna roughing up the rival engravers: the Renaissance equivalent of copyright protection.

On the "backwards N": it seems to me that it is precisely because lettering is so difficult, that it is easier to make a mistake in lettering than in punching. I would guess that the "VENUS" with a backwards N that you showed was engraved rather than punched. I don't see any backwards N's in the 1978 Ptolemy--but then I don't see any mistakes at all. How did they do that? In the handcut 1482 Berlinghieri Geographia sample that Campbell exhibits in the Internet piece, a crudely erased mistake shows up like a black eye.

Yesterday I finally read Hind's 1938 thoughts on the "Mantegna" and the 1478 Rome Ptolemy, in the book that Trionfi cites. The small college where I went to school, about 5 miles from where I live, has copies of all 7 or so volumes of the original 1938 Early Italian Engravings.The page opposite the title page says that it is one of 325 copies (or some such number) printed for sale. Not only that, the college's copy of one volume is signed by the author, as the "special collections" librarian proudly showed me. In former days an expert on calligraphy named Lloyd Reynolds (whom I name here in gratitude) taught there. The reproductions of the "Mantegna" images are fairly high quality; I intend to study them further, and the librarian said he could scan some for me. But for now, I just asked him to copy what Hind wrote. So last night I read, with an occasional break to watch the Olympics.

I was impressed both by his thoroughness and by his general conformity to my way of thinking, allowing for a few out of date arguments. He begins by saying that the style is Ferrarese, and asking, could any of known artists of Ferrara have designed the cards? He starts with del Cossa. Here is his the beginning of his text:


I am not sure what facial expressions of "harsh intensity" he is referring to in the cards: the Emperor, perhaps. It has been known since 1885 that del Cossa only claimed credit for March, April, and May. The Triumph of Venus is the upper part of April, and Mercury that of June. Different historians have seen resemblances to the cards in nearly every section of the Schifanoia. That led Tyson (see reference in my first post) to suppose that the card-designer was the same as the Schifanoia as a whole, who was not a famous artist, but nonetheless had an important position at court. Tyson suggested Gherardo da Vicenza, the maker of triumph cards and a skilled decorator of palaces. Another alternative, as I have said--although not one that any historian has proposed--is that the designer of the Schifanoia, c. 1469-1471, used the cards themselves as inspiration for particular figures throughout the project.

Next Hind considers Gombosi's and Clark's idea of Angelo Parrasio, the painter that Leonello put in charge of the Belfiore Muse project. Here is what Hind says:


(Added later: I didn't originally get this text to post. But Huck said what my mistake was, and now it's corrected.) What pleases me in this paragraph is that Hind picks out the same three standing Muses as I did in my initial post: first the Polymnia (which was called "Autumn" in 1938), although what he calls attention to is the background; and the two in Budapest, both "near as can be to the Muses themselves in the engravings." But Angelo could not have designed the engravings, Hind reasons, because he died in 1456, and "it seems difficult, on technical grounds, to place the engravings before 1460, and I think 'about 1465' a more probable date." But few historians today identify the artist of any of the three as Angelo; instead they say "anonymous Ferrarese," as I explained in my initial post. Gombosi was misled by Cosme Tura's repainting, which was only revealed under x-ray analysis. Galasso, whom Venturi proposed as the engravings' designer, died sometime between 1470 (Venturi) and 1488 (the 1871 translator's suggestion, absurd if he was evaluating other artists' work in 1451). Vasari said he died at age 50; if he was 30 in 1450, he would be 50 in 1470. Nonetheless "this group of painters [i.e. the Belfiore artists] exercised considerable influence" on "our engraver." Oddly, I think, Hind sometimes talks about "designer" and "engraver" as distinct persons, and sometimes drops the "designer" category. But most of the time there are two persons: one is the artist, the other a technician who renders the artist's work in copper. Hence a design, it seems to me, could outlive its designer and be rendered in a technically later engraving.

Not seeing any candidates among the master-painters, Hind turns to [added later: the miniaturists and] the designers of cards and other decorative items. [Added later: Although he thinks the miniaturists are more probable as designers of the "Mantegna" than the painters of larger works, he finds the style of those in Ferrara more like the "true tarocchi" than the Mantegna.} Of the card-makers,:he thinks they are the most likely to have designed the "Mantegna." In the selection below, I go to the end of Hind's discussion, in which he not only discusses the designer but makes his by-now famous suggestion as to the engraver. You will notice that the name of Gherardo da Vicenza appears again, along with some others. Hind will not pick one of the bunch on insufficient grounds! Start on the fifth line below.


So now we turn to the engraver, which Trionfi quotes in their section "Hind's final suggestion" at Hind suggests that the same engraver did both the 1478 Ptolemy map and the "Mantegna" engravings, based on "the precise cutting of the maps" and the "representation of forests and hills."

Now let me turn to Trionfi on this suggestion. One thing I noticed is that Trionfi omitted a comma when it quoted this "final suggestion." This is of course a minor point, but the comma does help in understanding what Hind is saying. Another thing is that Trionfi seems to have missed Hind's indication that he has not yet said everything: he says "see G2." So let us go to Hind's section G2, which starts on p. 189. I am not going to reproduce the whole page, but there is one paragraph about Sweynheim (despite Trionfi's expression of disappointment that he appears not to have known about him). After quoting the Latin preface to the 1478 Rome Ptolemy, Hind says:


The other paragraph is on pp. 190-191. After discussing the 1477 Bologna Ptolemy he turns to the 1478 Rome Ptolemy. Here is the paragraph:


So Hind's "final suggestion" is that Sweynheim had met the engraver of the Tarocchi on his way from Germany in 1465 and recruited him later, in the 1470's to do the engravings of the Ptolemy, for which Sweynheim did the printing. Sweynheim, according to Hind, was a printer, not an engraver.

