Von Heineken Issues the First Systematic Guide to Collecting Prints, Blockbooks, and the Earliest Printed books

1768 to 1771

Idée générale d'une collection complette d'estampes. Avec une dissertation sur l'origine de la gravure & sur les premiers livres d'images was the first systematic guide to collecting prints, blockbooks, and the earliest printed books. It was issued in 1771 from Leipzig and Vienna by Karl Heinrich von Heineken (Carl Heinrich von Heinecken), a German art historian, art collector, librarian, diplomat, and director of the Dresden Print Room (Kupferstichkabinett, Dresden). Of the eighteenth century guides to collecting, von Heincken's work was exceptional in the number and quality of its illustrations, including 32 engraved and woodcut plates (21 folding, 11 single-page) and occasional small woodcut text illustrations.

Heineken's 1771 guide represented partly a condensation, reorganization and, and of course, a translation of portions of his much longer Nachrichten von Künstlern und Kunstsachen issued from Leipzig in two volumes in 1768 and 1769. Both works were issued by the same publisher, Johann Paul Kraus, and shared some of the same illustrations. In the Nachrichten Heineken provided an account of the earliest Dutch writers on chalcography, and conjectured that Gutenberg took the idea of printing from playing-card makers, who were the first engravers of subjects intermingled with texts. Heinecken believed, incorrectly, that Gutenberg's early efforts at Strassbourg were ineffectual and that Gutenberg's first successful productions were the product of woodblock printing.

Heineken undertook a multi-volume Dictionnaire des artistes dont nous avons des estampes, avec une notice détaillé de leurs ouvrages gravées. Of this work only the first four volumes were published between 1778 and 1780, covering the letters A-Diz. The manuscript of the remaining work was preserved in Dresden, but has been considered lost since World War II, and was possibly destroyed during the bombing of the city.

Bigmore & Wyman, A Bibliography of Printing (1884; 2001 edition) 320, 310-320.

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