1524 “Picture Rosary” for the illiterate. Woodblock print.

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Woodblock print,  St. John baptises Jesus.


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

Verso:  A block printed woodcut of St. John in the act of baptising Jesus, watched over by God in Heaven. The border panels include nobles, floral designs and two angels holding a scroll with the words Ave Maria.  The heading above the woodcut Christo iesu su baptisato (Baptism of Jesus Christ) is in Italian.   

Recto:   Text only, in Italian.

Source:  Venice.    Date: 1524.

Printers:  M. Sessa & P. Ravani.

Condition:  This leaf is in very good antiquarian condition.  The margins are original as the images were imprecisely placed on the paper.    The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

Notes: 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.

Size: Size of leaf: approx. 140x100 mm.  Archivally mounted, ready to frame.  Please note that shipping is invoiced separately.

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

Item No: PSA196

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