We again have the same argument as before, but in slightly different wordst. There are two distinctive features possessed by both the "Mantegna" and the 1478 Rome Ptolemy that lead Hind to his conclusion: first, the "purity and precision" of the engraving, "of both maps and lettering"; and second, "the symbolic representation of natural features, forests, and mountains."

Scholarly consensus now is that Hind was probably wrong in thinking that Sweynheim came to Italy in 1465 (just when the "Mantegna" happened to be published!). He probably came in 1462 or 1463 and set up his printing press in 1464. But this is a minor matter. Sweynheim could have learned about a Ferrarese--or Bolognese or Venetian--engraver from seeing the cards, either in Rome or being sent them from his fellow German printers in one of these cities, or from some other source, such as Lazarelli. "Hind's error," if there is an important one, is something else.

Hind's error, according to Trionfi, was in not knowing that the engraver of the 1478 Ptolemy was in fact either Sweynheim, who would have been engraving before his death in 1475-1477, or his "pupil" Buckinck. Trionfi says,
Hind comes in his analyses to the conclusion, that the "unknown" engraver of the Ptolemy maps, produced 1473 - 1478 in Rome, was likely also the engraver of the Mantegna Tarocchi. However, the engraver of the Ptolemy is not "unknown", generally it is assumed, that they were made either by Sweynheim or his "unknown pupil" Arnold Bucking.
But was Hind really wrong? Where is it "generally assumed" that Sweynheim was an engraver, who then taught Buckinck? What is the argument? Tony Campbell, Map Librarian at the British Library, says in the course of discussing the letter punches:
Skelton has shown that Sweynheym developed the technique [of punches] during preparation of the maps for the 1478 Rome Ptolemy, since the three years Sweynheym spent giving 'instruction in the method of printing from copper plates' were unlikely to hve been concerned with engraving, about which he could have had little specialized knowledge. Skelton's persuasive interpretation is that Sweynheym was referring to what seems to have been a double achievement: the development of a practical alternative to handcut lettering and an improvement in the strength and consistency of the impression taken from the finished plates.((The Earliest Printed Maps: 1472-1500, 1987, p. 223f).
If Sweynheym wasn't an engraver, then he couldn't have taught Buckinck. Buckinck was most likely a printer like Sweynheim. The engraver remains unknown.

Campbell's reference is to Raleigh Skelton, a printing historian who probably knew, when he was alive, as much about Sweynheim as anyone else in his day. He edited the 1966 Amsterdam facsimile edition of the Rome Ptolemy; in its Introduction is the "persuasitve argument" to which Campbell refers. As it happens, the library at my local state university has the book, and I made a copy of the introduction (as well as some forests and mountains in the maps). The argument takes him a couple of pages to present. I will do my best, but it will have to be in another post, because I want to get it right and think about it, too. At the moment, I question some of it. And Skelton says specifically that he is going against the standard view. That is why I would like to know why some historians think Sweynheim was an engraver, Huck.

Re: The "Mantegna": 1450's Bologna?

hi Mike,

that's fairly a big progress, that you discovered our error about the note "G2" ... actually we had only a copy of Hind's article, which didn't include p. 189 I would assume. Later I saw Hind's text, but didn't remember the problem of G2.

Generally our information about Sweynheim and Pannartz have a lot of contradictions and it would be nice to reach the bottom of it, which means the documentary evidence, which made up the contradicting stories and interpretations. Usually it's not decidable, if an information is "interpretation" or "based on documentary evidence".

Sweynheim might have died 1475-1477 ... say the contradictions.
Pannartz might have died around a similar insecure date or has survived now calling himself Arnold Bucking.
Pannartz was a Czech.
Pannartz came from Cologne.
Bucking came from Cologne.
Bucking became, after he first appeared in 1478, a printer, working at least till 1491 if I remember correctly - well, I don't find this in the moment.

Pannartz and Sweynheim worked in the printing house of Fust and Schöffer in Mainz.
They reached Subiaco ... when? Mostly in 1464.

It's proven that the Gutenberg bible had copperplate engravings made by the "master of the playing cards". The "master of the playing cards" is a fiction based only on "his" works, nothing is really known. First he had only few works, later a lot of others (actually the fiction "master of the playing cards" might have been more than one man, I would assume, if one counts all the works attributed to him). He "disappeared", maybe 1450, maybe 1455, maybe 1460, maybe even 1465.
The master of the playing cards presented (probably) the highest standard of copperplate engraving in his time, possibly starting to produce in 1430. If one assumes, that he started as a young man, his birth year might be 1410.
A man born 1410 would be in 1475 then 65 years old. Not too old.

Pannartz and Sweynheim entered a religious order, probably Dominicans. Subiaco is a Benedectine abbey, but Torquemada was the chief of it and Juan de Torquemada (cardinal) (1388–1468) was a Dominican - as his nephew, the better known Gross-Inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada (1420–1498). Possibly Pannartz and Sweynheim started as Benedictines and changed later to Dominicans.

