Hollstein’s German Engravings, Etchings and Woodcuts 1400-1700; volume XLVI: Johann Schnitzer to Lucas Schnitzer. Compiled by Ursula Mielke, edited by Tilman Falk. Rotterdam: Sound and Vision Publishers, 1999. ISBN 90-75607-37-7.
The New Hollstein: Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts 1450-1700: Gerard van Groeningen. Compiled by Christiaan Schuckman, edited by Ger Luijten. 2 vols. Rotterdam: Sound and Vision Interactive in cooperation with the Rijksprenten-kabinet, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 1997. ISBN I: 90-75607-15-6, II: 90-75607-21-0.
The New Hollstein: Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts 1450-1700: The Van Doetecum Family. Compiled by Henk Nalis [the entries on prints after Hans Vredeman de Vries contributed by Peter Fuhring], edited by Ger Luijten and Christiaan Schuckman. 4 vols. Rotterdam: Sound and Vision Interactive in cooperation with the Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 1998. ISBN 90-75607-28-8. Accompanied by a CD-ROM version.
When F. W. H. Hollstein set out to catalogue the work of essentially all the Dutch, Flemish and German printmakers active before 1700 he must have been aware that he was undertaking a formidable task, but he can hardly have foreseen the magnitude of the project that his work would lead to. What may well be called the Hollstein enterprise has passed through three phases. The early Hollstein, compiled under the aegis of Hollstein himself, is surely one of the best proofs of G. K. Chesterton’s dictum that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly. Despite incomplete catalogues, inadequate descriptions, and ‘ghost’ prints created by uncritical copying from multiple sources, the first fifteen volumes of Hollstein’s Dutch and Flemish Engravingsadvanced Netherlandish print scholarship immensely – my own dissertation could not have been written without them. The later Hollstein, now approaching the end of the alphabet, has been compiled by Hollstein’s successors with ever more stringent standards of accuracy and completeness. The change can be measured by the fact that whereas the early Hollstein got from ‘Abry’ through ‘de Passe’ in 16 volumes, it has taken the later Hollstein another 36 to get from ‘Pauli’ to ‘De Winter’; the story is similar with Hollstein’s German Engravingsexcept that the shift from early to later comes around the letter F rather than the letter P. Now comes the New Hollstein whose unnumbered volumes revisit the artists covered (or omitted) by the early Hollstein: the ultimate goal is the revision of Dutch and Flemish volumes 1 to 18 and German volumes 1 to 10. Editorials at the beginning of the new volumes on Maarten van Heemskerck (New Hollstein Dutch and Flemish, 1993) and Hans von Aachen (New Hollstein German, 1996) outline the history and goals of both series more fully than I have just done. But the volumes under consideration here convey the scope of both ‘later Hollstein’ and ‘New Hollstein’ catalogues.
Volume 46 of Hollstein German retains the format established in the early volumes. Biographical information is presented in a few notes at the beginning of the catalogue, but bibliography is much more extensive than it used to be. The meat of the book is the catalogue entries which are now consistently thorough in description, furnished with information about collections so that at least one impression of every work catalogued can be located, and fully illustrated (with a few justified exceptions). The work of Lucas Schnitzer, who lived in Nuremberg from about 1600 to after 1671, consists of 264 biblical illustrations, topographic views, portraits and broadsheets dealing with newsworthy events. He appears to have had a special interest in recording displays of fireworks, perhaps the result of his other profession (artilleryman). Illustrations include the accompanying text (frequently legible with a magnifying glass) for the broadsheets, an important aspect of his work, but one could wish for the text to the 24 emblem plates of Johann Vogel’s Meditationes emblematicae de restaurata pace (H.184-207); all the more as they are not in Henkel’s corpus of emblem imagery (Arthur Henkel, Emblemata; Handbuch zur Sinnbildkunst des XVI. und XVII. Jahrhunderts. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 1967). Unremarkable as an artist, Lucas is a significant figure in the world of visual communication, and it is precisely for thorough catalogues of barely known artists like this that Hollstein is most valuable. As the editor’s introduction to the volume points out, prints like his are often found outside the usual artist-classified, art museum framework, and Ursula Mielke is to be commended for pulling together this extensive body of work from libraries and historical and topographic collections.
