Stemmata in Incunables

What I have been looking at in recent weeks is how early printers coped with the idea of a stemma without drawing a tree. The period I am looking at is that of the so-called incunables, books printed before 1500, and I should stress that I am not concerned here with fanciful treelike art like that of Hartmann Schedel (as in the previous post) but with the pure stemmata.

The simplest approach in this period was to cut a pre-existing graphic as a woodblock, which is what the author and publisher did in Die Cronica van der hilliger Stat va[n] Coelle[n] (The Chronicle of the Holy City of Cologne, 1499, ISTC ic00476000 GW 6688). Here, each name is placed in a rectangular clipeus with curvilinear connectors.

A copy of this little book printed in Cologne has been digitized by the HAB. Although headed "Der Stam ind Ursprunck der Herzogen von Sassen", the graphic is in fact nothing more than a new version of the 1043 stemma by Siegfried of Gorze, which had been drawn to argue (in vain) the irregularity of Emperor Heinrich marrying Agnes of Poitou and was endlessly repurposed for the next five centuries:

The same book contains an adaptation of the Stemma of Cunigunde of similar age. These woodcuts are innovative in form, but do not advance diagrammatic technology in any essential way.

Strictly traditional stemmata could also be cut in wood, as in the 1475 Rudimentum Novitiorum where the roundel form is made chainlike:

The long-familiar pattern of roundels is set up as a block in this Seleucid genealogy in a 1498 edition from Basle of Nicholas of Lyra, once again imitating forerunners in the manuscripts, but with the change in this printing that the connecting lines are almost as wide as the roundels:

Slightly out of period is a 1511 Paris-printed Boccaccio Genealogy of the Gods (John Rylands Library copy), where the fanciful leaf-work of the Boccaccio autograph manuscript (1363-66) is dispensed with and roundels and little scrolls are used:
Much more creative and innovative is the early effort by the printers to build stemmata out of punch-cut type. These experiments had to be adapted to the type-form, the printing frame in which every element had to be rectangular so the form could be fitted and wedged before going to press.

The Chronica Bossiana printed by Zarotto at Milan (or Parma) in 1492 (ISTC ib01040000 GW 4952) has an extraordinarily modern-looking stemma which employs rectangles and straight connecting lines:

For a while I found it hard to believe this Genealogy of the Visconti was truly made this way, back in 1492. It would look absolutely at home in a modern PowerPoint presentation, and apart from the Latin and the typeface, it could grace any modern digitally composed book without anyone suspecting its age.

The Italian printer produced it in red ink in a book that otherwise is in black (in my plot, the print should therefore properly be red too) and pasted it in the front. Scrutiny suggests this may not be xylographic like the Cologne stemma above, but a composed typographic page using rules, though I am not expert enough to judge how these boxes and connecting lines could have been set up.

The author of this world chronicle, Donato Bossi (biography in Italian), paid for the printing, so he may well have had a hand in the design. You can inspect the page as printed and zoom in by consulting the Chronica Bossiana copy at the HAB. The University of Cambridge has another copy which is not digitized, but is carefully described, and I will quote that description:
[Genealogical tree of the Visconti family], caption "Geneologia uicecomitum Principum Mediolani descendentium de Inuorio Ducatus Mediolani", 1v; Donatus Bossius. Chronica, dedicated to Johannes Galeatius Sforza, duke of Milan.

Later, printers were to develop other options, such as using blank space to build a stemma. The table of figures of speech by Georg Major printed as a preface to Philipp Melanchthon's De arte dicendi at Leipzig in 1528 (and also at Paris in 1529, digitized at HAB), contains a stemma with no connecting lines at all:

But as far as I can tell at first sight, these minimalist stemmatic arrays are not yet found in pre-1500 printing.

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