The Dominicans were traditionally very strong in Cologne (distance Cologne-Mainz maybe 120 km, both connected by the common travel route of the Rhine, Mainz being southern of Cologne).

The master of the playing cards was imitated by the master of the Weibermacht (another playing card producer), active in Neuss (another city at the Rhine, north of Cologne, maybe 40 km).

Playing Cards:


Image ... eibermacht

Meister der Weibermacht
Copied deck after Spielkartenmeister
Location/Time: in the region of Neuss (lower Rhine) ca. 1455, most copied in a mirroring manner
Structure: 52 cards, 4x13, King, Queen (both sitting), Ober, Unter (both male and standing), 9-1
Suits: Animals, Birds, Flowers, Wild men

And this following picture - with some strong similarity to the king with flower above - is given to the Master of the Bandelore (worked in Bocholt - Northern region of Neuss), also playing card producer.


Bocholt is near to Wesel, where later Telman von Wesel worked, who copied the playing card deck of Master PW:


... and one of the pictures of the "Master of the Weibermacht" is this ...

... which shows an Emperor and a farmer and Cologne was in heraldic manner interpreted "as the most noble city of the Bauern (farmers)" and the Bauer is one of her devices, as in this document from ca. 1470:

Image ... dw=2009_12

... so this round work with the size 10,3 x 10,3 cm (so playing card size) of the Meister of the Weibermacht refers probably to Cologne, and somehow meets with the round deck of Master PW, who also made a Cologne card.

Cologne card


Ace with bandelore ... 031a14.jpg

Well, there's a web of engravers in Germany, who somehow cooperate together - either in peace or just stealing the motifs from each other. For the Germans in Italy one has probably to assume, that in a foreign country they kept together, as all emigrants usually do. The printer scene naturally mixed with the engraver scene.

Sweynheim became a Dominican, Torquemada participated. Torquemada would have worked together with Cologne Dominicans ... Pope Pius and Cusanus desired German printers.


I go back to an older unfinished article somehow located in my computer, never published ...
I've to comment a few details of the report of ... aut=Russia
The 'Rome Ptolemy' maps occupy an extremely important place in the history of early printing, and the story of their genesis is most fascinating. It begins with Conrad Swenheym, who is widely thought to have been present at the birth of printing while an apprentice of Johann Guttenberg. After Mainz was sacked in 1462, Swenheym fled south to Italy and arrived at the Benedictine monastery of Subiaco, likely at the suggestion of the great humanist and cartographer Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa.
In 1464-5, Swenheyn, in partnership with another German émigré, Arnold Pannartz, introduced the first printing press to Italy.
As far I know the story, Sweynheim and Pannartz worked in Mainz in the Gutenberg-Fust printing shop and went together to Italy. Details of the journey are not known, it would be nice, if there would be something known. For instance they might have come via. St. Gallen or spend some time there. I don't know, if the expression "fled" is the correct expression, usually it's said, that Sweynheim and Pannartz entered an order ... which doesn't look like "a desperate search for escape".

Enea Piccolomini had seen parts of the Gutenberg bible already in October 1454 in Frankfurt. It seems obvious, that he very soon understood the importance of the new invention. But the development of printing stayed slow, as the printing house in Mainz probably wished to protect the mystery and to profit from the invention and its monopol as long as possible.
In Mainz some trouble was caused by the new election of an archbishop in 1459, a decision between two opponents, Adolf von Nassau and Diether von Isenburg. Diether von Isenburg won the election.
A political decision of Pope Pius II (the same Enea Piccolomini, who knew very early about the value of the printing press) in 1461 caused a war (Mainzer Stiftsfehde) between the two opponents in the earlier election. Background had been officially Diethers position in the Annaten question, which aimed to reduce money, which went to the pope, when a position in the church was distributed. Also Diethmar requested a new council ... always a dangerous and rebellious desire, popes didn't love this theme.

From the Regesten: Pope and Emperor (on the advice of the pope) against the archbishop of Mainz
1461 August 8 Graz
K. F. [= Emperor] teilt allen Reichsuntertanen mit, daß er auf Bitte von Papst Pius (II.) seine Zustimmung erteilt hat zur Absetzung des zum Eb. von Mainz erwählten und bestätigten Diether von Isenburg wegen Ungehorsams und zu dessen Ersetzung durch Gf. Adolf von Nassau, da Diether auch ihm (K. F.) mercklich smehe und widderwertigkeit bewiset hat zu belaidigung derselben unser keyserlichen maiestat widder stat und wesens, gebietet ihnen, Adolf bei der Inbesitznahme des Erzstuhls und bei der Vertreibung Diethers auf Erfordern zu helfen, erklärt für diesen Zweck alle entgegenstehenden Bündnisse etc. für aufgehoben und droht bei Ungehorsam seine schwere Ungnade an, jedoch uns und dem heiligen Rich an unser oberkeyt, gewaltsam und gerechtikeyt in allewege unvergrifflich und unschedelich. Am sampstag vor sant Laurenczen dag (nach Druck). ...

