In a contemporary binding Signed by the binder.     

Nicolaus Seman of Erfurt

437J Augustine, Aurelius. (Comm: Thomas Waleys or Valois  and Nicolaus Trivet )

Basel: Michael Wenssler [and Bernhard Richel] March 25, 1479.        $26,000   

Royal Folio:  46.2 x 33 cm.

[A very large copy. with many deckle edges]

 No signatures: [13-10,  2-610 , 7-10·8 , 116,  12-1510/8 168 , 17-1810,  19-218 , 2210, 238,  24-256,2610, 278, 286, 293. • [ Lacking leaves 1, 2 & 248]  (245 of 248) leaves. 

A scribe in blind Q waiting for the illuminator,

This copy is bound in blind stamped pigskin over wooden boards. With tooling by Nicolaus Seman of Erfurt (active around 1460-1486 in Erfurt and Würzburg) He was a goldsmith, bookbinder, type cutter.? Thieme-Becker XXX, 484. (Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, jointly edited by Ulrich Thieme (b Leipzig, 31 Jan 1865; d Leipzig, 25 March 1922) and Felix Becker (b Sondershausen, 27 Sept 1864; d Leipzig, 28 Oct 1928) The tool with binders name is used twice on the front board, and four times on the back cover with four other individual stamps one with a Heart surrounded by four stars and pierced by an Arrow. ( the original brass fittings and clasps were removed ) The interior of the text is quite crisp and clean, with initial spaces some supplied with amateurish guide letters supplied, other Romanesque Capitals are quite beautiful and artfully added in brown ink, reminiscent of the Printed Initials used by Anton Sorge

First colophon  (fol. [190]r)  Printed in red with double coat of arms.

 Textus Sancti Augustini de ciuitate Dei Basilee impressus. Explicit feliciter. Anno lxxix./ On leaf [191]r: Sacre pagine p[ro]fesso[rum] Ordinis P[rae]dicatorum Thome Valois et Nicolai Triueth i[n] libros beati Augustini de ciuitate Dei comentari feliciter inchoant. 

Second colophon (fol. [248]v):” M et cccclxxix vij K[a]l[endas] Aprilis opero se est cosummatum”

This is the first Basel printing of  The City of God by Augustine with the commentary by Thomas Waleys and Nicolaus Trivet .  ¶ Michael Wenssler was born in  Strasbourg, moved to Basel at an early age and quickly became a prominent typographer and printer. His earliest work, is dated to 1472 and was one of the first books printed in Basel.  Wenssler stayed in Basel until 1491. Wenssler and Richel collaborated on this printing project  using a type font they jointly owned.  

¶The City of God is St. Augustine’s fifth century response to assertions that Christianity had caused the decline of Rome: 

In defending Christianity, this Church Father delves deeply into many profound questions of theology, including the suffering of the righteous, the existence of evil, the conflict between free will and divine omniscience, and the doctrine of original sin. It is considered one of the saint’s most important works a cornerstone of Western thought and a long established work in the traditional canon of the “great books.” 

¶ “Fifteen years after Augustine wrote the Confessions, at a time when he was bringing to a close (and invoking government power to do so) his long struggle with the Donatists but before he had worked himself up to action against the Pelagians, the Roman world was shaken by news of a military action in Italy. A ragtag army under the leadership of Alaric, a general of Germanic ancestry and thus credited with leading a “barbarian” band, had been seeking privileges from the empire for many years, making from time to time extortionate raids against populous and prosperous areas. Finally, in 410, his forces attacked and seized the city of Rome itself, holding it for several days before decamping to the south of Italy. The military significance of the event was nil–such was the disorder of Roman government that other war bands would hold provinces hostage more and more frequently, and this particular band would wander for another decade before settling mainly in Spain and the south of France. But the symbolic effect of seeing the city of Rome taken by outsiders for the first time since the Gauls had done so in 390 BC shook the secular confidence of many thoughtful people across the Mediterranean. Coming as it did less than 20 years after the decisive edict against “paganism” by the emperor Theodosius I in 391, it was followed by speculation that perhaps the Roman Empire had mistaken its way with the gods. Perhaps the new Christian god was not as powerful as he seemed. Perhaps the old gods had done a better job of protecting their followers. 

De civitate Dei contra paganos  was written in 413-426/427. And first printed in 14  It is divided into 22 books. The first 10 refute the claims to divine power of various pagan communities. The last 12 retell the biblical story of mankind from Genesis to the Last Judgment, offering what Augustine presents as the true history of the City of God against which, and only against which, the history of the City of Man, including the history of Rome, can be properly understood. The work is too long and at times, particularly in the last books, too discursive to make entirely satisfactory reading today, but it remains impressive as a whole and fascinating in its parts. The stinging attack on paganism in the first books is memorable and effective, the encounter with Platonism in books 8-10 is of great philosophical significance, and the last books (especially book 19, with a vision of true peace) offer a view of human destiny that would be widely persuasive for at least a thousand years. In a way, Augustine’s City of God is (even consciously) the Christian rejoinder to Plato’s Republic and Cicero’s imitation of Plato, his own Republic. City of God would be read in various ways throughout the Middle Ages, at some points virtually as a founding document for a political order of kings and popes that Augustine could hardly have imagined. At its heart is a powerful contrarian vision of human life, one which accepts the place of disaster, death, and disappointment while holding out hope of a better life to come, a hope that in turn eases and gives direction to life in this world.

