“Incunabula is the plural of the Latin word incunabulum, a cradle. Evolving from its original meaning, incunabulum came to mean “place of birth” or “beginning.” In the world of books, the word incunabula refers to books that were printed using metal type up to the year 1500.”
It is generally accepted that the “42-line Bible” that Gutenberg printed is the First Printed book, printed around 1454/5 marking Incunabulum number one. Over the last few decades I have had the pleasure of selling over three hundred incunabula and I am always looking to find collections and single examples to find new homes for. There is a romance to these books which I never tire of. Their production seems so inspired, to me they are the first intellectual machines, a revolution in the distribution of knowledge and a creation of a new space for mankind to dwell in. Here I have made a list of eight, fifteenth century books in my current stock.
723G Saint Bonaventura. (i.e.”Conrad”of”Saxony)””
Speculum Beatae Mariae Virginis.
[Augsburg]: Anton Sorg, 29 Feb 1476
Folio,11 1⁄4 X 8 inches. First edition
50 leaves a-e10. This copy is bound in full modern vellum.
In the period of transition from manuscripts to books, authorship wasn’t as significant as it is in modern day, this particular book is an example of some of these complications. No longer attributed to Bonaventura, now attributed to Conrad of Saxony, his date and place of birth are uncertain. Holyinger is perhaps his family name. This error has been made by some of confounding Conrad of Saxony with another person of the same name who suffered for the Faith in 1284, whereas it is certain that they were two distinct individuals, though belonging to the same province of the order in Germany. Our Conrad became provincial minister of the province of Saxony in 1245, and for sixteen years ruled the province with much zeal and prudence. While on his way to the general chapter of 1279; he was attacked with a grievous illness and died at Bologna in 1279. The writings of Conrad of Saxony include several sermons and now the Speculum Beatæ Mariæ Virginis; the latter, at times erroneously attributed to St. Bonaventure, was edited by the Friars Minor at Quaracchi in 1904. The preface to this excellent edition of the Speculum contains a brief sketch of the ife of Conrad of Saxony and a critical estimate of his other writings.
” Goff B959; BMC II 343
724G Marchesinus, Johannes. born circa 1300
Mammotrectus super Bibliam.
Venice: per Franciscus Renner, de Heilbronn, and Nicolaus de Frankfordia, 1476. $15,000
Quarto, 8 x 5 3/4 inches. The fifth edition listed in Goff; the first edition printed in Italy.
A-C8, a10, b-y8, i8, z10, (lacks A1 & z10 blanks). This copy is bound in full older vellum with manscrcipt title on the spine, a very clean and crisp copy.
Marchesinus was a Franciscan friar from Reggio Emilia, near Modena. Originally titled Mammotreptus (“The Nursling”), this work was reportedly written in 1466 (according to Fabricus, Bibl. Lat. II, ed. 1858, pp. 12 and 22). This popular guide to understanding the text of the Bible explains the grammatical constructs and etymology of difficult words in the Scriptures. Favored by preachers in the later Middle Ages, this work provided explanations of the festivals of the Church year, the legends of the saints, and various liturgical texts. Poorly educated parish priests often referred to this Mammotrectus to help them gain inspiration and appreciation of the Bible so as to prepare compelling sermons.
The Mammotrectus contains about 1,300 articles and is divided into three parts: 1) explanations for difficult biblical words and passages; 2) a series of digressions on orthography, the accents of Latin words, the seven feasts of the Old Testament Law, the clothing of priests, the principles of exegesis and translation, the names of God, the qualities and properties of Scripture, and a treatise on the four main ecumenical councils; 3) liturgical pieces and some related materials (the hymns, legends of saints, sermons and homilies).
First Italian edition. Second edition by Renner; the first 1470 Mainz by Peter Schöffer.
Goff M-236; BMC V, 194; Hain 10557; Procter 4168; Oates 1664.
671G Bonaventure, Saint. 1221-1274
Strassburg;[Printer of the 1483 Jordanus de Quedlinburg (i.e. George Husner)] 18 Dec. 1495
Two Folio volumes , 11.5 x 8.5 . Fourth edition 1/8, 2-4/6, a8, b-g8/6, h6, i-Z6/8, A-Z6/8, AA-EE6/8; Vol II, (Lacking A1, title exactly the same as the first title excepting for the word ‘secunda’) A8, B, C6, aa8, bb-rr8/6, ss, tt6, vv-zz, Aa-QQ8/6, RR, SS6, TT-ZZ, Aaa8/6, Bbb-Eee6.