The result was a 1-year-war and the sack of Mainz at October 28th in 1462. During the war the printing press worked on the side of the defenders - as a first example of political propaganda.
The printing-shop of Fust and Schöffer (earlier Gutenberg's officin, who lost a process against Fust in 1455) burnt during the sack, the whole staff distributed in many directions. Gutenberg himself is noted in 1465 to have gotten a favorable position at the court of Adolf von Nassau, who was victorious in the conflict. Fust and Schöffer stopped their printing activities 1462-64.
And Pius II. got that, what he possibly wished in secrecy ... Sweynheim and Pannartz arrived in Subiaco and started printing in Italy. It's difficult to say, which role the Mainzer mystery of the printing press played in the conflict.

Sweynheim could arrange in chief function, that the Ptolemy edition was made successfully in very good quality - the other chief in the operation was Domitian Calderinus, a sort of papal publisher with connection to the circle of the Sixtus nephews. And Bussi, papal librarian of the Vatican, did hold his hands about this contract. We're in the circle of the Accademia Romana, and Bussi was followed by Platina in function.


... and Lazzarelli "arrived" 1475 in this circle, becoming a major poet there.

He got a major commission (or did he only worked to get this commission ?), the "Fasti" - a calendar of the annual feasts. Calendar questions were chief questions in Rome and the chief in Rome was the pope ... Regiomontanus was invited to Rome by Sixtus just in 1475 to clear astronomical details. Unluckily he died. Regiomontanus was book publisher in Nurremberg himself, surely well known by Sweynheim and Pannartz, when he arrived.
The vision of the time was book printing and to create a new order of all and everything by this new media. Unluckily Sixtus stranded in nepotism and the resulting wars.

Is it of importance, if Sweynheim could engrave himself? Not really, as the final product counts - the Ptolemy edition was a success.

... :-) ... but it isn't impossible, that Sweynheim was simply the Master of the playing cards ... or a pupil ... or that he simply knew him or knew pupils of him - one of these solutions seems probable. The master of the playing cards worked for Gutenberg. Sweynheim worked in the same printing house. The Master of the playing cards disappeared (in Germany), as far art research could reconstruct his works ... Sweynheim disappeared from Germany around the same (estimated) time. Sweynheim disappeared to an order of the church, possibly he made a change from "topics of the world" to religious topics. "Stop copperplate engraving, print books - that's more important", that might have been the suggestion or command of Pope Pius II - who wished to have printers, not engravers and especially not engravers, who made playing card motifs.
In 1473 the public interest had changed ... there were printers enough available. But really good engravers suddenly were rare and requested. Books started to combine picture technique with book printing.


Well, there's also the strange connection, that after the "Italian" e-series and s-series the complete Mantegna Tarocchi was reengraved by a Cologne artist, Ladenspelder, possibly early as 1530 or late as 1550, that's unknown. He was originally from Essen, that's also in the Northern region of Cologne.


I read a German remark : Already Raidel in 1737 had proven, that Arnold Bucking had been Arnold Pannartz. I searched the source and could (probably) identify the passage. It's Latin, I can't judge its value. ... q=&f=false

Page 43-45





For your picture, which didn't come, you've one bracket too much


Re: The "Mantegna": 1450's Bologna?

Thanks for all the information, Huck. As I read you, the only evidence suggesting that Sweynheim was an engraver is the intriguing disappearance of the "master of the playing cards" around the time that Sweynheim moved to Italy, which could just as well be a coincidence. I also appreciate the data for Arnold Bucking's being Arnold Pannartz. I don't know Latin, but I will search for the passage so as to give it to someone who does, or run it through a machine. If you happen to spot the passage, let me know. Thanks also for finding my error in posting the image of Hind's text. I will put in an edit referring people to it. I need to fix one other thing: in my summary of Hind, I left out specific mention of his discussion of the Ferrarese miniaturists as possible candidates for the designer or engraver (p. 227). He favors them more than the well known painters, but less than the card-makers. He mentions Crivelli (whom he discusses and rejects on the page I did reproduce), and also Franco de' Russi (Franco Ferrarese) and Guglielmo Giraldi.

Now I will try to summarize what Skelton says about how the 1478 Rome Ptolemy was put together (Bibliographic Note prefized to 1966 Amsterdam fascsimile edition). First, Skelton cites a dedication written for the 1478 Rome Ptolemy but not published until 1732 in Scipione Maffei's Verona illustrata; it is by the humanist Domizio Calderini. Here is his English translation.
Some time ago Conrad the German...begged me to emend his work...which had for long been wholly corrupted in the Latin manuscripts, and I have done so, yet with not less labour than pleasure. For many things had to be borrowed from mathematical studies in order that the twenty-six maps might be carefully engraved in copper and others taken form them in the manner of [manuscript] copies. The numbers indicating longitude and latitude, which by the fault of scribes had been trasposed or confused, we have clarified and arranged in their proper places.
There were previous manuscript maps of the Ptolemy, but they used coordinates from a faulty Latin translation, with many scribal errors. So on Calderini's account (or maybe Maffei's), he had to compare numerous manuscripts, including one manuscript in Greek, "probably not the one one which the Latin translation had been based." Skelton adds, "Calderini is said by Maffei to have spent three years, which (if correct) would take the beginning of his work back to 1475 or earlier."

The dedication that was actually published in the 1478 Ptolemy, however, refers only to Sweynheim:
Whereupon, calling on the help of mathemataicians, he[Sweynheim]gave instruction in the method of printing [the maps] from copper plates, spending three years in this up to the day of his death.
So what was Calderini's real role? And Sweynheim's?

