An elaborately bound and hand-coloured book from the late 1500s on equestrianism and heraldry may be among the earliest volumes to illustrate horsemanship from around the world.
Amicorum – Equestrianism – Heraldry features 90 expertly hand-coloured and highlighted in gold engraved plates, most showing horsemen from countries and regions including Germany, the Low Countries, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Russia, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Persia, Egypt, and Arabia.
The engraved plates of horses (and in two cases dromedaries) and the nine pages of explanatory printed text at the beginning of the album were based on a late 16th-century work by the Flemish engraver Abraham de Bruyn (ca. 1539-1587), titled: Equitum descriptio, quomodo equestres… (ca. 1575/76). This work was published again in Cologne in 1577 under the title Diversarum gentium armatura equestris.
The book contains numerous late 16th- and early 17th-century inscriptions, and is bound in an elaborately decorated binding (dated 1590).
De Bruyn’s set of engravings was altered and expanded by the Flemish artist, Caspar Ruts (1530-1607), who later moved to Germany. Ruts (or Rutz) added two different types of plates meant for drawing coats-of-arms and family crests: the first type shows a crest flanked by a woman and a man (signed in the plate “Caspar Ruts excudit”) and the second shows a crest in an ornamental frame. This frame is present in several versions: one type contains fruit and insects; a second one contains parrots, squirrels and fruit; a third shows flowers, berries and butterflies.
Many blank pages and several engravings are inscribed in ink. Several of these inscriptions are dated, mainly between 1585 and 1615. These inscriptions are made by, for example, Rene de Barnaige (an alderman from Kortrijk, or Courtroi), Jeane(?) Dontremont, Odile de Wilzt, Anne de Brecht, René de Chalon, Konstantin I, Freiherr Fugger, Herr zu Zinnenberg (1569-1627), Marguerite de Horion d’Ordenge and many more. Most of the contributors to the album are from Northwest Europe (the vicinity of Brussels, the Low Countries and Rhineland). Several belong to the bourgeoisie and minor nobility of the Southern Netherlands. René de Chalon (d. 1624) is a grandson of the first Prince of Orange, also named René de Chalon (1519-1544). René de Barnaige owned a fiefdom, his entry is a remembrance “tout se passe … sans elle ne puis” of Lady Antoinette de Bourgogne (1529-1588). Odile (Marie) de Wiltz was a daughter of Johann Freiherr von und zu Wiltz (1535-1607). Little else is known about her, except that she married Charles de la Hamaïde (1580-1649) and that she was a descendent from Johann I von Nassau Dillenburg and Egbert I van Amstel, therefore, a distant relative of René de Chalon.
The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek holds a very similar work (BSB Cod. icon. 320, 1575-1615), which also includes the equestrian and heraldic plates, but is described as a “studbook” or family book of Hans Lorenz von Trautskirchen and Hans Jörg von Elrichshausen, and their relations in and around Ingolstadt in Bavaria.
Amicorum – Equestrianism – Heraldry, is being offered for sale in The Netherlands by Antiquariaat Forum.
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