There are three full paged woodcuts two of the tree of sangunity and one of the order of Angels, Seraphim, etc. This is a very nice copy full of deckle edges and in original condition. Each volume of these copies is bound in full, contemporary blind-tooled calf over wooden boards. They retain all 16 corner pieces as well as both sets of clasps. In this wonderful copy, the first woodcut _(a1verso ) of Christ crucified on the tree of sanguinity has been coloured, the two other woodcuts have non. Both volumes have been nicely rubricated throughout with red Lombard capitals supplied as well.
“Bonaventura presents a marked contrast to his great contemporaries,
Thomas Aquinas and Roger Bacon. While these may be taken as
representing respectively physical science in its infancy, and Aristotelian scholasticism in its most perfect form, he brings before us the mystical and Platonizing mode of speculation. […] To him the purely intellectual element, though never absent, is of inferior interest when compared with the living power of the affections or the heart.” (EB, 1910, v. 4, p. 198) “But more important than any group of positions is his effort to orient philosophy towards theology, and theology toward mystical union. Without such an effort, philosophy is merely an outgrowth of worldly curiosity, placing man on ‘the infinite precipice.’ In following the controversies of the thirteenth century it is important to remember that for men such as Bonaventure, the price of philosophical error is not merely confusion; it is also the ultimate disaster of damnation.” (Hyman & Walsh)
Goff B-928 (listing only five institutions holding complete copies); BMC I 144; Pr 639; Hain B468; Polain 777; Pell 2616; GW 4648; Walsh 258; Chrisman, “Bibliography of Strausbourg Imprints,” C1.2.10.
811G Guillermus Parisensis 1437-1485
Of William of Paris’ Postilla there are “More than one hundred editions of the Postilla super epistolas et evangelia by Guillermus Parisiensis were printed during the fifteenth century. Surely this esteemed compilation must be regarded as one of the earliest “best sellers”, for how else can one explain why the text was not only frequently reprinted but was reissued time and time again by the same printed… Only a few facts seems to be known about Frater Guillermus. The introduction to the Postilla, his only published work, tells us that he was a Dominican and a professor of sacred theology at Paris. This compilation of the Postilla was written down in 1437 expressly for members of the clergy and for those desirous of understanding the excerpts for the Epistles and the Evangelists, more commonly called lessons, which are read at appropriate services throughout the church year.
Goff(P): Goff, Frederick R. ‘The Postilla of Guillermus Parisiensis’. Gutenberg-Jahrbuch 1959 pp.73-78; Goff G683; HC 8267; Goff(P) 62; Buffévent 244; Polain(B) 1826; IBP 2644; CCIR G-93; SI 1825; Sallander 1759; Günt(L) 342; Voull(Bonn) 5056; Sack(Freiburg) 1743
776G . Hilarius, Episcopus Pictaviensis (315-367/68) [ed. Cribellus, Georgius,; fl. 1489]
Libri Sancti Hilarii de Trinitate contra Arianos, contra Constantium hereticum, contra Auxentium et de synodis fidei catholicae contra Arianos. – Liber Aurelii Augustini de Trinitate. [Georgio Crivellio edente.]
Mediolani : per magi strum Leonardum Pachel 1489 $9,800
Folio π 2 A-I8, AA, BB8, a-k8, (except H, I, in sixes) complete. The last blank leaf is missing . This copy is bound in eighteenth century quarter calf. There is light damp stain at top margin, few minor wormholes in the beginning, touching a few letters, some thumbing to lower outer corners of first few leaves, small old red ink note to last leaf. There is small bookplate of the former Redemptorist seminary St. Alphonsus in Esopus, NY.
This is the Editio princeps of Hilary of Poitiers’ major theological work, issued with St. Augustine’s work on the same subject. “Hilary was said to be a defender of the divinity of Christ was a gentle and courteous man, devoted to writing some of the greatest theology on the Trinity, and was like his Master in being labeled a “disturber of the peace.”
