Meditations, or the Contemplations of the Most Devout


Meditationes, seu Contemplationes devotissimae (Meditations, or the contemplations of the most devout) by Cardinal Juan de Torquemada (1388–1468) is thought to be the first Italian book illustrated with a series of woodcut images. The first edition was printed in Rome in 1467 by the German printer Ulrich Han. Presented here is a 1479 edition, printed in Mainz by Johann Neumeister (circa 1440–circa 1512), a German cleric and printer who claimed to have been a student of Johann Gutenberg. The designs of the 33 woodcuts, although considered rough by some early critics, are distinguished by their spaciousness, clarity, and economy of line, all important characteristics of the Italian woodcut before 1490. The woodcuts of "Adam and Eve in the Garden" and "The Annunciation" are simply constructed, gracefully executed, and eminently accessible to the viewer. The sensuousness in the lines that define Adam's torso and the fine turn of Eve's ankle suggest a developed sense of artistic possibility. This emphasis on the physical form demonstrates a new artistic awareness that was developing in Italian woodcut design during the early Renaissance. Torquemada was a Spanish Dominican, the author of devotional works, and an advisor to several popes. He was the uncle of Tomás de Torquemada (1420–98), the first grand inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition.

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Subject Date

Publication Information

Johann Neumeister, Mainz


Title in Original Language

Meditationes, seu Contemplationes devotissimae


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Type of Item

Physical Description

50 unnumbered leaves, metal cuts : illustrations ; 30.3 centimeters

Last updated: August 7, 2013