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Hiero von Holtorp Collection

Date range: 15th-16th centuries

Medium: Printed

Number of items: 2,500 items.

German-born bibliophile Hiero von Holtorp spent over fifty years assembling and arranging specimens of early printing, in order to ‘facilitate bibliographical studies and researches by reference to original documents as issued from the presses of the first typographers; to recognize anonymous productions by comparison of type and typographical arrangements; [and] to ascertain the first appearance of each type and its migration from one printing establishment to another…’

The collection was auctioned at Sotheby’s on 29 March 1906, and all twenty lots were purchased by Enriqueta Rylands for presentation to The John Rylands Library. It is now housed in ten large boxes. It consists of specimen leaves from virtually all 15th- and 16th-century printers in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands and England.

Holtorp attached notes of identification to each specimen, thus tracing the progress of printing in each town represented.

In addition, there are eight portfolios of woodcuts, four German, two French and two miscellaneous; three portfolios of titles and printers’ devices; two of engravings and etchings; and single portfolios of borders and alphabets, portraits, calendars and broadsides, and miscellaneous items.

The woodcuts include major works of Dürer and other early masters.

Further information:

  • Auctioneer's catalogue, Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge, Catalogue of Valuable Books Including H von Holtorp's Typographical and Xylographic Collections Sold by Auction on 27 March 1906 and Four Following Days(London, 1906).
  • See also Hiero von Holtorp, Catalogue d'’une collection de spécimens d’impression du XV. et XVI. siècles, composant l’histoire de l’imprimerie par ses monuments pendant le premier siècle(Paris, 1892).


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