The richly illustrated Vita and Legend of Saint Wolfgang, bishop of Regensburg (r. 972-994) and one of the pre-eminent protagonists and promoters of the reformation of the south German monasteries. This small volume contains an engaging series of woodcuts dating from the early 16th century. The story is actually told through the numerous pictures and the content of each illustration is then explained by the text.
The monastery of Mondsee ran a woodcut workshop for the production of pilgrimage pictures. It is likely that the extensive illustration of this edition of the Life of Saint Wolfgang was also produced in this workshop.
The present edition contains fifty-two woodcuts from fifty blocks; the first woodcut is twice repeated at the end. Stylistically the woodcuts are to be associated with the so-called Danube School. The depiction of landscape composed of large conifers with branches bending downward in sweeping bows, mountain ranges, and solitary churches in the background is a characteristic feature of this style.
In the present compilation, the Life of Saint Wolfgang is preceded by the Gesta Romanorum (Deeds of the Romans), a popular Latin collection of moral tales, probably compiled by the end of the 13th century. Manuscripts of this text circulated widely in England, Germany, France, and other countries. Printed editions appeared first in Germany and the Netherlands, but not before the 16th century in Italy. The edition at hand was printed in Venice by Giorgio Rusconi in 1516. Rusconi’s fine woodcut device on the title shows Saint George and the Dragon.