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Daniel Good Rare Books and Engravings

1517 The Underworld, Folio Gruninger woodcut leaf, Virgil’s Aeneid, hand colour, master engraving

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Dramatic, scarce and much sought after woodcut.

Virgil’s description of the underworld was so compelling that it undoubtedly served as an inspiration for Dante Alighieri’s conception of Hell in his famous work, The Divine Comedy. Despite Virgil’s disquieting portrayal of the gloomy, depressing and gruesome side of the underworld, he also described a highly interesting system of reincarnation that occurred in the Fields of Elysium. Although Virgil was not the only person from ancient Greece and Rome to envision reincarnation—Pythagoras and his followers also believed in rebirth—it is, nonetheless very interesting to read about souls in Greco-Roman mythology participating in a system of reincarnation similar to what can be found in Buddhism and Hinduism.

Folio woodcut leaf: 29.8 x 19.6 cm

Issued in:

Vergilius Maro, Publius Opera Vergiliana docte et familiariter exposita (Aeneis Vergiliana cum... commentariis). (Lyon: Jacques Sacon for Cyriacus Hochperg, 20 August and 2 December 1517).Jodocus Badius Ascensius’s commentary of Virgil’s Aeneid into German (Strasbourg: Johann Grüninger 1517) was accompanied by a startling set of woodcuts from the com- plete edition of Virgil’s works edited by Sebastian Brant of 1502. Research has demonstrated that Brant was involved in the production of the woodcuts as a “concepteur”: the extremely detailed interpretation of the text by means of images implies a thorough knowledge of Virgil’s text, while the resulting visual narrative, in addition to the textual understanding supplied by the Latin writing, creates a striking and absorbing display.

Bibliographic References: Brunet V, 1282; Baudrier XII, 344; Brun 322; Mambelli 136; Mortimer, Italian Books II, 537; Renouard, Badius Ascensius III, 370; not in Murray, Rothschild.

Original woodcut leaf from 1517 with later hand colour.