The other catalogue in the volume exemplifies some of the problems inherent in the task of the Hollstein enterprise. Johann Schnitzer is identified at the head of the catalogue as a woodcutter and cartographer, but we really know only that his name appears in the inscription (‘Insculptum est per Johanne[m] Schnitzer de Armssheim’) on a map of the world in Ptolemy’s Cosmographia (Ulm, 1482). The catalogue includes the other maps and two pictorial initials from the same volume, but we are told that the initials are not by Schnitzer and referred to Baer 1912 for their true authorship. And Baer 1912 (mislabeled ‘Baer 1905’ in the bibliography) turns out to be the record of a bloody battle fought out in the pages of the Monatshefte für Kunstwissenshaft in 1912 and 1913, with Baer’s attribution of the initials to Schnitzer convincingly contradicted on stylistic grounds by three other scholars. In so far as there is a conclusion, it is that Schnitzer was a block-cutter rather than a designer of woodcuts. But in that case may he not as well have cut the initials as the maps? And is there any more evidence that he drew the maps than that he drew the initials? The Hollstein catalogues are organized around bodies of work that can be associated with individual human beings, but I see no way to produce a true catalogue for a block-cutter who signed only one print and who may have worked from the designs of numerous artists. It is understandable that as one of the few fifteenth-century block-cutters to leave us a name at all, Johann Schnitzer should be included here, but a short statement, making clear the inherent problem of defining hisoeuvre, would have been welcome.
According to the editorial (by D. de Hoop Scheffer and Ger Luijten) in New Hollstein Heemskerck, the New Hollstein takes a two-pronged approach: a series of volumes without numbers cataloguing the work of artists who were primarily designers of prints rather than printmakers and a reworking of the early Hollstein volumes beginning with the letter A. The attention to print designers is not as much a novelty as the editorial implies: one of the admirable qualities of the old Hollstein was its extensive lists of ‘prints after’ and the later volumes include notable work on such designers as Marten de Vos and Vredeman de Vries. Meanwhile the New Hollstein volumes that have appeared so far are about evenly divided between designers and executors, not to mention peintre-graveurs like Lucas van Leyden. In practice the New Hollstein tends to follow where recent scholarship has blazed the trail. The Gerard van Groeningen catalogue, for example, is based on the work of the late Hans Mielke, and the Van Doetecums on two decades of research by Henk Nalis. I applaud this strategy, but I wonder how long it will be before we see a serious attack on the beginning of the alphabet.
In addition to the information offered in the ‘later Hollstein’, the New Hollstein volumes on both Gerard van Groeningen and the Doetecum family are liberally provided with indices, concordances, and extensive introductory essays summing up current scholarly knowledge. Van Groeningen, who was accidentally omitted entirely from the early Hollstein, was a glass-painter (that is, a designer of stained-glass windows); besides the prints by and after him about seventy drawings are known and a few are reproduced here. The catalogue lists 36 etchings by him (including a muscular Apocalypse series), and almost 400 prints after, including more that 200 illustrations for books issued by the great Antwerp publisher Christopher Plantin and his successors. Stylistically these works are quite diverse, and documents (advertisements in the catalogues of the German publisher George Willers, and a series of engraved titles identifying Van Groeningen’s authorship of numerous sets of prints published by Gerard de Jode) have played an important role in establishing the authorship of works that might have been difficult to group on stylistic evidence. At times Van Groeningen appears to be a follower (perhaps a pupil?) of Frans Floris, but some of his designs are close to Vredeman de Vries, while others are so patently Heemskerckian that they were formerly attributed to Heemskerck. Among publishers, Heemskerck dealt principally with Hieronymus Cock and the Galle family, whereas most of Groeningen’s Heemskerckian prints were issued by De Jode. Is it possible that he deliberately turned out compositions that would enable De Jode to compete for a Heemskerck audience?
Henk Nalis, the compiler of the new catalogue of the Van Doetecum family, is adjunct archivist in the Doetecums’ native city of Deventer. His history of Johannes van Doetecum, his brother Lucas, and his sons Baptista and Johannes the younger is supported by a multitude of documents including four inventories relating to the younger members of the family; the inventories and a list of books printed by Baptista are included here. He traces the wanderings of the various family members from Deventer to Antwerp and then to various cities in the northern Netherlands and their changing artistic activities: Johannes the Elder began his career as a glass-painter; Baptista moved from printmaking to the publication of almanacs, calendars and official announcements.
Three members of the Van Doetecum family had appeared in the early Hollstein (volume 5), but the catalogue of their work has now expanded from seven pages to more than a thousand. Their early work was almost never signed, but over the last thirty years their distinctive combination of etching and engraving has been recognized in hundreds of well-known prints published in Antwerp by Hieronymus Cock, Gerard de Jode and others. Knotty, dry and ugly when applied to figure compositions, the technique they invented was a highly satisfactory vehicle for reproducing landscapes (by Bruegel, Hans Bol, Lucas Gassel, and the Master of the Small Landscapes), ornament and architectural designs (by Cornelis Floris, Vredeman de Vries, and others), comic and grotesque images (Bruegel and Boschian models) and maps. Although some of these prints have been reproduced many times, others have been difficult or impossible to find; Sebastian van Noyen’s grandiose reconstruction of the Baths of Diocletian, for example. Even though I had been aware of the major role of Jan and Lucas in Antwerp print production from the 1550s to the mid-70s, it was a revelation to see all their work assembled in one place. Well, almost all – I am convinced that Jan or Lucas produced the wonderfully nasty print ‘Vuyl Sause’ (Hollstein volume 3, ‘after Bosch’, 45; Hollstein volume 35, ‘after Jan Verbeek’, 2) and I was sorry to see it omitted. And one other quibble: it is very useful that the catalogue reproduces not only prints but typographic title and text pages, including, for example, the complete introductory text of Van Noyen’s Baths of Diocletian, but one cannot help wishing for just a little more. For the first book by Vredeman de Vries on the architectural orders (382-399) we appear to have the entire accompanying text, but for the two others (400-421 and 766-777) we are given the typographic title pages but not the dedicatory text on the reverse – were the only available examples pasted down?