In a very troubled period in the Church, his holiness was lived out in both scholarship and controversy. He was bishop of Poitiers in France. Raised a pagan, he was converted to Christianity when he met his God of nature in the Scriptures. His wife was still living when he was chosen, against his will, to be the bishop of Poitiers in France. He was soon taken up with battling what became the scourge of the fourth century, Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ. The heresy spread rapidly. St. Jerome said “The world groaned and marveled to find that it was Arian.” When Emperor Constantius ordered all the bishops of the West to sign a condemnation of Athanasius, the great defender of the faith in the East, Hilary refused and was banished from France to far off Phrygia (in modern-day Turkey). Eventually he was called the “Athanasius of the West.” While writing in exile, he was invited by some semi-Arians (hoping for reconciliation) to a council the emperor called to counteract the Council of Nicea. But Hilary predictably defended the Church, and when he sought public debate with the heretical bishop who had exiled him, the Arians, dreading the meeting and its outcome, pleaded with the emperor to send this troublemaker back home. Hilary was welcomed by his people. His work on the Trinity is a scriptural confirmation of the philosophic doctrine of the divinity of Christ, and is of permanent value. It was not a mere restatement of traditional orthodoxy, but a fresh and living utterance of his own experience and study. In the discussion of the co-essentiality of the Son, Hilary lays emphasis on the Scripture titles and affirmations, and especially on his birth from the Father, which he insists involves identity of essence. In the elaboration of the divine-human personality of Christ, he is more original and profound. The incarnation was a move of the Logos towards humanity in order to lift humanity up to participation in the divine nature. It consisted in a self-emptying of himself, and the assumption of human nature. In this process he lost none of his divine nature; and, even during the humiliation, he continued to reign everywhere in heaven and on earth. Christ assumed body, soul, and spirit, and passed through all stages of human growth, his body being subject to pain and death. Redemption is the result of Christ’s voluntary substitution of himself, out of love, in our stead. Between the God-man and the believer there is a vital communion. As the Logos is in the Father, by reason of his divine birth, so we are in him, and become partakers of his nature, by regeneration and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.The christology of Hilary is full of fresh and inspiring thoughts, which deserve to be better known than they are.
Goff H269( two copies only Yale U Beinecke , Villanova Univ); BMC VI 777
777G Guillelmus Parisiensis 1437-1485
Postilla super epistolis et evangelia de tempore et de sanctis et pro defunctis. summa diligentia iterum emendata.
[Deventer: Jacobus de Breda], 10 Sept. 1492 $15,000
Quarto 7 1/2 X 5 1/4 inches 4 a-z6 A-F6 G-H4.
This copy is bound in a modern binding rubricated in red and green throughout, a very nice large copy.
“This compilation of the Postilla was written down in 1437 expressly for members of the clergy and for those desirous of understanding the excerpts from the Epsitles and the Evangelists, more commonly called lessons, which are read at appropriate services throughout the church year. It obviously filled a most pressing need.” (Goff, The Postilla of Guillermus Parisiensis, Gutenberg Jahrbuch, 1959.) For more information on this book please refer to the summary of a separate edition above, listed as 811G.
colophon: Postilla Guillerini parisiensis sacr[ae] theologi[ae] professoris eximij super Epistolas et Euangelia per totius anni circulum ad sensum lra[n]lem studiosissime collecta. bene emendata et iteru[m] summa diligentia correcta finit Imp[re]ssa Anno christi M.cccc.xcii.decima die Septembris.
Goff G 691 (this copy only) ; Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Netherlands) catalog,; 171 G 19; GW,; 11969; Goff(P) 74 ISTC,; ig00691000
794G Anon [Gesta Romanorum]
Gesta rhomanorum cu applicatõnib moralisatis ac misticis.
Strassburg: (Georg Husner), 25 January 1493 $35,000
Folio: [*]8, a8, b-o6, p7 (lacking 8) 101 (of 102) leaves; lacking the final leaf, blank. Imprint date supplied from colophon,anno … M.cccc.xciii. In die co[n]uersionis sancti pauli.
This copy is bound in original calf tooled in blind over wooden boards rebacked. Initials, capital strokes, paragraph marks, and underlining in red. Newer endpapers, over partially exposed original endpapers. Some minor worming throughout, mainly marginal. The final few leaves have a few more wormholes within the text, but text remains fully legible. A marginal closed tear to leaf n5, not affecting text. Leaves a bit wrinkled and some minor dampstaining to upper margin at the end. Overall a very good, clean copy.
