Hatfield House Library Survey (2)


Printers’ device used by Johannes and Hieronymus Froben

About a month ago I promised to write about some of the highlights in the collection of Hatfield House where I’ve been doing a library survey. Going through my photographs again, my attention stuck to the Froben edition of St Augustine’s complete works I mentioned in that earlier post. Apart from still being in a contemporary pig-skin binding, it is also interesting for being the final project with which Johannes Froben (ca. 1460-1527) was involved before he died. His eldest son, Hieronymus (1501-1563) took over his father’s business (and there are two publications from the early 1520s to suggest he was already active in his father’s workshop) and finished the Augustine edition after his father’s death.

Johannes Froben’s contribution to the development of printing cannot be underestimated. Instead of black-letter or Gothic script, in which books in the German language were printed until the middle of the twentieth century, he adopted the clear italic type introduced by Aldus Manutius in Venice. He was also part of the humanist circle in Basel and printed works by his life-long friend Erasmus of Rotterdam (who apparently died in 1536 at the house of Hieronymus Froben), including his editions of the Church Fathers, of which the opera omnia of the saintly Bishop of Hippo was one.

This complete works of Augustine, prefaced by a letter from Erasmus to the Archbishop of Toledo and published in 1528-9 in ten parts, replaced the older edition of Johannes Amerbach published in 1505-06. As Arnoud Visser argues, Erasmus edited Augustine’s writings within a strong humanist (and reformatory) explanatory framework, which naturally caused some discomfort in learned Catholic circles (although both sides were able to draw upon Augustine’s wide-ranging oeuvre – each finding support for their views). However, this did not stop the editors of a Catholic edition – theologians from the University of Leuven – to include parts of Erasmus’ work into their own in the mid-1570s.

From textual reception and book historical perspectives, Erasmus’ edition of Augustine’s complete works is therefore interesting in itself. What makes the Hatfield copy also intriguing is the glimpse it provides into early ownership. At the moment, it’s not clear how this work ended up in the Hatfield Collection – more work remains to be done to interpret historic catalogues and any archival references. However, it is possible that it arrived in the late eighteenth century.


Bookplate of Valentinus Schnotzius (d. 1572)

The earliest sign of ownership is the confident late-sixteenth century bookplate of the Augustinian Canon Valentinus Schnotzius, or Valentin Schnotz, ‘Canonicus et Senior Herriedensis’ (Herrieden in the Diocese of Eichstätt in Bavaria). Schnotz appears to have owned a substantial collection of books. Ilona Hubay identified 20 incunabula still at Eichstätt, which carry his bookplate, and there is another in the Bodleian.

After his death, his book collection appears first to have gone to the Hofbibliothek of the Prince-Bishops of Eichstätt. The inscription at the bottom of Schnotz’s bookplate intimates that it was given away in 1662 – an act confirmed by the ownership inscription on title page of the index, which states that it was in the possession of the College of Jesuits at Eichstätt in 1662.


Ownership inscription of the Jesuit College, dated 1662

The entry for the University Library in Eichstätt in the Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände indicates that a substantial proportion of Schnotz’s books remained in the Hofbibliothek (Bibliotheca aulica Eystettensis) until it was subsumed into the Royal Library (later State Library) of Eichstätt. However, the inscription in the Augustine edition, along with others, shows that Marquard II, Count Schenk von Castell, Bishop of Eichstätt from 1637 to his death in 1685, donated it to the Jesuit College, which he had attended as part of his education. To confuse matters, when the Jesuit College was disbanded in the late eighteenth century, its complete library (said to have been 8000-10,000 volumes) was transferred to the Hofbibliothek. Here, books had started to be marked with an ownership inscription from ca. 1700 onwards – an inscription not found in the Hatfield Augustine, possibly suggesting that it left the Jesuit collection before or during its transfer in the 1780s.

My thanks to Lord Salisbury for permission to blog about individual books in the collection. Please note that the Collections Department at Hatfield is closed for enquiries until May 2015.


1 Comment

Filed under Hatfield House, Historic Libraries, Provenance Research, Sixteenth century, Surveying book collections

One response to “Hatfield House Library Survey (2)

  1. Pingback: Hatfield House Library Survey (3) | Behind the Spines

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