The First Portable Edition of Jerome's Letters, with Erasmus' Great Scholia, Offered Here in Two Copies of this Same Printing, One of them Ravaged by Censorship

OPUS EPISTOLARUM . . . CUM SCHOLIIS ERASMI.

(Lyon: Jean Crespin for Jacques et François Giunta [and] Guillaume Boullé, 1528). 210 x 142 mm. (8 1/4 x 5 1/2"). Intact copy: 14 p.l., 343, [1], 387, [1], 274 pp., 24 leaves (final blank); Censored copy: 67-72, 77-[lower half of] 96, 129-74, 179-92, 195-210, 221-86, 289-332, [lower half of] 4-14, 17-54, 73-100, 107-387, [1], 3-8, 13-64, 69-274, [21] leaves. Two copies of the same three-part work, one complete and the other censored. With commentary by Desiderius Erasmus.

Intact copy in a modern binding fashioned from a fragment of a 16th century antiphonary leaf, smooth spine, housed in an excellent light brown buckram clamshell box with gilt titling on back; censored copy in contemporary blind-stamped calf, covers with concentric frames of floral rolls, central panel with blind-tooled lozenge, raised bands, early ink titling and library number on spine panel. Intact copy with the printer's device of the Giuntas on title page of each part and on final page of first two parts. Censored copy with the printer's device of Guillaume Boullé on final page of part II. Intact copy with (18th century?) handwritten index on front flyleaf, frequent contemporary marginalia throughout, and three paragraphs of contemporary manuscript notes on final blank. Censored copy with the Scholia of Erasmus scratched through with ink, cut away entirely, or with small wax spots where paper was pasted over it; occasional contemporary annotations. Baudrier IV, 22; USTC 130036. Intact copy with about one quarter of leaves a bit browned, isolated small inkspots, otherwise clean and quite crisp, in an unworn binding. Censored copy with binding rather worn, spine with half an inch of leather lacking head and tail, lower cover with two-inch T-shaped patch of worming, edges rubbed to boards in several places, occasional light dampstain to lower fore-edge quadrant, half a dozen quires a bit browned, other minor defects, but the condition perfectly acceptable for what the volume has to tell us, and, in all, sound and serviceable.

The two volumes offered here provide an uncommon opportunity to compare an uncensored copy of the rare first portable edition of Jerome's letters, complete with the important commentary of Erasmus, next to a much rarer survival--the same printing but in a different volume that has been disfigured by Counter-Reformation censorship. For Erasmus, Jerome represented the ideal Christian scholar, and he spent many years and enormous effort editing the text and composing the scholia for Jerome's writings; it is Erasmus' greatest contribution to patristic scholarship, and as much the work of the humanist as of the Church Father. All earlier printings of the letters of Jerome were in large folio volumes, so this edition in quarto, using the text of the 1524 Froben printing, is the first in a small, handy, and less expensive format. It was produced by Lyon printer Jean Crespin under his own imprint and for the publishers Guillaume Boullé and Jacques and François Giunta. As the religious upheavals of the 16th century divided Europe into two hostile camps, Erasmus' hopes of reconciliation between the opposing sides died, and both came to view him with opprobrium, the Protestants for his rejection of their ideal of ecclesiastical reform, the Catholics for suggesting any reform might be needed. The person responsible for the vigorous censorship of our volume was no doubt an aggrieved Catholic, who saw the great humanist as a leading player in fomenting the Reformation and who believed that Erasmus had thus "laid the egg that Luther hatched." Pope Paul IV had been so incensed with the scholar that in 1657 he briefly placed all of Erasmus' writings on the Index of forbidden books. It must have been in response to this decree that our censored volume had every word written by Erasmus, and even every mention of his name, systematically and violently expurgated—by crossing out text with ink, pasting paper over his comments, or by the radical step of cutting away entire sections. Of course, once the ban on Erasmus' works had been lifted, these censored copies would have been rightly seen to have lost most of their usefulness, and thus discarded. Between the heavy use to which these early portable-sized editions would have been subjected, and the destructive censorship that later befell many copies, all issues of the 1528 Lyon printing of this work are uncommon, but the Boullé and Giunta imprints are especially so. (We are grateful to Edwin Hall for his assistance with this description.).
(CEH1915)

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PJP Catalog: 75.138

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