Venice: Johannes Baptista Sessa, 8 October, 1497.
Chancery quarto: 20.5 x 14 cm. , i-cclxvii,  leaves. Collation: π8, a-z8, &8, A-I8, K4 (K4 blank and present.) Leaf i2 mis-signed i3. Leaves of signatures d, &, and A bound out of sequence. Complete.
The first of only two missals printed for Giovanni Battista Sessa. The second, an octavo, dated “1490” was in fact printed sometime between 1492 and 1498. Extremely rare. ISTC locates ten complete copies, including this one. Only two institutional holdings in North America: Lilly Library and UCLA.
Printed in red and black throughout. With printed music, a full-page woodcut of the Crucifixion, smaller woodcut initials including historiated initials with scenes of the life of Christ and the Virgin, preceding the Canon of the Mass, two printer’s devices printed in red (Kristeller 288 and 289). Bound in 20th c. black morocco by James Macdonald Co. (NY). A fine copy, light finger-soiling, marginal spots on lvs. U3, &6, and &8, and light stain to lvs. C5-7. A few blank corners repaired (no loss), a few other trivial blemishes, and a few pen trials on the final blank. Provenance: Elaine and Alexandre Rosenberg.
An extremely rare printed missal (the textual and musical portions of the Mass to be read and sung by the priest), printed by Giovanni Battista Sessa, who established the Sessa publishing dynasty. The book was printed during the reign of Doge Agostino Barbarigo (1419-1501), the year in which Venice’s iconic clock tower was erected and its enormous bell was cast at the Arsenal.
The book features the first iteration of the iconic Sessa cat-and-mouse device, printed in red, on the first leaf. The printed music (notes in black and staves in red) is found on 34 pages: leaves h4v-h5v, i7r, k3r, l1r-l1v, l3r, l6r-m1v, n1r-n6v, n8v-p1r, p3r-p4v. The staves are printed from cast metal rules (See Duggan, Italian Music Incunabula, R24, p. 145). Duggan notes that the person who cast the text type for the missal was not necessarily the same one who produced the music type.
“Giovanni Battista Sessa was a Milanese whose family presumably came from the district of Sessa, not far from Lugano. He issued some thirty books in the fifteenth century (one in 1489, four in 1491, the remainder from 1495 to 1500). His last known book was printed in 1505. He was succeeded by his son Melchiore in 1506. From an examination of Sessa's types, Proctor concluded that Sessa was a publisher who relied on outside labor for the actual printing of his books, an opinion supported by Isaac in his study of the twenty-one sixteenth-century books with Sessa's imprint. Among those who printed for Sessa in the fifteenth century are Penzio, Vitali, Cori, and Bonelli. Vitali printed the ‘Tractatus Musices’ (C 5863) for Sessa with music printed from woodcuts. The fifteenth-century music books issued under Sessa's name include one quarto [Missale Romanum 1497] and two octavos [Missale Romanum, dated “1490” but not after 1498, and Liber Catechumeni 1498]. Another Missale (W 947) is apparently a ghost.
“Sessa's music type (R24) is almost indistinguishable from Johann Emerich's Roman Small Missal type (R20). It fits the larger staff of the quarto format better than the octavo staff, the noteheads generally landing squarely on lines and spaces of the staff… The music designs are rather small for a quarto (Emerich's designs of the same size were used only for octavos), but the font must have been intended for the larger staff in the quarto, which it fits (better than the one used in the octavo.) If that is the case, the “1490" Missale, (an octavo) was probably not the first book to use the type and was printed after the 1497 Missale (a quarto).
“Sessa's R24 includes a podatus with a smaller upper note and a lower note pointed at the upper left as compared with Emerich's type (R20), in which two sizes of lozenge are used to create the podatus, one as small as the direct and often confused with it by the compositor… The staves in the [1497 Sessa Missale and the 1498 Sessa Liber Catechumeni] are printed from cast metal rules of 9.8 to 10 mm., the technique also used by Emerich.” Duggan, Mary Kay. R24 (Giovanni Battista Sessa), in Italian Music Incunabula: Printers and Type, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992
Colophon: “Ioannis baptiste de Sessa mediolanensis mira arte impressum: in florentissima ciuitate Venetiarum Augustini barbadici inclyti Principis tempestate: Anno incarnationis dominice Millesimo quadringentesimo nonagesimo septimo. octavo idibus octobris.”.
HC 11412*; BSB-Ink M-482; IGI 6640; Goff M-712 (Lilly Library and UCLA only); ISTC im00712000; Not in BMC; Duggan, Mary Kay. Italian Music Incunabula: Printers and Type, R24; Norton, Italian Printers, p. 151; Isaac, An Index to the Early Printed Books in the British Museum, Part 2: MDI-MDXX, Section 2: Italy (London: Quaritch, 1938). For the Sessa printer’s devices, see Kristeller, Die italienischen Buchdrucker- und Verlegerzeichen bis 1525. (Strassburg: Heitz, 1893), numbers 288 (orb and cross)w and 289 (cat-and-mouse).