(Venice: Baptista de Tortis and Franciscus de Madiis, 7 September 1484). 455 x 295 mm. (18 x 11 1/2"). Complete.  leaves, including first and last blanks. Double column, 83 lines of commentary surrounding text, gothic type.
Contemporary brown pigskin over bevelled wooden boards, decorative brass bosses at center and corners of boards, remnants of paper title labels to head of front board and to top spine panel, raised bands, rebacked preserving most of original backstrip (but with the new joints and small portions of two bands a slightly different color), two brass catch plates and clasps with original straps, rear pastedown of vellum from old manuscript (side showing blank, but writing on other side just visible), two holes at head of rear board where chain was once attached. Headings and paragraph numbers in red or blue, numerous two- to five-line initials in red or blue, often with decorative flourishes or extensions, eight-line opening initial in blue, filled and surrounded with decorative red penwork, printer's device printed in red in colophon. Incipits printed in red. First and last blanks with manuscript alphabetical index of contents in two contemporary hands, handwritten folio number at head of most leaves, upper right corner of rectos with contemporary ink notation of the contents of the opening, a couple of leaves with very neat early interlinear glosses. Front pastedown with ex-libris of Hans Fürstenberg. Goff G-458; BMC V, 323; ISTC ig00458000. Leather on boards varying in color (perhaps because of preservative?), a little residue of brass polish around bosses, a scattering of tiny wormholes near joints, occasional trivial thumbing or other internal imperfections, but A VERY ATTRACTIVE COPY of this imposing book--clean, fresh, and bright internally, in a sturdy binding with its original hardware.
Once chained, likely in a monastic or cathedral library, this is a wonderful example of an incunable with contemporary handwritten additions that made the information inside more accessible to users. A librarian or other scholar numbered the folios, made a neat alphabetical list of the subjects covered, and added a note to the upper right corner of each recto listing the incipits for the sections that appear on that page and the one facing it. Such tools were innovative at a time when many printed books had neither page numbers nor a table of contents. Pope Gregory IX's decretals (i.e., authoritative decisions by a pope on matters of canon law) were compiled by the Catalan canonist Raymond of Peñaforte in 1230-34 in order to update, complete, and supersede the six previous collections, the first of which was made by Gratian around 1150. Gregory's was the first complete and authoritative collection of papal decretals, and it persisted as the fundamental source of canon law until the 20th century. Born Ugolino di Anagni, Gregory IX (before 1170-1241) was from the noble family of the counts of Segni and a nephew of Innocent III. After a long career as a diplomat for the papacy, Gregory was elected pope in 1227 at an advanced age. His time wearing the tiara was marked by harsh conflicts in general, and especially with his ambitious rival, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, whom he excommunicated on slender grounds relating to unsatisfying performance as a crusader. Canon law books like the present text were one of the specialties of Baptista de Tortis (fl. 1481-1532), among the most successful printers of the incunabular era and someone who had a long, productive, and profitable career in Venice. From 1481-84, de Tortis primarily printed editions of the classics, beginning with Cicero, and a few grammars, but in the second half of 1484, he discovered that there was a more lucrative trade to be had in law books, and became one of the first publishers to specialize in jurisprudence. The names of Justinian and law professor Bartolus de Saxoferrato dominated his author list, along with editions of papal decretals and the commentaries that sought to elucidate them. Whereas many 15th century printers faced financial hardship producing 500 copies of their titles, de Tortis was able to sell 2,000 large-format copies of his numerous editions, with demand spurred by his reputation for extreme accuracy, so critical in legal volumes. Our printer is especially well known for the very readable round gothic face used here, which found favor with early Spanish printers; their books were printed in "letra de Tortis" for generations. Our copy comes from the collection of Hans (or Jean) Fürstenberg (1890-1982), a bibliophile of refined discrimination who assembled one of the great collections of the 20th century and whose books were noted for their outstanding condition. This edition is rarely seen in the marketplace: we could trace just one other copy in ABPC and RBH. (Lhi21016)