This rare work is the first illustrated book printed in Mainz containing 34 metalcut illustrations with ornamental frames. The use of precious metal cuts, instead of the more wide-spread woodcut illustration, is extraordinary, as this technique was rarely used in German book illustration. The author of the work, Spanish cardinal Juan de Torquemada (Latin name: Turrecremata), was a distinguished theologian present at the councils of Constance, Basel, Ferrara, and Florence, and a defender of the papal primacy. His Meditationes seu contemplationes devotissimae are also assumed to be the first book printed in Italy illustrated with a series of woodcuts.
The illustrations in this work were based on a – now lost – picture cycle of frescoes in the cloisters of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, which Turrecremata had commissioned himself. The woodcuts of the first edition, on which the 34 metalcuts of the present edition are based on, embody the author’s intentions and vision for the work. The metalcuts portray biblical scenes, mostly from the life of Christ, and are all but one set within an elegant floral frame. The metalcuts are striking, due to the clear and strong lines and crisp quality which lends them an almost contemporary air. In order to facilitate the production process and to assure the best possible quality, the metalcuts were printed separately. As the depiction of the Last Judgement is present and the depiction of the Flight to Egypt is based on the unaltered version, a copy of the first Rome edition of 1466/67 is likely to have served as the model for our metalcuts.
The edition at hand is exceedingly rare. Only twenty-one copies are listed in ISTC, plus three fragments of one leaf each. On the market, we can trace only one other copy of the present edition, making this a truly fascinating witness for the use of metalcuts in German based book production.