TAULER, Johannes [with] Meister ECKHART. Sermonen und Historia

Leipzig, Conrad Kachelofen, 17 March 1498.


FIRST EDITION. 4to. Gothic letter in three sizes. Double-column text preceded by the “Registrum” with the list of contents. A total of 290 leaves: 281 (=282) leaves numbered in Roman numerals (“folium”…) on top recto of each leaf, plus 8 preliminary leaves (title-page and register). Long 8-line opening title on upper half of first leaf (“Sermon des gross gelarten in gnade[n] erlauchte[n] Doctoris Johannis Thauleri Predigerr Ordens : weisende auff den neheste[n] waren wegk : yn Geiste czu wa[n]dern durch vberschwebe[n]den syn. vnuoracht vo[n] Geistes ynnige[n] vorwa[n]delt i[n] deutsch ma[n]che[n] Me[n]sche[n] zu selikeit.”), 7-line capital space with a large rubricated initial at the beginning of the first sermon, several 3-line capital spaces with small printed guide-letter. Rubricated throughout with numerous painted Lombard initials added on top of the printed guide-letters in bright red ink. Some occasional offsetting of red ink. Very occasional early marginalia. Bound in contemporary blind-stamped pigskin over wooden boards, spine with three low-raised bands covering thick double sewing supports. Original brass clasp and catch, closing on the left board, both decorated with etched sphinxes. Geometrical frames on covers, lines arranged in a hatched or lozenge design within central panels, and imperial eagles tooled within the four square sections formed at the corners. A nicely rubricated and clean incunabulum, only two small repairs to blank foot margins of title and second leaf. A fine copy.

FIRST EDITION of both text, published in German. This incunabulum contains 80 sermons by Johannes Tauler (c.1300-1361) and 4 sermons by Meister Eckhart (c.1260-1327), these the first works of Eckhart in print.

Eckhart and Tauler were great Christian mystics. The latter preached constant striving for knowledge of the divine, attainable in this world through perfection. Luther praised him and he was even known as a “reformer before the Reformation”. “The sermons are among the finest monuments of the German language, of German fervour of belief, and of profound spiritual feeling. The language is quiet and measured, yet warm, animated, and full of imagery. Tauler is not so speculative as his teacher Eckhart but he is clearer, more practical, and more adapted to the common people … The centre of Tauler’s mysticism is the doctrine of the visio essentiœ Dei, the blessed contemplation or knowledge of the Divine nature. He takes this doctrine from Thomas Aquinas, but goes further than the latter in believing that the Divine knowledge is attainable in this world also by a perfect man, and should be sought by every means. God dwells within each human being. … The way to God is through love; God replies to its highest development by His presence. Tauler gives advice of the most varied character for attaining that height of religion in which the Divine enters into the human subject.” (Catholic Encyclopedia)

“[Eckhart] he has left us in his sermons specimens of the beautiful German prose of which he was a master. In these sermons, really short catacheses, we find frequent citations from such writers as Seneca and Avicenna, as well as from the theologians and Fathers. His discourses are directed to the intellect rather than to the will and are remarkable for their depth of mystical teaching … His favourite themes are the Divine essence, the relations between God and man, the faculties, gifts, and operations of the human soul, the return of all created things to God.” (Catholic Encyclopedia)

The historia, which is Tauler’s biography, includes the anecdote of Tauler’s conversion. However, it is today considered an abridgement of Rulman Merswin’s Meisterbuch of the Basel Gottesfreunde (“Friends of God”), of which Tauler had been a central figure. Falsely thought to be either by Tauler or Nicolaus de Basilea, this “History” has been attributed to Merswin by A. Chiquot (Jean Tauler et le “Meisters-Buoch”, Strasbourg 1922, p. 27-8)

1) Early inscription erased on title. 2) Stamp removed from second leaf – we believe it was of Theodor Heuss (1884-1963, first President of the Federal Republic of Germany), based on subsequent owner’s statement.

 HC *15346; GW M45246; BMC III, 628 (IA. 12345); Goff T-48; BSB-Ink T-62; ISTC it00048000.