Skelton cites two other documents::
On 10 September 1476 the Florentine Francesco Berlingiri, then engaged in translating the Cosmographia [of Ptolemy] into Italian verse, told a friend in a letter that he was aboutto visit Rome in order to see Suenemius (i.e. Sweynheym) who, as he had heard, propsed to print Ptolemy's work. On 11 December 1477 a certain Nicholaus Germanus astrolgus signed a receipt for payment made to him for work 'done by his hand' for the Pope and deposited in the papal library.
It is generally accepted, Skelton says, that this man was Donnus Nicolaus Germanus, who after Sweynheim's death completed the maps and supervised the printing. Skelton cites Fischer's identification of the 1466 Codex Ebnerianus, with its dedication to Borso d'Este, as "the original of the Rome edition". It "belongs to the first rescension of the Cosmographia made by Donnus Nicolaus, and the maps which he drew for it closely resemble those engraved at Rome in their design and representational technique." This Codex and its maps come from 1466, Skelton says later. Since the text of the Rome edition is the standard Latin translation but with corrected coordinates, Fischer (1932) concluded that Calderini read them from the maps. If so, Calderini's role would have simply been to insert the coordinates into the text.

Skelton, for his part says "we do not know to what etent Calderini's implied claim to have revised the maps for the Rome edition is justified." But Donnus Nicolaus Germanus certainly assisted, "since a set of maps drawn by him provided the model for the engraver." Skelton suggests that Donnus came to Rome earlier than 1477, if his maps were available to Sweynheim by 1474. And at some time, earlier or later, Calderini perhaps was revising the coordinates.

What then was Sweynheim's role? Skelton notes the skill "with which the elements of the map are arranged according to their significance." But he gives most of the credit to the engraver; everything "seems to point to the hand of an experienced master, perhaps from North Italy." He is of the same opinion as Kristeller (1907) and Hind (1938). Another feature of the 1478 edition, in contrast to the faulty 1477 Bologna, is what Gamba in 1796 called the contrast between "the sharp and regular impression of the Rome maps, in an ink of brilliant deep blak, with the blurred print, in a 'pale and sooty' (pallida e fuliginosa) ink, smudging the plate marks." Skelton again cites Kristeller (1907) and Hind (1938) as to "the general weakness of impression, with thin inks of grey tone, in Italian engravings of the 15th century." He quotes Hind in 1908, that "Quite the majority of the contemporary impressions of Italian prints up till about 1470 are printed so poorly...that one is led to surmise that many must have been taken either by hand...or by a printing press with none of the equality of pressure provided by the double roller."

Sweynheim's role, according to Skelton, was to develop the technique and instruct the craftmen so that they would produce sharp, clear lines: a "superior method of printing, and not (as nearly all writers have suppposed) of engraving." Skelton paints a picture of a Sweyneim who discovered by trial and error "how to use his printing-press at the right pressure to draw the ink out of the incised lines of a plate, and then directed his workmen in pulling impressions from the map-plates." There were also revisions to be done as a result of Calderini's work on the text. Skelton concludes, "It is not difficut to understand how three years may have been consumed in preparing the edition."

I do not find this last part, about Sweynheim's printing innovations, persuasive. In his estimation of Italian engraving, it seems to me, Skelton fails to distinguish niello engravings, which are typically of poor definition, from copper ones. Niello was much more common in Italy until the late 1470's, but many copper engravings were also produced, By 1465 some were quite sharp. In fact, the improvement in Italian engravings is roughly coincident with the influx of German printers. The earliest engravings associated with Mantegna date from the mid-1460's, for example. {In Andrea Mantegna, 1992, his "Entombment with Four Birds," p. 183, and two "Deposition"'s, p. 189, are all dated by the authors c. 1465.) And there is the "Pope and Emperor" from 1470 Venice, which Hind in 1923 compared favorably with the "Mantegna." It is the fact of such engravings in Italy that led Hind to date the "Mantegna" at "around 1465" and "not before 1460." In any case, Sweynheim would have already known how to print clear, sharp copper engravings from his experience with them in Germany.

To be sure, Sweynheim would have had to instruct his printers in the German technique. He also would have had to coordinate and integrate the varioius parts of the operation: the comparing of manuscripts, the map-making, the engraving, and the printing. But It seems to me that Sweynheim's real originality was in developing the letter punch and training someone in its most effective use. Letter punches continued to be used after that person's time, but never so well. There are various possible reasons. But Campbell adds, "It is not impossible, though, when contrasting the size and range of fifteenth-century punches with the difficulties encountered by later practioners, that some of the skills of Sweynheym's puncher died with him" (Earliest Printed Maps, p. 224).

In his bibliography Campbell lists another article by Skelton which perhaps says more, "The early map printer and his problems," in the Penrose Annual for 1964. This journal does not seem to be in JSTOR. The state university near me supposedly has a hard copy of that volume, but it's not on the shelves where it should be. If I get it, and there is more information, I will post it here. In the meantime, since it is most likely that Sweynheim did not personally do the engravings (there is his age and health, if nothing else), I will operate on the assumption that the engraver of the 1478 Ptolemy was someone else. Hind could not identify him in 1938, or even say with confidence where he was from. It is not likely that the "Mantegna" was already printed when Sweynheim entered Italy. Can we do any better today, considering all the work that has been done on this period since his time? I will try to pick up where Hind left off, using his clues. I'm not quite sure where the trail will lead. Perhaps nowhere.