The Gesta Romanorum is “One of the best known collections of stories in Latin, the Gesta Romanorum is a medieval collection of anecdotes, to which moral reflections are attached. It was compiled in Latin, probably by a priest, late in the thirteenth or early in the fourteenth century. The ascription of authorship to Berchorius or Helinandus can no longer be maintained. The original objective of the work seems to have been to provide preachers with a store of anecdotes with suitable moral applications. Each story has a heading referring to some virtue or vice (e.g. de dilectione); then comes the anecdote followed by the moralisatio. The collection became so popular throughout Western Europe that copies were multiplied, often with local additions, so that it is not now possible to determine whether it was originally written in England, Germany, or France. Oesterley, its latest critical editor (Berlin, 1872), is of the opinion that it was originally composed in England, whence it passed to the Continent, and that by the middle of the fourteenth century there existed three distinct families of manuscripts: the English group, written in Latin; the Latin and German group; and a third group represented by the first printed editions. The manuscripts differ considerably as to number and arrangement of articles, but no one manuscript representing the printed editions exists. Probably the editors of the first printed edition selected stories from various manuscripts.
Shortly after this collection had been published, an enlarged edition, now known as the Vulgate, was issued, containing 181 stories. This was compiled from the third group of manuscripts, and was printed by Ulrich Zell at Cologne. Though the title of the work suggests Roman history as the chief source of the stories, many of them are taken from later Latin and German chronicles, while several are Oriental in character. In estimating the wide influence of the ‘Gesta’ it must be remembered that the collection proved a mine of anecdotes, not only for preachers, but for poets, from Chaucer, Lydgate, and Boccaccio down through Shakespeare to Schiller and Rossetti, so that many of these old stories are now enshrined in masterpieces of European literature.” (CE vol. VI, page 539-540)
“The Stories of the Gesta seem to have been a mine for later writers, like Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Schiller.” (Mediaeval Latin, 1925. p 432).
Goff G-293. BMC I, p. 142. ;Hain-Copinger *7747, 8267. Oates 236. Polain 1652, 1826. Proctor 625.
668G Bonaventure, Saint. 1221-1274
Stimulus amoris.Stimulus Divini Amoris devotissimus a sancto Johanne Bonaventure editus cordium omnium in amorem christi Jesu inflammatius post eiusdem varias impressiones incorrectas ultimate emendatus et correctus per eximium sacre pagine professorem Magistrum Johannem quentin canonicum et penitentiarum parisiensem.
Paris: Georg Mittelhus, 4 Apr. 1493 $ Sold
Octavo, 5 1/4 X 3 1/2 inches . A-R:8. (lacking A1) Bound invery nice modern limp vellum. This work, formerly attributed to Saint Bonaventure and Henri of Beaume (d. 1439), is now considered to be the work of Mediolanensis, a “Franciscan theologian and mystic. Lector of theology of Milan and alleged composer of a Summa Contra Hereticos, against the Kathars of Lombardy. The Stimulus Amoris centered on the love of/for Christ and the imitation of and the passive contemplation and union with God. There is some discussion as to whether Jacobus Capelli (known for the Summa) and Jacob of Milan (the author of the Stimulus Amoris) are one and the same person.” “The Stimulus Amoris is a composite devotional work consisting of an independent series of meditations on the Holy Passion, of still unidentified authorship, followed by a treatise on the spiritual life and contemplation by Jacobus Mediolensis, and ending with some anonymous meditations on the ‘Pater Noster,’ ‘Ave Maria,’ ‘Salve Regina,’ etc.
“The Stimulus appears in several versions, but the one that became very popular in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries is this longer work, known in England as the Prikke of Love. By the fourteenth century one or more scribes had added the chapters on the Passion to the treatise of Jacobus and had vastly amplified that author’s work. Jacobus’ short treatise consisted of twenty-three chapters, in no perceptible order, some of which embodied fragments from St. Bonaventure, St. Bernard, and Saint Anselm. “A few chapters dealt with contemplation, but the great number were rather elaborately worded instructions on the ordinary ascetic life mingled with devotional outpourings, full of the popularized pseudo-Dionysian mystical expressions. Only two of the chapters and a prayer halfway through the work deal with the Passion, and these were later extracted and formed the basis of the first part of the Stimulus. By the end of the fourteenth century the manuscripts show no less than fifteen chapters on the Passion, and an additional one crept in by the time of the first printing by the Brothers of the Common Life in 1476-1478.” (All citations Clare Kirchberger, The Goad of Love)
Goff B965; HC 3480