It appears that the religious struggles of the 1570s drove Johannes and Lucas (if the latter was still alive) from Antwerp and cut them off from its rich matrix of artists and publishers. In Deventer, in Haarlem (where Johannes worked with his sons and where their style must have seemed the antithesis of the suave engraving of Goltzius and his followers) in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, the family turned increasingly to cartography. Like the maps, the much rarer pictorial prints from this period are often mural in scale and usually designed to improve the mind in other ways than the aesthetic – no more landscape, architecture and ornament (except to enliven the maps) but informative or inspirational prints including geneological portraits (1008-15), political satires and proverbs (790, 842, 843), and religious subjects (841, 851, 1029-32). To go into the religious, political and economic reasons for the change in the Doetecums’ work is beyond the scope of this review, but the scholar who does will find the road well-paved by this book.
As an electronic semi-literate, I am not the best person to review the CD-ROM version of the Van Doetecum catalogue, but the directions for installation are clear and comprehensible and include everything needful except the information (supplied by my daughter) that for someone used to the phonograph, CDs are played upside down. The obvious advantage of a database over a simple catalogue is to enable searches to pull out groups of prints, but even with four volumes and 1053 entries I found thumb and forefinger about as effective a search engine as Image AXS CD, especially considering the logical organization and the generous supply of indices and concordances in the books. (In particular a ‘synoptic table’ at the beginning of volume 1 is a superb guide to the entire catalogue). For me, the real advantages of the CD-ROM are two: the shelf space it saves and the ability to enlarge reproductions well beyond the size in the printed book and make almost all inscriptions clearly legible. One could wish for a similar version of the Schnitzer catalogue, where the broadside text is at or beyond the limits of legibility.
In design the New Hollstein is Spartan but solid. Though not equal to the CD-ROM images, the printed reproductions are fine enough to reward scrutiny with a low-power magnifying glass. There are a few signs of careless editing, like a missing page reference in NH Doetecum 1, p. xxiv, and a few examples remain of the ‘Hollstein-English’ that was common in the early volumes: the heading ‘States/Additions’ in the CD-ROM database is surely ‘States/Editions’, and ‘Scientia’ (NH Groeningen 295, 302) should be translated as knowledge, not science. But there is nothing to compare with my favourite entry in Hollstein German Engravers 4 (Jörg Breu no. 44) where a woodcut showing the metamorphosis of a man into an ass was entitled ‘The Sorceress Palestra Commuting Lucian into an Easel’.
Overall, perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of these generally wonderful volumes is the redundancy that comes from cataloguing material under both designer and printmaker. Among the 1053 numbers in the Doetecum catalogue, 40% (424) duplicate entries in the Hollstein Groeningen, Vredeman de Vries and Heemskerck catalogues, and duplicate them in full. I would certainly have been disappointed to see large chunks of the Van Doetecum catalogue replaced with cross-references to another volume, but with my university library transferring hundreds of volumes a year into off-site storage I cannot help being aware that there is a price for this more-than-complete cataloguing. A still greater difficulty arises with the series Deorum dearumque (Hollstein Vredeman de Vries 353-83, NH Doetecum 657-702, NH Groeningen 25-36, 406-17). Here prints from a series are repeatedly catalogued, but the complete series never appears in one place because it is the work neither of a single designer nor of a single engraver. It would turn up as a whole if a catalogue of prints published by Philips Galle were issued, and indeed catalogues of prints ‘published by’, already a part of the early Hollstein, would be extremely useful. But this third layer of cataloguing, unless in the form of summary checklists cross-referenced to the other catalogues, would only exacerbate the problems of redundancy and shelf space.
I will be a bit surprised, however, if we reach that point with printed volumes. The CD-ROM version of the Doetecum catalogue is presented by the editors as ‘a glimpse of what we see as the future of the study and discussion of prints’. If all the volumes of Hollstein (more than a hundred already, and perhaps as many still to come on the present scheme) were available in this form, the real superiority of electronic search engine over thumb and forefinger would be obvious, and catalogues organized by designer, engraver or publisher could be called up at will. The material covered by the Hollstein catalogues represented a revolution in information technology – it will be only appropriate if the catalogues themselves are completed by means of another one.
Timothy A. Riggs
Ackland Art Museum