1550 Homiliae in Evangelia, woodcut copies of Albrecht Durer works, rare edition

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A very interesting 16th century printing of Homiliae in Evangelia; most notably, a number of woodcuts in this work appear to have been copied (poorly) from works of the master Albrecht Durer mainly.

A Catholic church collection of homilies (spiritually edifying discourse) on the gospels; this edition with commentary by Johann Hoffmeister, a contemporary and opponent to Luther.

About the Woodcuts

I discovered a reference to the publisher in an antiquarian work on Albrecht Durer (web address of reference - https://books.google.com/books?id=TO5bAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA204). Curious if there were any connections to Durer I started comparing Durer’s works to the woodcuts in this work. I found that in at least six woodcuts Durer was blatantly copied, although poorly.

Durer woodcut photos were available to use freely in Wikipedia Commons, so I downloaded them and spliced the Durer photos next to photos of the woodcuts in this book, for you to compare. Please review the pictures I posted.

I also found that two of the other woodcuts very closely match works by 16th century Netherlandish artists. The Marriage at Cana woodcut is quite reminiscent of the Gerard David painting, complete with the position of Jesus, Mary, Bride, and the old man with the cup (see it here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerard_David#/media/File:Gerard_David_-_The_Marriage_at_Cana_-_WGA6020.jpg). This picture is spliced in the photos as well.

The Sea of Galilea woodcut is reminiscent of the Jan Wellens de Cock work Christ on the Sea of Galilea (see it at - http://artrules.ee/art/christ-on-the-sea-of-galilee/).

Also, a Sower, based heavily on the classic image of left arm in bag, right arm extended, feeding birds.

Interestingly the printer, Steels, was located in Antwerp. It is well documented that Durer spent time in the Netherlands selling his work, and both David and Wellens de Cock were located in the Netherlands.

The imaginative side of me considers that perhaps the other woodcuts show an unknown Durer. For example, the woodcut of the Parable of the Mote (speck) and the Beam has the winds and hill characteristic of a Durer woodcut depicting Revelations, but there is no known Durer associated with that parable.

Woodcuts are small, measuring 4.5 x 3.25 cm.

I've wrote a blog on the relationship between this book and Albrech Durer works. You can read it at - http://collectiblebook.blogspot.com/2016/08/why-great-artists-are-called-masters-or.html

Dating of the Book

Printed by Stelsij (printer Joannes Steels) in 1550. Although there is no title page, or date, the woodcuts/design/layout mostly match the 1562 Steel edition scanned in Google Books, and the pagination and size matches the 1550 edition by Steel noted at the UK Research Library. That is the only record I find in European Library of this work, therefore the 1550 edition by this publisher is probably quite rare. No other copies of this size and publisher are available for sale that I can find.

See the UK Research Library description of the work here:


See the Google 1562 Steel edition scanned here:


Steels is well noted for his printer’s device (missing from this book) which was either stolen from, or gave inspiration to Alciati’s matching emblem, in his Emblemata book, that is a near perfect match. We also have that book for sale.

Additional Photos

I’ve posted more pictures of the book for sale to a publicly shared Flickr photo album:


About the Commentary

Johann Hoffmeister was a reformer of the Catholic church, but also adamant supporter. He opposed the protestant movement, and at times was pitted directly against Luther by the Catholic Church in Germany, especially since he had previously been a teacher of Luther.

Oxford dictionary reference to Hoffmeister - http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095940419

Condition of the Book

See pictures. In poor condition but functional, and not fragile. Detailed description below.

8to edition, 378 p. (5 index). Book measures 18 x 10 x 4.5 cm

Technically, this binding is in poor condition, but I love it. So much work went into binding most 16th century books, this a rarish 8to edition of Homiliae in Evangelia. For example, look at the boards, bevelled on three edges, carved out/nailted to accommodate the closing hardware, and drilled/gouged to accept the bindings from the text block. Yet 450 years later the wood boards still haven't cracked. That is quality. Try to make a board that thin, with that much going on, without breaking it. Then give it 450 years!

Hardware for only one closure still extant. Nails extrude from boards where others would have been.

Half-leather is broken along much of the front joint and a little of the rear. The spine leather is missing largely except bottom two inches. This exposes true binding.

Inside the front cover the pastedown is largely missing. Ecclesiastical library stamp on board.

Title page and 1 leaf missing. 1st page is A3, the beginning of the index. A1 and A2 are missing, which are four pages. Likely the title page and a short introduction are missing, as shown in the Google scanned edition by the same publisher.

Pages are yellowed. Edges are soiled, and dark brown. Evidence of moisture intrusion with a moisture line which come in from the fore-edge margin and occasionally is in the text. The text is not destroyed, and the stain barely changes the color of the page, and at some points is un-perceptible. Spots of foxing here and there. Occasional ancient annotation here and there, and I find a stamp of the Paderborn Franciscan convent in a margin.

Despite issues it is easy to hold and explore. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with the woodcuts considering their origins. The book is not fragile, with strong binds and boards.

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