Frankfurt: Christian Egenolff, 1539.
Quarto: 19 x 14 cm.  p. Collation: A-M4, N6.
FIRST EDITION OF AEMILIUS' VERSES, together with Beham's woodcuts (1st ed. 1533)
Illustrated with a woodcut title border, 80 woodcut illustrations, and Egenolff’s printer’s device. Bound in early 20th c. blind-stamped leather with attractive tools (Madonna and Child, symbols of the Evangelists). Text in good condition with minor soiling and staining, bottom outer corner a little rounded, ink stains on a few leaves. Good margins, with a few deckled edges preserved in the final gathering. Beham’s monogram (HSB) appears in the title page border, which shows scenes from the life of Moses.
First edition of these verses written to accompany 80 fine woodcut Bible illustrations by the famed Nuremberg artist Hans Sebald Beham, one of the most important of the printmakers known as “little masters”(Kleinmeistern). The text is the first major publication by the 22-year-old reformer and pedagogue Georg Aemilius (Georg Oemler), written shortly after completing his theological studies at the University of Wittenberg. He went on to have a successful career as teacher. In 1540, he was appointed rector of the Latin school in Siegen, a position he held until 1553. (Martin Luther had written Aemilius a letter of recommendation, describing him as "a particularly fine fellow, also quiet and decent".)
In addition to the collection of Biblical verses that he wrote to accompany Beham’s Old Testament series, Aemilius also composed verses for Beham’s Apocalypse series and for the Dance of Death series by Hans Holbein, whose own series of Biblical woodcuts competed with Beham’s.
The woodcuts were first printed, without Aemilius’ text, in 1533 as "Biblisch Historien", also by Egenolff. For this edition, two additional cuts have been added: the figures (with Hebrew text) Jehovah and Adonai (Pauli 273, 274).
Prior to 1525, “Sebald Beham was active in Nuremberg as a painter, engraver, and designer of woodcuts and stained glass, who had been trained in the Nuremberg tradition of Albrecht Dürer… No written documents exist to confirm that Beham was apprenticed to Dürer, although visual evidence, beginning with his early dated works, strongly points to such a connection…
“In January 1525, two months before Nuremberg officially became Lutheran, both Sebald and his brother Barthel Beham were brought before the town council, along with the painter Georg Pencz, for their radical proclamations on religion and local politics. The Behams’ repudiation of the outward manifestations of the Christian religion, particularly the traditional Mass and the sacrament of baptism, has been directly linked to the spiritualism of Hans Denck, the schoolmaster of the church of St. Sebald and an acquaintance, perhaps friend, of Sebald’s. Denck, in turn, is believed to have been influenced by Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, who called for expanding communion to the laity by offering both wine and wafer. Beham appears to have become more closely acquainted with another radical reformer and spiritualist, Sebastian Franck, whose Chronicle of the Turks, printed in 1528, maintains that spiritualists desire an invisible church based on inner beliefs rather than an external church emphasizing show and ceremony.
“After a trial of January 26, 1525, Beham was exiled along with the other two defendants; they returned to Nuremberg nearly eleven months later on November 16. Beham appears to have left Nuremberg again soon thereafter (his brother Barthel did the same and settled in Munich), moving possibly to various towns in the region. In 1531, Sebald settled in or near Frankfurt, where he continued his successful career as a print designer and painted his one surviving panel, a painting for Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg, as well as numerous illustrations for a prayer book for this same patron. In this Frankfurt phase, which continued for some twenty years until his death, Beham appears to have perfected his graphic style in both woodcuts and engravings; he created some of his most interesting work during this period…
“A new book publishing industry appears to have just begun in Frankfurt for which Beham could design illustrations. In addition, very little engraving seems to have existed there before Beham’s arrival. Beham may have been invited to come work in Frankfurt by one or more of the town’s publishers. The likely candidate for having made this invitation is Christian Egenolff (1502–1555), one of the first book printers in Frankfurt, who would work with Beham repeatedly over the next two decades. Thus Beham appears to have moved into a town that lacked real competition in the areas where he would soon flourish: engraving and designing book illustrations.”(Alison Stewart, Sebald Beham: Entrepreneur, Printmaker, Painter, 2012).
Benzing, Egenolff 152; Pauli, "Hans Sebald Beham: Ein Kritisches Verzeichniss Seiner Kupferstiche, Radirungen Und Holzschnitte” for the edition, p. 488 and woodcuts no.s 271, 273, 274, 277-356, 1355; Rahir, V, no. 1239 ("La qualite des epreuves est exceptionnelle.”); VD16, A-329; USTC 2214263; Adams A-228; Dodgson I, 440, 2