Components of Edwin Hall's 1991 study of Sweynheym and Pannartz: leaf (left) from the first volume of Nicholas of Lyra's Postilla super totam bibliam, 1471, inset into clamshell box, and text (right) removed from box.
Sweynheym & Pannartz and the origins of printing in Italy: German technology and Italian humanism in Renaissance Rome. By Edwin Hall.
McMinnville , Oregon : Bird & Bull Press for Phillip J. Pirages, 1991
Collection of Kay Michael Kramer
Edwin Hall's Sweynheym & Pannartz and the Origins of Printing in Italy is an important treatise on Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, early printers in Italy , given lavish form by Bird & Bull Press as printer, and by Phillip J. Pirages as publisher. Henry Morris, the press' proprietor, called this book “unquestionably the most important work I have printed on the subject of early printing history,” and the significance of its text has caused some scholars to lament its unavailability in a more popularly priced edition. It was marketed primarily as a leaf book, with the book housed in a large, custom-fitted clamshell case, which also held a leaf from the first volume of Nicholas of Lyra's Postilla super totam bibliam , printed in Rome in 1471 by Swenyheym and Pannartz. (Nicholas of Lyra, or Nicholas de Lyra, was a well-known and popular theological author, and his Postilla was one of the most frequently consulted and cited works of its kind.) A few copies of Hall's book, without an original leaf, were offered for sale later to libraries that already held the Nicholas of Lyra work.
Pirages was more forthcoming than many other publishers of leaf books regarding the source of the original leaves used for this edition when he stated that they “constitute the remaining fragments (239 of 452 leaves) of a copy of volume I of the Sweynheym and Pannartz editio princeps of Nicholas of Lyra's Postilla super totam bibliam. . . . The disbound leaves were purchased from the antiquarian booksellers Smallwood & Randall of Circencester , England , who had acquired them at auction in London . . . .” Although it would be beneficial to have more extensive and detailed information about where the leaves came from, the publisher at least provided basic facts about their recent provenance, whereas, unfortunately, so many of the individual volumes that have been used as sources for leaf books will forever remain unknown.