Icones sive Imagines vivae, literis Cl. Virorum, Italiae, Graeciae, Germaniae, Galliae, Angliae, Ungariae. Ex Typis Valdkirchianis in lucem productae: Cum elogiis variis: per Nocolayum Reusnerum I.C. & P.C. (Together with:) Icones aliquot clarorum virorum Germaniae, Angliae, Galliae, Ungariae: cum elogiis & parentalibus factis Theodoro Zuingero

Autore: REUSNER, Nicolaus (1545-1602)-STIMMER, Tobias, ill. (1539-1584)

Tipografo: Konrad von Waldkirch

Dati tipografici: Basel, 1589

Two parts in one volume, 8vo (170x110 mm). [144]; [32] leaves. Signatures: ):(8 A-R8; Aa-Dd8. The second part has a separate title page. Printer's device on last leaf verso. Text within decorative rule-border throughout. Woodcut tail-pieces and initials. With overall 92 woodcut portraits attributed to Tobias Stimmer. Slightly later stiff vellum, inked title on flat spine, sprinkled edges (lacking ties, traces of paper labels on spine). Some light browning and foxing, but a very good, genuine copy. In the book is found a loosely inserted label (132x102 mm), pasted on a later and slightly larger paper, containing Reusner's motto in Greek and Latin (“Φερε και φερου / Ferri bene disce ferendo”), his signature and the date 1597 (“Nikolaus Reusnerus Comes Palatinus Coll. Ienae m. dixit MDIIIC”), all written in what seems to be his own hand.


Rare first edition, dedicated by Reusner to Nicolaus Caas, chancellor of the kingdom of Denmark, of this series of portraits - accompanied by epigrams and laudatory verses - of learned men from the 15th and 16th centuries (with a few earlier exceptions), notably humanists, philosophers, poets, painters, sculptors, theologians, and physicians from Italy, Greece, Germany, Spain, France, England, and Hungary.

The portraits are usually attributed to Tobias Stimmer and his pupil Christoph Murer (1558-1614) after paintings in the portrait gallery of Paolo Giovio, as Reusner himself points out in the dedicatory epistle (p. [9]). Even though the attribution and the source of the woodcuts have been questioned, there is little doubt that Stimmer must have had a hand in production of the portraits (cf. A. Wartmann, Drei Porträtwerke aus der zweiten Hälfte des 16. Jahrhunderts, in: “Graphische Porträts in Büchern des 15. bis 19. Jahrhunderts”, P. Berhaus, ed., Wiesbaden, 1995, p. 49).

It is in fact believed that about 1570-71 Stimmer was commissioned by the Basle publisher Pietro Perna (1522-1582) to make drawings in Como after the famous portrait collection of Paolo Giovio. These drawings (now dispersed) served as patterns for the woodcut illustrations in Giovio's books Elogia virorum bellica virtute illustrium (1575) and Elogia veris clarorum virorum imaginibus (1577) printed by Perna. These woodcuts, together with other sources like Théodore de Bèze's Icones (Genève, 1580), served then as models for Reusner's later publications which all appeared after Stimmer's death.

In 1587 Reusner published a first series of Stimmer's portraits of famous men after Giovio's gallery, which appeared simultaneously in German (Contrafacturbuch) and Latin (Icones sive imagines virorum literis illustrium) at the Strasbourg presses of Bernard Jobin. With respect to that publication, which focused mostly on German notable men, the Icones of 1589 had the purpose of completing the series by adding the portraits of learned men from all the most important European countries (cf. P.O. Rave, Paolo Giovio und die Bildnisvitenbücher des Humanismus, in: “Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen”, 1, 1959, pp. 153-154).

The second shorter part, edited by Valentinus Thiloligius as a sort of appendix, is dedicated by the latter to the Silesian physician Peter Roth. It contains several texts in memory of the Swiss physician and humanist scholar Theodor Zwinger (1533-1588), who had died the previous year, along with his portrait among those of other eight prominent men.

