A Very Rare--and Outstanding--Copy of the Editio Princeps of One of the Most Momentous Undertakings by a 15th Century Printer


(Nuremberg: Johann Sensenschmidt and Heinrich Kefer, 8 April 1473). 398 x 270 mm. (15 5/8 x 10 5/8"). Textually Complete. [861] leaves (of 865; without initial blank in volume I and last three blanks in volume III). Double column, 57 lines, gothic type. Three volumes. Edited by Jacobus Florentinus. EDITIO PRINCEPS.

Impressive 18th century red morocco, gilt, covers framed by thick and thin rules, raised bands, spine compartments with centerpiece medallion of lancet tools surrounded by circlets and dots, two green morocco labels, turn-ins with gilt floral roll, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. ATTRACTIVELY RUBRICATED THROUGHOUT, capitals struck with red, headlines, paragraph marks, and chapter numbers in red, numerous three-line initials in red or blue, many with flourishes, each alphabetical section opening with a large puzzle initial in red and blue, end of the third volume WITH THE SIGNATURE OF THE RUBRICATOR (and/or owner) "FABRIANUS RIPING"; heraldic drawing of a shield supported by an angel on the final blank of volume I. Early ink owner inscription of Wernher Luf at start of each volume, along with notation that the volumes were donated by him to the Franciscans of Rouffach (in Alsace); flyleaf of volume I inscribed "M. Wodhull July 16th 1792" (bought at the sale of the books of Cardinal Etienne-Charles de Loménie, comte de Brienne, conducted in Paris, 1791-92); rear pastedowns with bookplate of Lord Wardington. Goff R-5; BMC II, 405; ISTC ir00005000. See also, Rhodes, "Notes on the Bibliography of Rainerius de Pisis" in "The British Library Journal," vol. 22, no. 2 (Autumn 1996), p. 238; Scholderer, "Problems of Early Nuremberg Typography" in "Fifty Essays" (Amsterdam, 1966), pp. 237-39. ◆Spines softly sunned, boards with minor chafing or shallow scratches, spine of volume III with shallow chip at head, other trivial signs of wear; insignificant spots or smudges to a very few leaves, but AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE COPY OF THIS GRAND WORK, the handsome and imposing bindings showing little wear, and the leaves clean and fresh, with ample margins.

One of the great publishing ventures of the 15th century, this is the first appearance in print of an important work by a 14th century Dominican scholar, setting forth the key precepts of scholastic theology in alphabetical order. Described by Rhodes as "one of the longest books ever composed in the Middle Ages" and thus quite a challenge to circulate in manuscript form, the "Pantheologia" was the perfect candidate for the new printing technology. Though composed by the Italian Rainerius of Pisa (d. ca. 1350) more than a century earlier, the work was not printed until undertaken by Johann Sensenschmidt, the first printer in Nuremberg, with the assistance of Heinrich Kefer, one of Gutenberg's servants (and a witness in the lawsuit between his master and Johann Fust). Rhodes speculates that a manuscript copy had found its way into the hands of Nuremberg humanist, bibliophile, and author Hartmann Schedel and thus into print via his influence and connections. The publication was an ambitious undertaking; although Sensenschmidt had been printing in Nuremberg since 1469 and had produced 19 titles, "Pantheologia" was, according to Scholderer, "more than twice as large as any book which had hitherto left his press." It was such a momentous event that the printer issued one of the earliest publisher's broadsides advertising its forthcoming appearance. Trained in Mainz, Sensenschmidt came to Nuremberg with the backing of a wealthy patron, Heinrich Rumel, a doctor of laws and scion of a prominent family. He operated a workshop there until about 1490, producing around 50 titles, according to ISTC. The present set was donated to a Franciscan monastery in Alsace and was apparently acquired by Loménie de Brienne (1727-94), the worldly French cardinal and finance minister to Louis XVI. According to Sotheby's catalogue for the Wardington sale, "the Loménie de Brienne collection was extremely rich in incunabula," and both the date and the elegance of our bindings suggest the cardinal was the owner who commissioned them. In order to raise money to save himself from the Reign of Terror, the cardinal began to sell his library off in 1791, and this book was listed in the catalogue issued by Parisian bookseller De Bure in 1791-92. Our set was purchased in 1792 by Michael Wodhull, a wealthy English book collector and translator whose friends included Thomas Frognall Dibdin and Richard Heber. It eventually found its way to the prestigious Wardington library begun by the British banker John William Beaumont Pease, 1st Baron Wardington (1869-1950), who was especially interested in Medieval manuscripts and incunabula. His son Christopher Henry ("Bic") Beaumont Pease, 2nd Lord Wardington (1924-2005) continued adding to the library; Sotheby’s disposed of the collections in four auctions held in 2005-06 that brought in £17,309,862 ($31,698,481). This was a record for any related group of book sales in London. Copies of our first appearance of "Pantheologia" rarely sell at auction: apart from a fragment, the only ones we could trace since 1979 were a copy lacking two text leaves and another apparently complete textually but with one volume "broken."

Price: $75,000.00