(Ferrara: Laurentius de Rubeis, de Valentia, 1497). 330 x 235 mm. (13 x 9 1/4"). 274 leaves (complete): 6 p.l., III-CCLXIX,  leaves. Double column, 48 lines in roman type.Translated from the Latin by Niccolò di Berto; second work translated by Matteo da Ferrara. First Edition in Italian, First Illustrated Edition.
Recently and expertly rebound by Courtland Benson in elaborately gilt-decorated calf in the Italianate style of the period. Two xylographic titles, attractive woodcut initials in the white vine style, 188 VERY CHARMING COLUMN-WIDTH WOODCUTS (approximately 51 x 76 mm.), mostly showing scenes of the life of Jerome, typically at his desk and almost always accompanied by the lion (some of the cuts repeated), AND FIVE PAGES DOMINATED BY FULL WOODCUT BORDERS (being two borders used five times) AND LARGE SCENES: the second leaf with wide and elaborate woodcut border enclosing a scene of the birth of Jerome (with the lion peeking in the door), verso of fifth leaf and facing recto of sixth leaf with similar woodcut frame, the latter page with two enclosed scenes separated by an arcade, showing depictions of Jerome in his study and Pope Damasus receiving this work, and two more leaves (introducing the "Regula") with similar woodcut borders, the second with a scene of the rule being given to a group of kneeling nuns. First and fifth leaves with large ornamental woodcut gothic titling. Front pastedown with small bookplate of H. P. Kraus. Goff H-178; BMC VI, 614; Sander 3404. Expertly washed, with vague soiling on first few leaves, one xylographic title just slightly trimmed at outer margin, small wormhole affecting the first 39 leaves but with virtually no damage to text, one leaf with short tear in upper margin entering first two lines of text but not affecting legibility, a handful of other trivial faults, else in excellent condition internally, the leaves fresh and with unusually wide margins. The very pleasing replica binding unworn.
This is an especially desirable copy--because entirely complete--of an incunabulum with wonderful illustrations. Along with the "De Claris Mulieribus" (also 1497), this is considered to be the greatest achievement of Ferrarese book illustration. The numerous woodcuts of Jerome in his study, his pet lion at his feet, have great simplicity and charm, and the depictions of the life of nuns that accompany the "Regula" are, if possible, even more fetching. Sander (quoting Gruyer) says that the artist here shows a "lovable and supple imagination, has understood the intimate poetry of all the subjects," and has produced "varied little . . . scenes executed with a great deal of imagination and taste." Hind says that the woodcuts are "evidently inspired by the 'popular designer' at Venice, in particular by the cuts in his 'Vitas Patrum' of 1491 and 'Legenda Aurea' of 1494." Our copy is especially precious because it includes the four-leaf life (including title page) of Jerome illustrated with 17 woodcuts, which is absent most of the time, and the dedication leaf to Eleanor and Isabella d'Este with the date 1495. It is also unusual in that all five of its woodcut borders, often trimmed by the binder's knife, are found here within comfortable margins. One of the greatest Christian scholars of his age, St. Jerome (ca. 340-420) was a translator, scriptural commentator, biographer, and historian who is chiefly remembered for his creation of the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible, a translation that represents an enduring contribution to Western culture. He frequently participated as one of the most heated of partisans in various theological controversies, and his disputations and protestations in connection with such debates comprise a good deal of the text of the letters contained here, contrasting the many gentler missives to pious women. The letters were particularly admired in the early Middle Ages, and they are valuable today for their history of the man and his times. Among the earliest books to appear in print, the "Epistolae" were first printed by Sweynheym and Pannartz in 1468, and they continued to be popular throughout the incunabular period. Laurentius de Rubeis (Lorenzo de' Rossi) issued an edition of Averroes in 1482, but did not appear again as a publisher until 1489. BMC lists just 14 works from his press, three of them issued with a partner, Andreas de Grassis. Our volume was printed during his most productive year, October 1496-97, when BMC speculates that he "must have had the support of a liberal patron, judging by the wealth of xylographic material displayed" in this and other books from that period. (ST11201)
Add to Cart Price: $42,500.00
PJP Catalog: CABF17.016