Woodblock print, 1524 in a printed Rosary book.

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A Rosary for the illiterate

Woodblock print, Angel admonishes Joseph,1524

A leaf from from the Rosario de la Gloriosa Virgine Maria by Alberto da Castello - a block-printed Rosary book.

During the 12th century, popular love for Mary inspired Europeans to begin using their paternoster beads to pray to her, with what gradually evolved into the ‘Hail Mary’ that is prayed today.  Over time, phrases and meditations on miraculous events from the lives of Jesus and His mother were added to the ‘Hail Marys’, and so this form of prayer became known as the ‘Psalter of Our Lady’, or the ‘Marian Psalter', the basis for the block-printed “Rosarium” - the Rosary of the Virgin Mary.

In the still predominantly oral culture of the late 15th century the visual media of the day - block prints, painted or carved altarpieces and devotional panels - played an essential role in the dissemination of religious teachings.  At the beginning of the Renaissance, European males had a literacy rate of about 5 to 10 percent, while female literacy was about 1 percent, although these figures varied based on social class and location.  To those unable to read well - or unable to read at all -  the printed rosary book served as a device for prayer and meditation.  Picture rosaries had the unique advantage of being able to be “read” in any language and by users who were not literate in Latin or even in the vernacular.

Verso:  A block printed woodcut of “The Angel admonishing Joseph”. The image refers to the  passage concerning King Herod’s fury at being deceived by the Magi.  Matthew 1: 2:16 reads:

“Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately.  While he thought on these things, behold the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep. saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost.”

The border panels include nobles amongst acanthus leaves and two angels and entwined foliage framing the words Ave Maria.  The scroll heading L’angelo admonite Joseph is in Italian.   

Recto:   The text, in Italian, for the following woodcut is on the back of this image.

Date: 1524

Printers: M. Sessa & P. Ravani, Venice.

Condition:  This leaf is in very good/excellent antiquarian condition.  The margins are very tight, but original, as the images were imprecisely placed on the paper.  Archivally mounted.    The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

.Size: Size of leaf: approx. 140x100 mm. Printed area : approx.  140x85 mm.  Please note that shipping is invoiced separately.

References: Brunet IV 1390;  Bohatta, Rosarium, 32;  Essling 2125;  Sander 6573.

Item No:  PSA 172

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