Among the men portrayed in both parts of the book are Ptolemy, Dante Alighieri, Bartolo da Sassoferrato, Poggio Bracciolini, Nicolò Perotti, Platina, Manuel Chrysoloras, Angelo Poliziano, Bessarion, Theodorus Gaza, Marcus Musurus, Leon Battista Alberti, Lorenzo de' Medici, Leo X, Ermolao Barbaro, Pomponio Leto, Girolamo Savonarola, Marsilio Ficino, Alessandro Achillini, Pietro Pomponazzi, Antonio de Nebrija, Pomponio Gaurico, Pietro Bembo, Guillaume Philandrier, Girolamo Fracastoro, Leonico Tomeo, Paolo Giovio, Tiziano Vecellio, Baccio Bandinelli, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Leonardo da Vinci, Antonio da Sangallo, Johannes Bauhin, Thomas More, Reginald Pole, Pierre de la Ramée, Étienne Dolet, etc. Each portrait is accompanied by an epitome of the life of the portrayed man in the form of an epitaph, followed by Latin verses by various authors. Moreover on l. R2r is the portrait of a lute player called Baptista Siculus, about whose life nothing is known.

Nicolaus Reusner, a native of Lemberg in Silesia, studies law at Wittenberg and Lipsia. For a while he taught rhetoric and dialectic at the ‘Gymnasium illustre' in Lauingen. In 1583 he obtained a doctor's degree from the University of Basel and in the same years was called to the Strasbourg Academy as a professor of jurisprudence. In 1588 he moved to Jena, where he also taught law at the university and where he held several important offices at the court of Saxony. Reusner was also a skilled neo-Latin poet and a very learned polyhistor. Apart numerous juridical publications and the aforementioned portrait books, Reusner was also the author of a compendium of classical mythology organized in emblematic manner, Picta poesis Ovidiana (1580), illustrated by Stimmer (cf. A. Schindling, Humanistische Hochschule und freie Reichsstadt: Gymnasium und Akademie in Strassburg, Wiesbaden, 1977, pp. 289-322).

Theodor Zwinger enrolled at the University of Basel in 1548, but also studied in Paris (1551) and Padua (1553), and between 1548 and 1551 worked for a printing shop in Lyons. By 1599 he had returned to Basel, where he became member of the local medical faculty and professor of Greek (1565), ethics (1571), and theorical medicine (1580). With the publication of the Theatrum vitae humanae (several editions since 1565), an encyclopedic work collecting the knowledge of the time, Zwinger's fame spread all over Europe, as testified also by his vast scientific correspondence (C. Gilly, Zwischen Erfahrung und Spekulation: Theodor Zwinger und die religiöse und kulturelle Krise seiner Zeit, in: “Basler Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Altertumskunde”, 79, 1979, pp. 125-233).

The son of a schoolmaster and artist, Tobias Stimmer had at least five brothers who were artists. No details are known of his apprenticeship, which he must have completed c. 1556. In the mid- and late 1560s Stimmer painted several portraits, e.g. in 1564, that of the famous Zurich doctor and naturalist Konrad Gessner. During this period he also prepared designs for works in different media, including glass paintings and a silver cup (1567) that the Schaffhausen town senate presented to the Strasbourg mathematician Konrad Dasypodius. He also created many decorative façades for the houses of the wealthy, for example the façade of the Haus ‘Zum Ritter' in Schaffhausen, in which he depicted himself as a proud and ambitious artist. In 1570 Stimmer settled in Strasbourg, where he met the Protestant writer Johann Fischart (1546-1590) and the publisher Bernhard Jobin, with whom he collaborated as illustrator on a large number of books and pamphlets. Around the same time he also illustrated many books for the Basle printer Pietro Perna. However, the masterpiece of this period in Strasbourg was his design for the paintings and sculptures (1571-1574) on the large astronomical clock, commissioned by Konrad Dasypodius, in the Strasbourg Cathedral. In 1580 he wrote and illustrated the Comedia: ein nüw schimpff spil von zweien Jungen Eheleuten, wie sey sich in fürfallender reiss beiderseitz verhalten. In October 1582 he acquired guild rights in Strasbourg, but in 1583 he went back to Baden-Baden to begin work on the Margrave's gallery of ancestors. Also in 1583 his large-format woodcuts on the Life of the Virgin were published as illustrations for a book by Petrus Canisius (1521-1597), a Jesuit writer and supporter of the Counter-Reformation, a remarkable commission for a noted Protestant artist. In January 1584 Stimmer died in Strasbourg at the age of forty-five (cf. Max Bendel, Tobias Stimmer, Leben und Werke, Zürich, 1940, passim).


VD 16, R-1430; Adams, R-409 (part 1 only); Andresen, III, 142; Lipperheide, 495.