SUMMA THEOLOGICA PARS I.

(Venice: Nicolaus Jenson, 15 December 1479). 310 x 210 mm. (12 18 x 8 1/8"). [254] leaves. Part I, only, of four separately printed parts. Second Printing.

Excellent retrospective dark brown sheepskin tooled in blind, covers with plain rule and floral roll frame, central panel diapered, with rosette stamps within the lozenge compartments, raised bands. Capitals struck with red, hand-painted initials and paragraph marks in red or blue, TWO LARGE (12-lin and 15-line) MAIBLUMEN INITIALS in red, blue, and green, with descenders running the length of the text, that on the larger initial extending across the tail edge, THE INITIALS AND DESCENDERS HIGHLIGHTED WITH BURNISHED GOLD. Goff A-872; BMC V, 179. A touch of rubbing to extremities, boards lightly chafed in a few spots, a couple of openings faintly browned, minor worming to last couple of quires, isolated trivial stains, but A FINE COPY INTERNALLY, clean, crisp, well-margined, and mostly bright, in a sturdy sympathetic binding.

This is a handsomely decorated copy of an early printing (following the first by one year) of the first part of the principal work by a great Medieval churchman; it is printed by one of the two or three most celebrated of incunabular printers; and, as a bonus, the volume boasts two beautiful illuminated initials. As a whole, the "Summa," the work upon which the theological fame of Antoninus (1389-1459) rests, is, in the words of the Catholic Encyclopedia, "probably the first--certainly the most comprehensive--treatment from a practical point of view of Christian ethics, asceticism, and sociology in the Middle Ages. It gives to Antoninus the place of honor in moral theology between St. Thomas and St. Alphonsus Ligouri." The present first and introduction part addresses the soul and its faculties, the passions, sin, and the law. As was the case with other expansive 15th century printings, the individual parts of this work were treated by their early printers (and have ever since been similarly treated) as distinct works. Andreas de Paltascichis, for example, printed the third tome only, and Heilbronn, Drach, Marinus Saracenus, and the partners Colonia and Manthen each printed only the first or second part. Jenson printed part I in December 1479, part II in June 1480, part III in 1477, and part IV in April 1480. And even when one printer issued all four parts, as in the present case, the complete work is seldom found today at the same location. Although he was in business for only a decade, Nicolaus Jenson (1420-80) was one of the greatest printers of the 15th century. Operating as many as a dozen presses at one time, he is thought to have produced some 100 or more editions, and all of them touched with beauty. Issued five months before our printer's death in September of 1480, the present book was not printed in Jenson's renowned roman font, but rather in a rounded and readable gothic type, made even more pleasing to the eye by the spacious margins here. Jenson used gothic for legal and theological texts, and, in fact, during the second half of his career, he used the roman face only sparingly, for classical texts. In all, a tally based on BMC indicates that Jenson printed approximately 40 percent of his books wholly or largely in gothic type. Haebler says that "Jenson's authority was no less important in the development of gothic types than in that of roman. As early as the year 1474 he had already cut a gothic text type which was imitated more than any other type of the XVth century," coming into common use throughout Italy, Germany, and Switzerland in the 1480s. The beauty of Jenson's type and printing is enhanced here by the unusually elaborate initials and burnished gold that open the prologue and main text.
(ST15191)

Keywords: Nicolaus Jenson