Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Woodcut of Death

I'm not usually taken by the truly antiquarian. That's not to say I don't enjoy looking through a genuinely old, old book, but I've always felt somewhat intimidated by the printed word once it grows more than about 300 years old. However, this did appeal. I've been looking through some more of my huge collection of booksellers catalogues and this is an illustration from an undated (possibly 1930s?) catalogue by l'Art Ancien in Zurich: item 308a of catalogue 37 to be precise. Sadly, the catalogue is a little friable and it wouldn't have been wise to press it flat open onto the scanner so a photograph has had to make do. The title of the book is so very long, and in German to boot, that I won't bother with it here. Suffice to say it was printed in Vienna in around 1510 and is a description of the relics in St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. But the book's greatest interest is provided by its woodcut illustrations. The one above appears to be signed with the initials MGW and I couldn't for the life of me offer a convincing explanation of all the iconography used in it, particularly without being able to relate it to the text but nonetheless, wow!, what a piece of woodcarving...

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