“Augustine is remarkable for what he did and extraordinary for what he wrote. If none of his written works had survived, he would still have been a figure to be reckoned with. However, more than five million words of his writings survive, virtually all displaying the strength and sharpness of his mind and some possessing the rare power to attract and hold the attention of readers in both his day and ours. His distinctive theological style shaped Latin Christianity in a way surpassed only by scripture itself.” (Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition)

“Augustine’s complicated personal journey has enriched his thought with a large number of themes and starting points, which may not have found a definitive systematic placement but precisely for this reason exercise all the greater a fascination upon those periods that, like the present, shun naively integral constructions. A schoolteacher, he was brought up on texts of the classical period, and from these he got to know the best products of Greek and Latin culture. A Manichean, he came into contact with the thought of a sect that was one of the liveliest and most stimulating of the period, a sect whose importance in ancient thought is an object of careful analysis and revaluation today. A neo-Platonist, he learned deeply the lesson of the one who is for him the greatest philosopher of antiquity, Plato, and at the same time he took part in the philosophical developments of the latest current of pagan thought. In the “De Civitate Dei” he reappraises the role of Rome and her empire, yet he does not hesitate to request, in letters of impressive harshness, the aid of the state in repressing the Donatist schism. Profoundly tied to classical culture, he does not hesitate to question it in the ” De Doctrina Christiana”. A sophisticated intellectual, he chose to wrestle with the most complex problems, which for some time had agitated the toughest thinkers, and he also focused on new questions, ones no less anxious and difficult than the earlier ones. A man of the Church, he considered it his duty to reach the weakest and least educated of his flock, and he strove to write for all, not only for an elite of scholars. The greatest intelligences of all times have struggled with Augustine, but it is not easy to find one who has been able to interpret and to comprehend his vital difficulty without somehow diminishing it.” (Gian Biagio Conte).

ISTC ia01241000:  

Goff A1241 : BMC III 726 & 738: GW 2885: Bod-inc A-527: Hain-Copinger 2058: Pell 1556: CIBN A-685: Girard 39: IBP 631:  SI 419:  Sajó-Soltész 375:  Coll(U) 185: Coll(S) 117:  Madsen 399:  Šimáková-Vrchotka 189, 190: Nentwig 60: Martín Abad A-239: Günt(L) 399: Voull(B) 364: Voull(Trier) 72: Leuze(Isny) 31: Ohly-Sack 303: Hubay(Augsburg) 211: Hummel336 Wilhelmi 619: Sack(Freiburg) 351:  Borm 259: Finger 96, 97, 98:  Schlechter-Ries 157:  Kind(Göttingen) 1926: Rhodes(Oxford Colleges) 195: : Sheppard 2338: Pr 7489-7534: BSB-Ink A-859: GW 2885: BSB-Ink A-859

SEMAN, Nicolaus (tätig um 1460/86 in Erfurt und Würzburg), Goldschmied, Buchbinder, Formschneider. Thieme-Becker XXX, 484. Biographical Index of the Middle Ages Walter de Gruyter, Mar 1, 2011

References explained.

In my descriptions I try and stick to the following order. I have chosen this order because it begins at the most likely book/site i will refer to as I explore a book.

Order  ISTC;  Goff: BMC: GWBod-incWalsh:  AND THEN other references as needed.

ISTC: The ISTC database contains information on the ownership of incunabula around the world. The table below is based on the second edition of the IISTC published in 1998, which shows what kind of incunabula were printed and where they are currently housed.

GOFF: the Incunabula in American Libraries (abbreviation: Goff). GOFF, Frederick R. Incunabula in American libraries: a third census. Millwood (N.Y.), 1973. (Reproduced from the annotated copy of the original edition (New York, 1964) maintained by Goff). (Supplement. New York, 1972.) The books in here are listed alphabetically by Author, then chronologically by title. Each entry is followed by bibliography citing and then, Us library holdings ( these have changed a lot since publication and should defer to the ISTC [see Above]

BMC: Catalogue of books printed in the XVth century now in the British Museum [British Library]. 13 parts. London, ’t Goy-Houten, 1963-2007. (Pts I-IX reproduced from the working copies of the original edition (London, 1908-62) annotated at the Museum).