Re: The "Mantegna": 1450's Bologna?

Donnus Nicolaus Germanus


a work from 1482, in large at ... s_left.jpg

It's hard to believe, that this hand made the Mantegna Tarocchi. Though, this edition was made for Ulm and so for another market with other reading habits.


given with
"World map in Claudius Ptolemy, Cosmographia;
edited by Nicolaus Germanus, Lienhart Holle, Ulm, 1482."

so another name "Lienhart Holle", which as it seems, was the printer. But also is given elsewhere: "Holzschnitt von Johannes Schnitzer aus Armsheim", woodcut of Johannes Schnitzer from Arnsheim.
The text of Claudius Ptolemy’s Cosmographia was translated into Latin from the original Greek by Jacobus Angelus and was first published, in Renaissance times, at Vicenza (1475), Bologna (1477) and Rome (1478). The sumptuous edition published at Ulm in 1482, however, far surpassed all earlier efforts and remains one of the most important publications in the history of cartography. This is the first redaction of the Geography to be printed outside of Italy, the earliest atlas printed in Germany, the first to depart from the classical prototype to reflect post-antique discoveries, the first to be illustrated with woodcuts rather than engravings, and the first to contain hand-colored maps, the design and execution of which were ascribed to a named cartographer. The Ulm edition, moreover, was the first to depart from the classical prototype by expanding the atlas to reflect post-antique discoveries about the size and shape of the earth. To the canonical twenty-seven Ptolemaic maps were added five "modern maps" of Spain, France, Italy, the Holy Land and northern Europe. The world map is of particular interest as it is the first to be signed, by Johannes Schnitzer of Armsheim, and the first to be based on Ptolemy's second projection, in which both parallels and meridians are shown curved to convey the sphericity of the earth. Schnitzer, furthermore, updated the Ptolemaic world picture by incorporating improvements that were probably based on a manuscript of the 1470s by Nicolaus Germanus.

The German Wikipedia states, that not much is known about him, but that he lived at Florence (without a date). Benedectine monk.

He received 200 ducats for two globes (one earth, another heaven) in Rome, made in 1477 (first globes ever made) ... 11th of december 1477


A nice overview gives ... n_djvu.txt
Chapter 5 ... 0cron.djvu

The 200 ducats were for the globes ... it's plausible, that Germanus contributed to the work of Sweynheim as a mathematician, but not as an engraver, I would assume.
First, Skelton cites a dedication written for the 1478 Rome Ptolemy but not published until 1732 in Scipione Maffei's Verona illustrata; it is by the humanist Domizio Calderini. Here is his English translation.

Some time ago Conrad the German...begged me to emend his work...which had for long been wholly corrupted in the Latin manuscripts, and I have done so, yet with not less labour than pleasure. For many things had to be borrowed from mathematical studies in order that the twenty-six maps might be carefully engraved in copper and others taken form them in the manner of [manuscript] copies. The numbers indicating longitude and latitude, which by the fault of scribes had been trasposed or confused, we have clarified and arranged in their proper places.

There were previous manuscript maps of the Ptolemy, but they used coordinates from a faulty Latin translation, with many scribal errors. So on Calderini's account (or maybe Maffei's), he had to compare numerous manuscripts, including one manuscript in Greek, "probably not the one one which the Latin translation had been based." Skelton adds, "Calderini is said by Maffei to have spent three years, which (if correct) would take the beginning of his work back to 1475 or earlier."

The dedication that was actually published in the 1478 Ptolemy, however, refers only to Sweynheim:

Whereupon, calling on the help of mathemataicians, he[Sweynheim]gave instruction in the method of printing [the maps] from copper plates, spending three years in this up to the day of his death.

So what was Calderini's real role? And Sweynheim's?
Calderinus, as far he contributed, probably worked as a corrector (earlier Bussi's work) and "publisher" and a sort of Italian manager for German language printers. Calderinus made many other projects, so he hadn't too much time (in his Italian life description the contact to Sweynheim is a minor episode). As far I know, the contract of cooperation between Calderinus and Sweynheim was made in 1473. As the "private dedication" is from a much later time, it might well be an attempt to forge the history of the Ptolemy edition a little bit to Calderinus' favor.
He was born 1446 ... much younger than Sweynheim (likely). He had the connection to the pope Sixtus nephews and their extravagant activities and especially festivities, all of similar age - already before 1473. In other words ... he was a sort of courtier, but for the papal circle, with some talents and enthusiasm for literacy and the "printing fever" of the time. In this role is he was "used" ... and became at 27th of June 1474 "segretario apostolico", and was then active mostly in the surrounding of cardinal Giuliano Della Rovere, later pope Julius II, which led later to another visit and longer stay to France as part of a papal delegation February - till September 1476 in Lyon ... that's a rather long stay outside of Italy and possible cooperation with Sweynheim.
To the papal circle belonged also Lorenzo Zane, "Lazarelli's manager" for some time. Closely related were of course also the poets of the Accademia Romana. This naturally was another clique of persons than the group of the Germans printers. So the situation needed mediators and Calderinus was such a mediator.

Generally one has to observe the conflicts around the Accademia Romana in 1468. The German printers were "foes in function" to the circle of the members of the Accademia Romana, as printing technology was an attack of their jobs. This dimension becomes not really visible in Rome, but it's very open and direct in the case of Ulricus Han and his appearance in Vienna in 1462. Not everybody was happy about printing technology. Mediators were needed to make the best out of it.

