Contemporary Line-Drawing and Couplet in an Incunable (Incunabula 475 Z42l 1490)

Wilhelmus Zenders de Wert. Lilium grammaticae. Cologne: Heinrich Quentell, 1490

While cataloging a quarto edition of the Lilium grammaticae of Wilhelmus Zenders de Wert, I ran across an interesting drawing on the title-page.  This quaint illustration in black ink shows a man in armor with a head of curly hair, clutching a small sword or dagger in his right hand and extending an unrolled scroll from his left.  The artist has even included what seems to be chain mail below the armor on the figure’s upper body.  While the proportions are far from realistic and the left hand seems to be in an uncomfortably awkward position, this is a fascinating instance of a drawing that makes reference to the work that it accompanies.

The text on the scroll is difficult to make out, but it seems to run thus:  “Eyn schirmer[?] by[n] ich gena[n]t, an dem Lilium grammatice mal[?] beka[n]t” (roughly “A swordsman am I called; in the Lilium grammatice [am I] well-versed”).  Although the word “schirmer” is only conjectured here, it would be in accordance with the presence of the sword.  Judging by the spelling in these verses, the drawing must be contemporary or near-contemporary with the printed text.  Perhaps it was drawn by a schoolboy seeking to alleviate his boredom during a lesson.  Taking this even further, perhaps he or someone he knew (his instructor?) had the surname Schirmer or Schyrmer and this drawing is a visual pun.  One can only guess, since the artist’s identity may never be uncovered.

Our copy is half-bound in modern vellum with decorative paper over paste-boards.  It was acquired from Stonehill Books in 1950.

We are seeking any additions or corrections to the text in the scroll or any thoughts about the illustration itself.  If you have any suggestions please contact the Non Solus blog moderators or the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. TB

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3 Comments

Filed under Incunabula, Inscriptions, Provenance, TB

3 responses to “Contemporary Line-Drawing and Couplet in an Incunable (Incunabula 475 Z42l 1490)

  1. yohann

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  2. Hi! My family name is Schirmer. Is very interesstant to find our name in medieval literature. Bur im shure the old-german word “Schirmer” is translated as “Squire”.

  3. Sorry, i press enter by accident. Translated as “squire” or as “protector”.

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