Saint Gregory has exercised in many respects a momentous influence on the doctrine, the organization, and the discipline of the Catholic Church. To him we must look for an explanation of the religious situation of the Middle Ages; indeed, if no account were taken of his work, the evolution of the form of medieval Christianity would be almost inexplicable. (F.H. Dudden, “Gregory the Great”, 1, p. v).
289J Saint Gregory the Great (540-604)
Moralia Sancti Gregorii. [Sive Expositio Moralia in Job.]
Basel: Nicolaus Kesler, 1496. $14,000
Folio 12 ½ x 8 ¼ inches. -6, a-z6, A-P6, Q-R8, S-Z6, AA-GG6, HH8, II-KK6, LL4. 364 of 364 leaves. [The last leaf of the preliminaries, 6, the first leaf before the text, a1, and the last leaf before the table, HH8, are all blank]
Pope Gregory’s massive works on the epic suffering of Job was completed before he became Pope in 590. His analysis addresses the story of Job from every conceivable angle. Moralia in Job, or moral homilies on Job, one of his greatest works, before his election to the See of Peter. Sent as papal envoy to Constantinople, he gathered there a community of ascetics to whom he preached these homilies. While he was in Constantinople, the reflections on the Book of Job had been the object of friendly conversations with the young monks who had accompanied the pontiff. In Gregory’s reflections, Job is a figure of Christ, who suffered innocently—not for his sins but for the increase of his merits and the salvation of others by love. These homilies are a summa of Christian doctrine, from Creation to final Judgment, from the height of angelic hierarchies to the innermost depths of the human soul. Confident that the Holy Spirit has not idly chosen the words of Scripture, Gregory finds a depth of allegory out of which he draws a brilliant picture of Christ, whose humanity must mark our own and whose Cross is our path to eternal rest. A beautiful meditation on suffering, on the path from fear to love, and on the healing and glorification of the individual soul which, as a member of Christ’s body, comes to participate in the life of the holy Trinity. When Gregory was elected bishop of Rome just a few years later, he would continue to draw on and to develop the teaching herein, to guide the spiritual lives of his flock amidst the terror-filled final dissolution of the Western Empire. The teaching of the Moralia became a source for the doctors of the middle ages, including Hugh of St. Victor, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, and many others It consists of 35 chapters in which he employs an analytical approach inspired by Augustine and Origen. Bible stories are often inherently confusing for many readers, and at times seem self-contradictory. The story of Job, with its strong themes of suffering and divine intervention, required special notice for the medieval Christian reader. In this valuable work, Gregory seeks to illuminate the ‘Biblical Truth’ residing and yet obscure in the text.
Gregory’s Moralia on Job was first published in 1470, and was so popular with medieval readers that it passed through nine Latin editions before 1501. The printer of this edition, Nicholaus Kesler of Bottwar, took his bachelor’s degree at the University of Basel in 1471. He seems to have worked for the printer Bernhard Richel for a time, before establishing his own press. The city records list Kesler as a “Buchtruker” in July of 1483, about a year after Richel’s death. Kesler’s earliest fully dated book was the Liber Sententiarum of Peter Lombard, finished on 2 March 1486. Kesler was still printing in 1510, and was alive as late as 1519.
This is a fine incunabulum in a lovely contemporary binding. The fifteenth-century alum-tawed pigskin is tooled in blind over both boards. The wooden boards have been fitted with brass catches but missing the clasps, all original corner and center pieces are still present, with only minor repairs.
The decorative tools stamped in blind on both boards are Ernst Kyriss’s 106.01, 106.02, 106.03, and 106.04. These four tools are used in combination on approximately 88 printed books found in European libraries. These books were all printed between 1483 and 1509. The most up-to-date information can be found on the Einband Datenbank, found on the web at: http://db.hist-einband.de. The four tools used on this volume are also used to decorate two other bindings illustrated in this online catalogue. Gerhard Loh’s essay, “Die Leipziger Buchbinder im 15. Jahrhundert,” and Ilse Schunke’s “Die Schwenke-Sammlung,” both associate these tools with a binder who worked in Leipzig in the late-fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries. The binding is somewhat wormed. Alternating red and blue initials and paragraph marks throughout the text were inscribed by the hand of a professional rubricator in the fifteenth century. The xylographic title is stunning.
Goff G432; HC 7934*; Pell 5381; Polain(B) 1717; IGI 4444; IBP 2494; CCIR G-51; Sajó-Soltész 1475; IDL 2099; IBE 2718; IJL2 189; SI 1736; Coll(S) 482; Coll(U) 635; Sallander 1744; Madsen 1791; Sack(Freiburg) 1632; Finger 468; Voull(B) 538; Voull(Trier) 234; Günt(L) 358a; Leuze(Isny) 23; Hummel-Wilhelmi 265; Pad-Ink 289; Wilhelmi 264; Kind(Göttingen) 2167; Walsh 1218; Bod-inc G-221; Sheppard 2490; Pr 7690; BMC III 772; BSB-Ink G-320; GW 11434
Goff G432 U.S. Copies
Harvard Library, Duke Univ. , Grand Valley State Univ.,Henry B. Fernald, Upper Montclair NJ,Library of Congress, New York Historical Society,Huntington Library,St John’s Univ.,The Newberry Library (-table),Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ,Univ. of Texas at Austin, Yale University.