And there is the "Pope and Emperor" from 1470 Venice, which Hind in 1923 compared favorably with the "Mantegna." It is the fact of such engravings in Italy that led Hind to date the "Mantegna" at "around 1465" and "not before 1460."
You speak of 1467 Bologna? ... this is an illumination or am I wrong? I would assume, that the dating of "4 virtues 1468 in St. Gallen" and the dating of the Bolognese illumination 1467 caused Hind to assume 1465, nothing else, and not really the general state of Italian printing art. If Hind hadn't these both dates at hand, he probably wouldn't have chosen 1460-65, but something like 1478 or so.


Niello engravings



Are there some, which are less dark?
In the meantime, since it is most likely that Sweynheim did not personally do the engravings (there is his age and health, if nothing else), I will operate on the assumption that the engraver of the 1478 Ptolemy was someone else. Hind could not identify him in 1938, or even say with confidence where he was from. It is not likely that the "Mantegna" was already printed when Sweynheim entered Italy. Can we do any better today, considering all the work that has been done on this period since his time? I will try to pick up where Hind left off, using his clues. I'm not quite sure where the trail will lead. Perhaps nowhere.
What do you know about his age? I estimated, that he might have been born 1410 ... but only, if he was the master of the playing cards.

The 1466 note from Ferrara, where Germanus got money from duke Borso, likely seems to have influenced the Crivelli Ptolemy edition of 1477 ... this is called a poor edition.
If Sweynheim had such a good engraver in his workshop, why isn't this person mentioned somehow? Or doesn't appear elsewhere with his fabulous technique?
Sweynheim's biography and background gives reason why he wasn't active before the Mantegna Tarocchi and why he wasn't active after the Mantegna Tarocchi, also offers opportunities, where and how he learned before his art.
Arnold Bucking as possessor of the plates in 1478 is logical, if he was a heir of Sweynheim. Arnold Pannartz would be a logical heir.
"Bucking" might be a pseudonym for Pannartz ... Buck... might refer to German "Buch..." = book ... "Bucking..." or "Buckink" or "Buckinck" might be a slang expression for somebody who makes books. Perhaps one has to study 15th century Kölsch or Ripuarisch or Dutch for this question. Or this Latin text of 1737.

Ebner from "Codex Ebnerianus" ... that's a Patrician family in Nurremberg

It seems, that a descendant of this family sponsored the work of Raidel, as far I get it, likely cause he still possessed this edition.

Re: The "Mantegna": 1450's Bologna?

Huck wrote, about Donnus Germanus
It's hard to believe, that this hand made the Mantegna Tarocchi.
Let me be clear that Skelton says only that he may have made models for the engraver to follow (ink on paper or parchment), not the actual engravings.

Thanks for alerting me to Schnitzer, Benedictine monk of Florence. Skelton also wrote an introduction to the facsimile edition of the Ulm Ptolemy. It's in my local library.

Most nielo engravings did have the black background. Lambert shows only one that doesn't. Since they are pretty easy to distinguish from copper engravings, maybe Skelton didn't confuse them. But his statement about the poor quality of all Italian engravings before the 1478 Ptolemy still doesn't seem to me to be right. No doubt many were done in the same way as nielo, without much pressure, but some weren't.

Skelton's quotation from Hind was from 1908. Hind in 1938 didn't say why "on technical grounds" the "Mantegna" is "around 1465." I will have to look at the reproductions in his book. The 1468 Ferrara-style engravings pasted in the St. Gallen manuscript are pretty good evidence, however. The Mantua engravings associated with Mantegna are also good evidence, although I don't know on what basis the 1992 book I cited gave c. 1465 as the date for the ones I listed.

In my last post, I suggested that the improvement in Italian engravings was due to the influx of German printers. In Northern Italy outside of Venice, they apparently didn't set up shop until 1471. According to Lilian Armstrong ("The Hand-Illumination of Printed Books in Italy 1465-1515," in The Painted Page, 1994, p. 35)
Printing presses soon began operation elsewhere; Milan, Florence, Naples and Bologna all record a book printed in 1471, and other cities down the length of the peninsula followed.
She cites Lowry, 1991, Nicholas Jenson and the Rise of Venetian Publishing in Renaissance Europe, a book I need to look at (as well as some others she cites earlier). In Venice, she says, Johannes de Spera's first book was published in 1469. So if there were good quality copper engravings by 1465, it wasn't because of German book printers. It still may have been due to the introduction of German techniques, given the quality of the 1445 Queen that you posted. Perhaps unknown German engravers came to Italy around the same time as Sweynheim. Or Sweynheim gave the Italians some tips in Subiaco. Or once they knew about presses, they figured it out by themselves. In any case, the improvement in Italian engraving, even if it was later than I think and was in fact due to the German migration of printers, happened before the printing of the 1478 Ptolemy.

Re: The "Mantegna": 1450's Bologna?

