The Biblia pauperum, a modern designation, is an anonymous medieval picture text of which a considerable number of manuscripts survive, starting in the late thirteenth century. It presents scenes from the life of Christ, each linked to two Old Testament prefigurations. Shortly after the middle of the fifteenth century, various blockbook editions began to appear, of which the most influential were various Netherlandish blockbooks of 40 scenes, datable to ca. 1460 and after. Also in the early 1460s, the Bamberg printer Albrecht Pfister printed three editions of the Biblia pauperum, in German and Latin, with 34 and then with 44 scenes. The German Biblia pauperum signed by Han Sporer of Nuremberg with his device and with the date 1471, is in 40 scenes. It closely copies the blockbook signed by Hans Walther and Hans Hurning of Nördlingen, dated 1470. Each woodblock carries two scenes: 1 and 40, 2 and 39, et cetera. The block was inked with a brown-gray water-based ink, and printed by laying a sheet of paper over it, and rubbing from the upper side, which remained blank. The result was a book consisting of a single thick quire of 40 leaves. At some later stage Sporer cut each block in half, and printed them under a press with printer’s ink, on both sides of the paper, thus making books of 20 rather than 40 leaves. Sporer created several other German-language blockbooks in Nuremberg in the 1470s. In the 1490s, he is found as a letterpress printer in Bamberg and then in Erfurt, printing brief woodcut-illustrated vernacular pamphlets, all now of high rarity. The Scheide copy of the German Biblia pauperum contains various early annotations from when it belonged to the Heilsbronn Cistercians, including the names of two novices who recorded when they entered the novitiate at Heilsbronn: frater Sebaldus in 1475 (fo. 21 recto) and frater Wilhelmus in 1477 (fo. 2 verso).
- Biblia pauperum. German
- 40 leaves ; 28.2 × 18.9 cm
- [Nuremburg] : Hans Sporer, 1471 [or later; not after 1475]
- 20 Chancery sheets (28.3 × 18.9 cm), printed by rubbing from 20 double-scene woodblocks (26.5 × 36.8 cm); 40 leaves.
- Formerly owned by: Herzogliche Oeffentliche Bibliothek, Meiningen (Thuringia).
- Formerly owned by: Heilsbronn, Cistercian convent.
- Acquired by John H. Scheide from Quaritch, September 1933.
- Wilhelm Schreiber, Manuel de l'amateur de la gravure sur bois er sur métal au XVe siècle, IV (1902), p. 95.
- Princeton University. Scheide Library.. S2.9