Paris: Techener, 1840. First Edition. 17 x 26.5 cm. 8vo. Hardcover. 83 pp. with 5 plates (of which 3 are folding). Contemporary beige quarter calf, patterned brown cloth sides, gilt armorial device of the Duc d'Arenberg on both covers. Slight wear to spine. Slight foxing throughout. Item #2217
Very significant documentation of Gutenberg in Strassburg, the most important being the first and most important reproductions documents given at the memorable trial of 1439, in which Gutenberg himself was plaintiff. The text of the lawsuit are reprinted "verbatini et literatim" from the ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS (now destroyed) with a French translation. Also included are reproductions of the WATERMARKS of said documents. All of these precious documents were incinerated during the Prussian bombardment of Strassburg in 1870.
Our special copy comes from the libraries of the Duke d'Arenberg and Bernard Breslauer, and contains two extra plates not found in ordinary copies. These handsome full-page plates are stylized reproductions of the woodcuts that were utilized as models for the steel engravings on pp. 16 and 17.
"Whereas Laborde's conclusions have in great part been superseded, these excellent and faithful reproductions will always possess a high historical interest. [...] The work opens with a bibliographical essay on the hypotheses of previous writers, and concludes with the results arrived at by the author himself. These are: That 1410 is the probable date of the discovery of printing in the Low Countries; that 1423 is that of the invention of movable types, by "Lorenz Coster," at Haarlem; that 1436 is the authentic date of the first experiments of Gutenberg at Strasbourg ; and that 1452 is the certain date of the invention, by Gutenberg, of cast types at Mayence (sic). The rest of the book is occupied by an attempt to establish these theses, and there are many facsimiles of type and woodcuts." (Bigmore & Wyman I, 410). According to Pierce Butler, Laborde's work is "of permanent historical scholarly value." ("The Gutenberg Celebration of 1940: A Survey of the Literature" in: Library Quarterly, vol. 13, no. 1, p. 64). This sentiment is shared by Frederick Goff, who described Laborde's work as "valuable for us since it contains lithographic facsimiles of several of the important passages in the testimonies of the lawsuit, then extant, which is the nearest thing we have to the original documents." (Review of Otto Fuhrmann's "Gutenberg and the Strasbourg Documents of 1439" in PBSA, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 76-7. Fuhrmann relied heavily on the present work, and reproduced all of Laborde's illustrations and transcriptions).
Laborde transcribed (not without errors) the texts of the lawsuit of Strassburg resident Jerge Dritzehen against Gutenberg; these were derived from six entries in different parts of three several manuscript registers in the city of Strassburg. According to Laborde, the first of these were written in a volume (described by later scholars as "Vol. A") which consisted of two quires, each of 42 sheets or 84 leaves in total; they were covered by a sheet of parchment which had become yellow and soiled; on the recto was written "Dicta... Testium magni consilij Anno Domini M.CCC. Tricesimo noni." The paper, which had turned yellow and brown on the edge, measured 10 x 9 inches. The second volume ("Vol. B") was bound in parchment and consisted of 24 sheets, or 48 leaves of paper, sewn together, 43 of the leaves being written upon. According to Laborde, everything connected with the 1439 Lawsuit was written by the same scribe. Laborde's three illustrations of the watermarks (two different bull's head and one balance) were printed in sepia; the excellent facsimiles of eleven different passages from the Lawsuit were made from lithographic tracings. All were published here for the first time.
The Marquis de Laborde (1807-1869) studied at Gottingen and afterwards travelled extensively in the East. He subsequently held several diplomatic positions, and was curator of the antiquities in the Louvre from 1848 to 1854, and director of the Archives of the Empire from 1856 until his death. He wrote extensively on archeology, art, printing, and engraving.
From the library of the great Belgian bibliophile Prosper-Louis, duc d'Arenberg, d'Arschot et de Croy (1785-1878) for whom see Jonghe d'Ardoye et al., Armorial Belge du Bibliophile (1930), p. 645 (with reproduction of the armorial device). -- subsequently in the famed bibliographical library of B.H. Breslauer (Bibliotheca Bibliographica Breslaueriana, Christie's NY 6/27/2005, lot 1235).
Whereas other copies are currently available on the market, none are better than ours in terms of condition, binding, and provenance.