The Venice note of 1441 states, that they had once a local printing mystery, that in 1441 also had reached others. 1430 we've a note about a woodcut printer in Florence. 1437 we've a printing press in Ferrara. The first woodcut is usually from 1423 (Heineken's Buxheim Christopher), occasionally another is noted from 1418. Ca. 1422 there's a note in Southern Italy. The legendary San Bernardino story exists. Recently there was rumor, that Spanish woodcut cards exist from ca. 1400. Woodcut technology in European textile printing has in any case earlier evidence, maybe 1370.
Woodcut use in Islamic countries has much older evidence (they made wood block books at least since 1300), in China, Korea etc. very much older.
The general break down of European culture after the wandering of the nations since 375 and the plague of Justinian 541/542 with following catastrophes till 750 and the isolated position at the Western border of the world resulted in a technological and cultural disaster, what we call the dark ages. So we've to accept, that Western culture was a little behind with printing industry - with our man of the millennium, Johann Gutenberg ... :-).

Lorenzo Zane inside the pope Julius biography, 1474-76 ... ne&f=false
ca. p. 20-40

Generally there was a plague entering Rome 1475 and with it the funny lucky "Trionfi" years of the first half of the 70's ended, passing over to a period, which destabilized with the murders of Galeazzo Maria Sforza and Giuliano de Medici. Murder in Rome became a quite common feature.

When observing Germanus 1466 in Ferrara, one shouldn't overlook, that the astronom Peurbach gave lessons in Ferrara around 1449 and that Regiomontanus came to Italy 1461, accompanying Bessarion, who had invited him in Vienna. Peurbach/Regiomontanus studied and worked in Vienna and one shouldn't overlook in this context, that emperor Fredrick III. is said to have had mystical astrological sides. There are dark spots in Regiomontanus' years in Italy (1461 till 1468 ?), but he made a journey to Venice and likely didn't miss the opportunity to have been in Ferrara, too. Regiomontanus went to Hungary after this, it's possible, that Ferrara, which had good connections to Hungary, played a mediating role in this.
Pellegrino Prisciani, a Ferrarese astrolog, had listened to Peurbach, when he taught in Ferrara, and he became responsible for the contents in Palazzo Schifanoia, which started 1469, based on the antique poem of Manilius, which had entered Italian interest, when it was found by Poggio in a German library during the council of Constance. In 1472 there was the print of a Manilius edition in Ferrara and contemporary a similar project by Regiomontanus in Nurremberg, who had left Hungary and started a printed house in Nurremberg in very short time, focused on his own works and those of Peurbach.
Regiomontanus was invited by Sixtus for his astronimical calendar projects in 1474 and came 1475 to Rome and died 1476, rumor tells, that he was murdered by sons of George of Trabezund, what is tempered by "Regiomontanus died cause the plague". Regiomontanus' engagement as publisher alone guarantees, that he knew Sweynheim and Pannartz, but naturally the theme geography and astronomy was connected, so he knew them anyway. Likely he was just one of the mathematicians, which helped Sweynheim.

George of Trabezund had translated the Ptolemy ca. 1450, but he was a troublesome man and more than this, he made many technical errors. He had to leave Rome and went to Naples. Peurbach and Regiomontanus worked on this errors, and from this arose more dark clouds above the head of Trabezund, who had returned 1464, cause the new pope Paul II. had been his pupil before (?). Bessarion wrote against him and Trabezund even attempted to go to the Sultan, at least he left Rome, but returned later. He died under poor conditions.

Toscanelli (Florence, employed by the Medici as mathematican) had (at least) letter exchange with Regiomontanus, he himself made astronomical studies, especially comets. He was befriended to Nicolaus Cusanus since his youth. Somewhere I read, that Cusanus prepared himself one of the maps, which later was added to the general pool of early geography.
Possibly he had contact to Chinese, which were in Italy in the 1430's. He had later contact to the Portuguese kings and to Christopher Colombus, suggesting sea journeys to China. Around Toscanelli surely geographical questions were discussed, which possibly explains the presence of Germanus in Florence.

Generally maps were traded later in 16th century (and probably also earlier) with secrecy ... everybody was interested to keep some silence about trading routes, which might lead to further income.

Re: The "Mantegna": 1450's Bologna?

I read what Skelton had to say about the 1482 Ulm Ptolemy. He commends Durand's 1952 Benedictine-Brother-of-Reichenbach theory (your last link) as the best of the four theories about who Donnus Nicolaus Germanus was. I liked Durand's bit on his dedication to the Cusa map, too. According to Skelton the 1482 Ulm Ptolemy is based on the Wolfegg Codex, one copy of Nicolaus's 3rd (and final) rescension. It uses different projections than the first rescension. The identification of the wood-engraver as Schnitzer comes from the legend .Iusculptum per Johanne Schnitzer de Armssheim along the top of the block of the world map, making it the earliest printed map to bear an engraver's signature. The e in Johanne has a line above and below it, I surmise an abbreviation for s, Skelton adds, "No other signed work is known by Johannes, who was doubtless a Formschneider (= Schnitzer) from Armsheim in Rheinhessen, employed by Holle." Holle was the printer. Nobody knows if Johannes or others did the regional maps. A peculiarity of these maps is that on some of them, including the world map, the letter N appears backwards in all instances; in others, in no instances, in others, some are one way and some the other. Skelton offers no explanation. Could it be the identification mark of a particular engraver? Outside the map are adornments by a Florentine illuminator, different from the engraver or engravers. At the beginning of the text, the dedication, which starts with the letter "N," is to Pope Paul II; in the N is miniature depicting the presentation of the book to the Pope by a Benedectine monk, "presumably the cartographer," Skelton says. Nicolaus is named in the colophon. End of summary.

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