Friday, October 12, 2012

Sibyls in print

The Sibyllenweissagung was just one of several different siblline texts that were significant for early printing. Since the 1480s, there were also compilations of prophecies from the twelve sibyls, mostly consisting of devotional considerations of the life of Christ from the imagined perspective of pre-Christian sibyls. The earliest in print was Philippus de Barberiis's Sibyllarum et prophetarum de Christo vaticinia, first printed in 1481 (ISTC ib00118000). German printers produced editions beginning in 1516 and 1517, eventually replacing the text with a German adaptation, but the original image cycle was remarkably stable.

The stability of the images is underscored by a work recently digitalized by the SLUB Dresden: Ernst Freymund, Der Klugen Sibyllen verbessert astrologischer Weissagungs-Calender auf das Jahr 1741 (Nürnberg, 1741; VD18 90148967). The title page depicts four sibyls; below is the Tiburtine Sibyl.

Among the many printed depictions of the Tiburtine Sibyl from preceding centuries, here is one from one of the sibylline compilations printed by Christian Egenolff in the 1530s.

Finally, here is the Tiburtine Sibyl as she appears in the collection of Philippus de Barbareriis, printed in the early 1480s.

That's 260 years of iconographic stability, which could very likely be extended even earlier by looking at manuscript material. To judge by a quick scan of the pages, Freymund's calendar for 1741 doesn't appear to contain any of the sibylline texts, but the final section does consist of an astrological prognostication whose format wouldn't have been at all unusual for 1581.

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