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Bound and Illuminated by Ulrich Schreier

Gregory IX (c. 1170–1241).
Decretales cum glossa Bernardi Parmensis
.
Mainz: Peter Schoeffer, 23 November 1473.

Both the binding and the illuminations of this impressive book are the work of Ulrich Schreier
(active c. 1469c. 1490), one of the outstanding artisans of fifteenth-century Austria. Schreier took commissions from many important ecclesiastical patrons and had workshops in Salzburg, Vienna, and Preßburg. The coat of arms on the front cover, featuring a black hen, suggests that the book belonged to Johannes Han (d. 1500), Canon of Preßburg.

The exquisite decoration of the central panel on the upper cover was made by the process known as cuir-ciselé, in which a design is cut into the calfskin with a knife and offset by stippling the surrounding surface. The cuir-ciselé panel depicts an enthroned pope at the top and the coat of arms at the bottom; both retain traces of original pigment. The pope is both a reference to the contents of the book and a direct replica of Schreier’s illumination of a seated pope that introduces Book V of the text.

The design of the lower cover utilizes Schreier’s round-headed tool with a lobed base (called a “Kopfstempel” in German) around the perimeter of the central panel. With this tool Schreier built up the outlines of large oak leaves, naturalistically veined with curving fillets. The brass corner plates were engraved with foliate decoration that is similar to Schreier’s painted foliage. The two clasps and the central boss on each cover are modern replacements.