The invention of printing—Its very slight effect on illuminating—Preference by rich patrons for written books—Work produced in various cities in the sixteenth century—Examples in German, Italian, and other cities, and in various public libraries up to the present time.

The art of printing, as the reading world has been frequently informed, was invented in the fifteenth century, and undoubtedly had, to a considerable extent, a destructive effect upon the craft of professional copyists. But in the fifteenth century the art of the writer and that of the illuminator had long been separate professions. There was no particular reason, therefore, why the invention of printing should interfere with the illuminator. As a matter of fact, it made little difference. Nor, indeed, did printing entirely put a stop to the professional career of the scribe. It was prophesied, before practical experience of facts proved the contrary, that the invention of the railway engine would abolish the horse. The printing-press did not abolish the penman, but it certainly spoiled his trade. We have seen in the course of the preceding chapters that it did not spoil the trade of the illuminator. Nor was it quite owing to the fact that many printed books were so adorned as to appear like illuminated MSS. More than one wealthy patron absolutely declined to have anything to do with printed books. The matter was too vulgar and too cheap. The last Duke of Urbino was a prince of this lofty way of thinking, and scarcely a court in Europe but continued to have MSS. produced as if no such thing as the printing-press were known. How they were multiplied in Spain and France we have seen in detail. We will now proceed to take a farewell look at the German and Italian libraries, in order to see how the illustrious presses of Mainz, Strassburg, Augsburg, Köln, Munich, Vienna, Venice, Milan, Florence, and Rome affected the ateliers of the great schools of illumination established in most of these cities. What do we find? In point of fact, some of the richest, most magnificent books ever produced by the illuminator, not only whilst the press was still a novelty, but long after it had become perfectly familiar to everybody. For several of the cities aforesaid we have the means of proof: thus for Mainz, at the end of the superb copy of the Mazarine Bible, now at Paris, is the following inscription: “Iste liber illuminatus, legatus and completus est henricum Cremer vicariū ecclesie collegiate Sancti Stephani Moguntini sub anno dni Melesimo quatring entesimo quinquagesimo Sexto, festo assumptiois gloriose Virginis Marie. Deo gratias alleluya.” This was in 1456, the year before the first press was set up. In 1524 we have two most splendidly illuminated MSS.—a Missal and a Prayer-book—executed by order of Albert of Brandenburg, Archbishop of Mainz. Two richer examples of the German Renaissance cannot easily be imagined. We cannot dilate upon them. We may, however, truly say that together with very many other examples of illuminated work, both in manuscripts and printed books, they show the art of the illuminator to be no less splendid or elaborate after the invention of printing than it was before.

On the last page of the Missal is written: “Ich Niklas Glockendon zu Nurenberg hab dieses Bhuch illuminiert ond vollent im jar 1524.”

The Prayer-book is similarly adorned with miniatures and brightly coloured borders. On the cover is a copy of the Archbishop's portrait, painted by Dürer, and on folio 1 is written by the Archbishop himself: “Anno domini MDXXXI completum est presens opus, Sabbato post 'Invocavit.' Albertus Cardinalis moguntinus manu propria scripsit.”

Other Glockendon books exist in other libraries. Then there is the Beham Prayer-book at Aschaffenburg and a Bible in the library at Wolfenbüttel in two thick 4° volumes—a work well worth examination. At Nuremberg is the Service-book executed by Conrad Frankendorfer, of Nuremberg, in 1498.

In the British Museum is the fine German MS.—the Splendor Sous, a sixteenth century MS. (Harl. 3469).

In the National Library at Paris is the Prayer-book of William of Baden (10567-8) executed at Strassburg by Frederic Brentel in 1647.

Augsburg was producing illuminated Service-books ten years after Günther Zainer had set up the press in that city.

Munich, also, with the Penitential Psalms, etc., by Hans Mielich. Vienna, too, can show a magnificent Missal by Georg Hoefnagel, bearing the dates 1582 to 1590. Venice is represented in the work of Benedetto Bordone and the Ducali. Florence in the splendid Missals, etc., of Attavante and his contemporaries.

Milan shows the gorgeous Graduals of the Brera belonging to the sixteenth century and the Sforziadas of London and Paris. So we might pass from city to city almost all over Western Europe. The great Spanish choir-books were almost all produced under Philip II. Several Papal Service-books are represented in the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century examples of the scrap-book 21412 of the British Museum; and the works of Clovio, the most noted of Italian illuminators, all belong to the sixteenth century.

These instances are amply sufficient to prove that in every city in Europe where printing was in full practice the art of the illuminator continued to flourish until the progress of modern inventions and various processes, added to the general cheapening of books, led to its disuse. Its present application seems to be almost solely to diplomas and testimonials, and in point of quality, usually as poor and spiritless as the incapacity of most of its professors can make it.

There seems, however, no reason why the artistic skill and elaborate methods of reproduction of the present day should not produce magnificent books—indeed the “Imitation” of Thomas à Kempis, and other continental examples prove that this is amply possible.

The next few years will probably show that readers are still desirous of possessing beautiful books, and that artists are still found capable of producing them.