Boner: The Gemstone

Boner: The Gemstone Facsimile Edition

Bamberg (Germany) — 1461

Boner's famous collection of fables: the first book in German printed with movable type and the first printed work illustrated with woodcuts

  1. A popular and beloved 14th century collection of fables was written by the Bern Dominican Ulrich Boner (active 1324–49)

  2. This edition is both one of the first printed German texts and one of the first books with woodcuts

  3. The meaning of the scenes is literally pointed out by a man dressed in red with a turban-like head covering

Boner: The Gemstone

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Boner: The Gemstone

The collection of fables with the title The Gemstone by the Bern Dominican Ulrich Boner was a beloved moralist text of the 14th century. Transmitted in a variety of editions, the specimen from the Wolfenbüttel represents a preeminent anomaly, for one thing, it is probably the first work printed with moveable type in the German language, on the other hand, the earliest example of a printed work illustrated using woodcuts. This entertaining and also instructive text is illustrated with lovingly designed images.

Boner: The Gemstone

The collection of fables with the title The Gemstone by the Bern Dominican Ulrich Boner was a beloved moralist text of the 14th century. Transmitted in a variety of editions, the specimen from the Wolfenbüttel represents a preeminent anomaly, for one thing, it is probably the first work printed with moveable type in the German language, on the other hand, the earliest example of a printed work illustrated using woodcuts. This entertaining and also instructive text is illustrated with lovingly designed images.

Aesopian Fables in Swiss Vernacular

Playful monkeys leap through the picture, a sly cat steals birds from a nest, animals and humans come together in harmony. The collection of fables by Ulrich Boner combines entertaining stories with general moral instruction. The fables are illustrated in beautifully colored woodcuts and make the lectures of the book more enjoyable as a result. Originating in Switzerland in the first half of the 14th century, Boner, who was identifiable in Bern during this time, assembled fables from Latin sources in his text underpinned by the example of Aesop. The text is written in the Old Swiss-German dialect, nevertheless is easily understandable and readable.

Colored Woodcuts with Instructive Content

Among its numerous other treasures from the world of book art and early printed books, the Duke August Library in Wolfenbüttel houses a special specimen of Boner’s The Gemstone. The specimen, printed in 1461, is the first of the beloved and widely circulated work to be published. It was printed in the Bamberg printing shop of Albrecht Pfister and was decorated with numerous artistic woodcuts as an additional distinctive feature. The woodcuts are lovingly colored and inserted into their respective position in the text. Set in a black border, the pictorial scenes are always accompanied by a man dressed in red with a turban-like head covering, who refers to the pictures with a pointing finger. In this way, the meaningfulness of the moralist aspect is stressed in the illustrations.

A Milestone of Book Art

The Wolfenbüttel Edition of Boner’s The Gemstone represents the beginning of an important development. As the presumptive first book printed with moveable type, it preempted the following revolution in book production. The use of moveable type for book printing, made famous by Johannes Gutenberg, arose after 1450, about a decade before the emergence of the Bamberg edition of The Gemstone in 1461. It is for this reason that the book represents a milestone of book printing and takes a unique place in the history of book art.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Boner: Der Edelstein
Size / Format
176 pages / 28.3 × 18.3 cm
Origin
Germany
Date
1461
Style
Language
Illustrations
101 colored woodcuts
Content
Collection of 100 fables
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Boner: The Gemstone – 16. I Eth. 2° – Herzog August Bibliothek (Wolfenbüttel, Germany) Facsimile Edition
Müller & Schindler – Simbach am Inn, 1972
Limited Edition: 950 copies
Detail Picture

Boner: The Gemstone

The Swallow and the Other Birds

A swallow and some other birds were picking through the soil for food one day while a farmer was sowing some hemp seeds in a field. “Beware that man and be careful to pick up all of the seeds or you will regret it someday,” said the swallow, but the other birds paid no attention to this warning. After the hemp grew, the farmer made cords from it and then made a net from the cords, which he used to catch many of the birds. The moral of the story is to destroy the seed of evil, or it will grow up to your ruin.

Boner: Der Edelstein
Single Page

Boner: The Gemstone

Father, Son, and Donkey

A father rides a donkey as his son walks alongside when a passerby laments that the poor boy with his short legs can barely keep up while the father lazily rides the donkey, so they switch. The next passerby comments how impudent the son must be to make his poor old father walk, so they both ride the donkey. A third passerby scolds them for overworking the beast and both dismount before another makes fun of them for walking, so they carry it on a pole, earning them yet more ridicule.

The moral of this fable, which has appeared in various forms around the world since antiquity, is to trust your own judgment because you will never please everyone. It is a classic example of a polylemma: a situation – a dilemma specifically – in which there are two or more options to choose from, but none of which is preferable.

Boner: Der Edelstein
Facsimile Editions

#1 Boner: Der Edelstein

Müller & Schindler – Simbach am Inn, 1972

Publisher: Müller & Schindler – Simbach am Inn, 1972
Limited Edition: 950 copies
Binding: Brown calf leather
Commentary: 1 volume (71 pages) by Doris Fouquet
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
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