BALBUS, Johannes (d. 1298). Catholicon.

Price : 29.000,00 

The famous "Catholicon" completed by Koberger on 21 August 1486, complete, preserved in its decorated workshop binding of the time.

Provenance : Tobias Kleselius, anno 1592.

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Nuremberg, Anton Koberger, 21 August 1486.

Large folio [402 x 278 mm] of (328) ll. (the first and last bl. pages serve as endpapers), some spaces left for initials have been filled in by a contemporary reader, wormholes in the margins of the first 35 pages, 8 shorter pages in the lower margins. Cold-stamped pigskin on contemporary wooden boards, five wooden stencils on each cover, corners protected by brass corners, remnants of brass and leather clasps. Contemporary binding.

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Second edition of the “Catholicon” by Koberger, the most important encyclopedia of the late middle ages.

HC 2258; GW 3192; BMC II, 430; BSB-Ink B-15; CIBN B-20; Goff B-28; ISTC ib00028000; Pellechet 1706.

“The ‘Catholicon’ was the first dictionary to be printed, and is the first printed text of any work in the field of secular knowledge.

Balbus was a Dominican friar from Genoa who completed his work in 1286. Divided into five parts, it contains treatises on orthography, etymology, grammar and rhetoric, but it is most famous for its etymological dictionary of Latin, which occupies most of the book and contains no less than 14,000 entries. It remained the standard Latin dictionary until the 16th century.

The large number of surviving manuscripts of this work testify to its popularity from the beginning. No fewer than 24 incunabula were printed.

The name of the work ‘Catholicon’ indicates that its scope was intended to be universal.

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries it was frequently used to teach Latin to lay people.

The first edition of this work was printed using a revolutionary method.

Columbus owned a copy of the first edition of this text (Mainz, Johannes Gutenberg, 1460).

A precious, wide-margined copy preserved in its contemporary pigskin blindstamped workshop binding decorated with wooden cabochons.

The binding of this copy is typical of the bindings ordered by Koberger from the Nuremberg binders.

Provenance: some handwritten annotations of the time – “Tobias Kleselius [?] Anno domini 1592”.

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Additional information


BALBUS, Johannes (d. 1298).


Nuremberg, Anton Koberger, 21 August 1486.