Basel: Johann Bergmann de Olpe, 1 March, 1498.
Chancery quarto: 20 x 14.8 cm. 163 leaves (of 164, without final blank). Foliation: CXLIIII, , CXLV- CLIX, [1, blank and lacking]). Collation: a-s8, [long s]4, t-y4 (-y4 blank).
SECOND ENLARGED LATIN EDITION.
Illustrated with the original woodcuts of the first German edition (1494), of which the majority (73) are often attributed to Albrecht Dürer. Bound in 18th c. blindstamped pigskin over wooden boards, soiled, clasps intact, edges minor repairs. A nice, unpressed copy with a small defect to the title woodcut, only affecting some of the fine lines in the water, which have been deftly restored in ink. Some folio numbers shaved in the upper margin, one leaf with loss to lower blank margin, closed interior tear affecting one leaf; occ. toning or light stains. Provenance: Edward Powell (18th c. armorial bookplate).
The text is illustrated with 120 woodcuts, two with decorative borders, often attributed to Albrecht Dürer, two eponymous artists (the Haintz Narr Meister, the Gnad-Her Meister) and perhaps several other artists. This edition includes additional woodcuts not present in the 1494 German original. The title page woodcut shows the fools in their ship. Bergman’s ornate printer’s device appears beneath the colophon.
Brant first published his "Narrenschiff" at Basel in 1494; a second, enlarged German edition appeared the following year and this served as the basis for the Latin translation by Jacob Locher, "Stultifera Naus”, first published in 1497 (the year in which Locher was named poet laureate by Maximilian I.) Those publications were followed by this enlarged Latin edition, edited by Locher, expanded with additional poems by Brant and Thomas Beccadelli.
The attribution of the woodcuts to Dürer is still speculative. For arguments in favor of the attribution, see Winkler, Dürer und die Illustrationen zum Narrenschiff (1951); Lemmer, Die Holzschnitte zu Sebastian Brants Narrenschiff (1964), and R. Schoch, M. Mende, A. Scherbaum, eds, “Albrecht Dürer: das druckgraphische Werk”, Bd. 3: 'Buchillustrationen' (München: 2004), pp. 86-127. For a recent critique of the attribution, see Peter Schmidt in “Der Frühe Dürer” (The Early Dürer), Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 24 May-2 September (exhibition catalogue, Nuremberg 2012.). Schramm attributes them to a “Meister der Bergmannschen Offizin”, an anonymous artisan in Bergmann’s print shop (Schramm, Vol. 22. p. 29, plates 147-177)
The book is also notable for containing the earliest literary reference to the discover of America: Hesperie occiduere rex Ferdinandus, in alto Aequore nunc gentes repperit innumeras" (leaf k4v.)
“The ‘Ship of Fools’ is the most important of a long line of moralizing works in which the weaknesses and vices of mankind are satirized as follies. The tradition goes back to early medieval times both in England and on the Continent (Lydgate’s ‘Order of Fooles and Wireker’s ‘Speculum stultorum’). It was the first original work by a German which passed into world literature... and helped to blaze the trail that leads from medieval allegory to modern satire, drama and the novel of character.
“In a ship laden with one hundred fools, steered by fools to the fools’ paradise of Narragonia, Brant satirizes all the weakness, follies and vices of his time. Composed in popular humorous verse and illustrated by a remarkable series of woodcuts… the book was an immediate success. Brant’s purpose was a moral one: he wanted to improve the life of his contemporaries and to help in the regeneration of the Holy Roman Empire and the Church. The follies of the clergy did not escape his censure… [In Brant’s work, there is a foretaste of the movement of reformation.] Incidentally, the book also contains the earliest literary reference to the discovery of America; the Columbus Letter had been published by the same printer the year previously.
“The influence of ‘The Ship of Fools’ was extensive and prolonged: thirty-six editions were published between 1494 and 1513... Its most immediate imitators were Geiler von Kaisersberg, Thomas Murner, Hans Sachs and Johannes Fischart in Germany, where the ‘Narr’ as a type has lived until today. Erasmus’s ‘Moriae Encomium’ was directly inspired by it.”(PMM 37)
The book impressed Brant’s learned contemporaries, including such diverse figures as Johannes Trithemius, who compared Brant to Dante and opined, “[Brant] should not have called his book a ‘Ship of Fools’ but rather a ‘Divina Satira’, and the humanist Jacob Wimpheling, who observed, “[Brant’ has interspersed [his book] so adroitly with stories, fables, and the wisdom of the greatest masters that I do not believe you can find a comparable book in our language.”
Brant’s student and the translator of the “Ship”, the poet Jacob Locher, linked Brant’s work with the Roman satirists, Horace, Persius, and Juvenal. Badius Ascensius, who published Erasmus’ “Praise of Folly” and wrote a work inspired by Brant, “the Ship of Foolish Women’, stressed this same connection when he wrote, “[Brant] teaches and castigates the infatuated and the foolish who are infinite in number, with his witty and pleasantly readable argumentation, so that they are attracted by his sharp and humorous conversational tone and do not notice that they themselves are the butts of his satire, until he has already crept in on them and is playing with their innermost feelings [as Persius observed about Horace.] Thus he makes them regain their minds and forces them to accept the opinions of the wise, provided that there is any possibility of improvement in them.”.
ISTC ib01091000; H 3751*; GW 5062; BSB-Ink B-821; Bod-inc B-513; Goff B-1091