Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.09.65

Werner Suerbaum, Handbuch der illustrierten Vergil-Ausgaben 1502-1840: Geschichte, Typologie, Zyklen und kommentierter Katalog der Holzschnitte und Kupferstiche zur Aeneis in Alten Drucken; mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Bestände der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München und ihrer Digitalisate von Bildern zu Werken des P. Vergilius Maro. Bibliographien zur klassischen Philologie, Bd. 3.   Hildesheim/New York:  Georg Olms, 2008.  Pp. 684; 2 DVDs.  ISBN 9783487135908.  €89.00.  



Reviewed by Patricia A. Johnston, Brandeis University (johnston@brandeis.edu)
Word count: 625 words

Werner Suerbaum has produced yet another impressive bibliography, this one a handbook of the history, types, cycles and a detailed catalog of woodcuts and engravings found in more than 550 early editions of Vergil published all over the world from 1502-1840, particularly those found in the Bavarian State Library in Munich. The reasoning behind this publication is (and I paraphrase p. 7) that the development of pictures for the Aeneid (including the frontispieces to the collected works) in earlier, pre-1840 printed editions of Vergil has until now been insufficient. Bibliographies of Vergil (cf. G. Mambelli Gli annali delle edizioni virgiliane, 1954) tend to announce the existence of illustrations in the respective books but are not clear whether these comprise a single picture or to dozens of them in a given work, while descriptions which are more precise give the number of enclosed illustrations but are silent about the subject or artists. Such information is rarely supplied for woodcuts, and for etchings only the most famous are identified. Suerbaum maintains that there is a tendency to focus on the reception of Vergil-themes in art, but that the role of the graphic arts, except for those that are the most influential on subsequent reception, is practically passed over.

Consequently, Suerbaum has examined extensive bibliographies, monograms, manuscripts and various reference texts as well as European and British internet catalogs, and compiled an extensive catalog of illustrations accompanying publications of Vergil's works during these three and a half centuries. He has included most of these illustrations (about 4000 of them) in the two DVDs that accompany this handbook, making it a very convenient reference text.

Suerbaum arranges the text, after an introduction, with instructions on how to use the handbook (15-20), identifying the rubrics, the symbols and bibliographical references. He then disputes the date of the Lyon 1483 incunabulum of 61 wood engravings, which Mambelli had identified as the first English Aeneid, translated by William Caxton. Suerbaum argues that the first illustrated edition of the works of Vergil was the 1502 edition by Sebastian Brant, the "Strasburg Vergil," which contains between 50 and 138 pictures. He then proceeds (131 et seq.) to examine the VP 1502 ("VP" = "Vergilius Pictus," the title on the DVDs). There is an extensive discussion and bibliography about this edition, followed by detailed identification of each of the woodcuts in sequence, arranged by book number, including the six pictures in book XIII of by Mapheus Vegius, which are included in this edition of the Aeneid. He includes not only the pictures but also a PDF of this and other books' entire contents, sometimes including the books' covers, followed by separate files of each of the pictures. In the case of the Brant edition, he includes Brant's introduction, the Vita Maronis, Servius' commentary, and the Eclogues and Georgics as well as the Aeneid.

He follows this plan for subsequent editions, some more briefly than others, depending on the number of illustrations, and identifies, where possible, the artists as well as the other vital statistics. At the end of the volume he includes separate detailed Indices, of Artists; of Editions; of Printers; of Editors/ Commentators/ Translators; and of Illustrated Scenes of the Aeneid (Subject-Catalog). The final index (H) contains a listing of the contents of both DVDs.

This is really a wonderful collection, and will be of enormous scholarly value to those who emphasize this aspect of Vergilian manuscripts. It is also a joy to work through. I found that a few of the files on my copy are damaged and unreadable (e. g. VP 1502.b 1879-853 through -861), but considering the vast number of files collected here, and the wealth of information in the text itself, this is nevertheless a most useful collection with many applications.

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