DE SIMPLICITATE VITE CHRISTIANE. AUREUS LIBER.

(Venetiis [Venice]: per Lazarum Soardum, 12 January 1512). 148 x 102 mm. (5 3/4 x 4"). 104 leaves.

Contemporary limp vellum, yapp edges, early ink titling to tail edge of text block. Title page with a woodcut of the author in his study. Later (18th century) bookplate with a square within a circle, its sides with the letters "Z O U R." EDIT16 53822; USTC 855180. Small abrasion to upper cover, isolated faint spots of foxing, otherwise A FINE COPY, clean and fresh internally, in a sound, unsophisticated period binding.

First printed in 1496, this small collection of meditations by the revolutionary Dominican friar was intended to help Christians lead more fulfilling lives through love and prayer. Savonarola was at the height of his reforming zeal when he composed this "Golden Book" on living a Christian life, in which he urges simplicity of heart leading to simplicity in external matters. All Christians, he believed, should focus on prayer and contemplation, and should strive to live simply, not seeking happiness in worldly things. Unfortunately, Savonarola took this very sensible advice to fanatical extremes, decrying all art and literature, humanism, luxury, frivolity, sex, and financial profits; basically, he was opposed to enjoyment or comfort of any kind. Naturally, this made him powerful enemies, including merchant princes like the Medici and the Borgia pope Alexander VI. By 1498, both Church and secular authorities had had enough, and the friar and two of his most devoted followers were arrested, tortured, and executed for heresy. Still, Savonarola had many followers among the common people, and editions of this work were printed during the 16th century not only in Venice and Florence, but also in Paris, Strassburg, Leyden, and Cologne. Venetian printer Lazarro Soardi (fl. 1490-1527) issued a number of Savonarola's works and did much to spread his teachings. The appropriately unadorned but sturdy binding suggests an early owner who embraced the teachings of this book, and it stands as testament to the merits of plain work, well executed. The book is not commonly seen, but when it does appear, the substantial prices it brings at auction indicate that, like many of Savonarola's works, it is aggressively sought after.
(ST15404)