Bod-inc Online:

GW Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke The first volume was published in 1925, marking the beginning of one of the first detailed catalog of incunabula ever published. This catalog is a massive work of 27 volumes, with the names of the authors appearing in alphabetical order. So far, however, only 11 volumes have been published. Research has been completed and the GW database, including the record cards, has been placed in the public domain on the Internet by the Berlin State Library-Prussian Cultural Foundation (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-Preussischer Kulturbesitz). The GW is an excellent catalog containing all the data necessary to identify most incunabula .

WALSH Walsh, James E. A catalogue of the fifteenth-century printed books in the Harvard University Library. 5 vols. Binghamton NY, Tempe AZ, 1991-95. (Supplement … , by David R. Whitesell. Harvard Library Bulletin 16 nos. 1-2 (2005)). 909

The following section are some examples of contractions and abbreviations found in Incunabula.

  • Abbreviation of Quia is an abbreviation of “Quia,” and Abbreviation of Quare is an abbreviation of “Quare.”
  • Usually the vowels with a line attached above such as Abbreviation of am or anAbbreviation of em or enAbbreviation of im or inAbbreviation of om or on, and Abbreviation of um or un means that “m” or “n” is omitted after the vowel. For example, Abbreviation of a, m, am, or an represents “amen” and Abbreviation of c, um, or un “cum.”
  • Also the following six consonants, g‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚鎚m‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚émŽšn‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚鎚p‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚鎚q‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚鎚, and r‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚鎚 with a line attached above indicate that some letters before and/or after the consonant are abbreviated. For example, a, g‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚鎚, i represents “augusti,” b, m‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚鎚 “beatum,” d, n‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚鎚, i “domini” and t, p‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚鎚, s “tempus.” Particularly, p‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚鎚often represents “pr(a)e,” q‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚鎚 “quae” and r‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚鎚 “re.” For example, p‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚鎚, t, e represents “prete,” q‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚鎚, d, Abbreviation of am or an “quaedam” and r‚Ì‘OŒã‚É•¶Žš‚ªÈ—ª‚³‚ê‚Ä‚¢‚鎚, s “res.”
  • Abbreviation of ergo‚Ì is an abbreviation of “ergo,” but there is also the use of Abbreviation of ergo, s, s, o to represent “grossos.”
  • Abbreviation of quo is an abbreviation of “quo,” and Abbreviation of quo, d represents “quod.”
  • Abbreviation of dicit is an abbreviation of “dicit,” but there is also the use of Abbreviation of dicit, i, e to represent “divinae.”
  • Abbreviation of hic is an abbreviation of “hic,” but it is also used so that Abbreviation of hic, t represents “habet” and p, Abbreviation of hic, e “philosophiae.”
  • Abbreviation of lis is used as in t, a, Abbreviation of lis to represent “talis,” and used as in Abbreviation of lis, r to represent “legitur.”
  • Abbreviation of tre is an abbreviation of “tre,” and Abbreviation of tre, s represents “tres.” When Abbreviation of tre is placed at the end of a word, it becomes an abbreviation of “-ter.”
  • Abbreviation of ter is an abbreviation of “ter,” and Abbreviation of ter, r, e represents “terre.”
  • Abbreviation of ut is an abbreviation of “ut.”
  • Abbreviation of per or par is an abbreviation of “per” or “par.” Abbreviation of per or par, e represents “pare” and Abbreviation of per or par, m, Abbreviation of per or par “parumper.”
  • Abbreviation of pro is an abbreviation of “pro.” Abbreviation of pro, b, a, t represents “probat” and Abbreviation of pro, b, Abbreviation of em or en “probem.”
  • Abbreviation of papa is an abbreviation of “papa,” but it is also used to represent “populo” as in Abbreviation of papa, Abbreviation of lis, o.
  • Abbreviation of propter is an abbreviation of “propter,” but it is also used to represent “prope” as in Abbreviation of propter, e and “propheta” as in Abbreviation of propter, Abbreviation of hic, a.
  • Abbreviation of qui or quod is an abbreviation of “qui” or “quod.” For example, Abbreviation of qui or quod, Abbreviation of dicit represents “quoddam.”
  • Abbreviation of quam is an abbreviation of “quam,” and Abbreviation of quam, v, i, s represents “quamvis.”
  • Abbreviation of que is an abbreviation of “que” and is used at the end of a word. For example, Abbreviation of qui or quod, Abbreviation of que represents “quodcumque.”
  • Abbreviation of quoque is an abbreviation of “quoque.”
  • Abbreviation of et is an abbreviation of “et.”
  • Abbreviation of rum is added to the end of a word to indicate that “rum” is omitted.
  • Abbreviation of com or con, ‚ ‚é‚¢‚Í, Abbreviation of us or is is used as an abbreviation of “com” or “con” when it is placed at the beginning of a word, and as an abbreviation of “us” or “is” at the end of a word.
  • Abbreviation of us or um is used as an abbreviation of “us” or “um” when it is placed at the end of a word.