Median folio (324 x 224 mm.). Collation: [112 212 310 4-228 2312; 248] (1/1 blank, 1/2 list of Lactantius's errors found by Antonius Raudensis, 1/12v blank, 2/1r in praise of the works of Lactantius, 2/2r text, 23/11v metrical colophon, 23/12 blank, 24/1 24/1 Epythomon, 24/8 blank). 205 leaves (of 206, without blank 23/12); fol. 23/1 misbound after 23/11 at time of rebinding. 41 lines. Type: 1:110R2, 110Gk, printed guide letters. First text page illuminated by an 18th-century artist with full border in red, green, purple, blue and liquid gold, incorporating the arms of Pietro Bembo as Cardinal (1539-1547), and with six-line initial in gold and colors; contemporary 2-line initials and paragraph marks in red or blue, book numbers of De divinis institutionibus written in headline (occasionally trimmed), ms. headlines to De ira dei and De opificio dei possibly supplied by the annotator, contemporary foliation, ms. catchwords usually visible at end of each quire, occasional later penwork flourishes added to initials. Pinholes visible at outer corners. One or two small stains, blank forecorner of 4/3 torn away, small wormhole in final quire, first sheet with vellum reinforcement at inner hinge. Eighteenth-century vellum over pasteboards, leather spine label, sprinkled edges, library shelf label on front cover, vellum quire guards. Modern blue morocco-backed folding case. Provenance: Modesto Polentoni, “knight and doctor,” his inscription on flyleaf dated 1474 (d. Modesti polentoni militis et doctoris 1474) in red ink, and his neat marginal annotations in the same red; Franz Josef Hahn, Bishop of Bamberg (1699-1748); Schönborn-Buchheim Library, library shelf label ***
A splendid copy of the works of the Church Father from the first Venetian press. This was the second Venetian edition and fifth edition overall. This wide-margined copy bears neat marginal annotations in red ink by the late fifteenth-century Padovan humanist Modesto Polentoni, and was embellished in the eighteenth century with a pastiche of a sixteenth-century title border, intended to deceive by bestowing on the copy a noble provenance.
The carefully executed border, incorporating the arms of Cardinal Pietro Bembo, and to which was added a matching gold and painted initial, links this volume to a group of manuscripts decorated with similar falsified borders with the arms of famous kings, popes and cardinals, all of which have been shown to have belonged to Franz Josef Hahn, bishop of Bamberg, a bibliophile and collector of art, antiquities and coins. Following the death of his patron Vice-chancellor Friedrich Karl von Schönborn in 1746, Hahn was charged with misappropriation of church monies. He died two years later, before he could be convicted. It was later discovered that at some point Hahn had had fake painted borders added to a group of his manuscripts (by an artist thus dubbed the "Master of the Canonici Fakes"). The borders were enhanced with spurious armorials from figures including Visconti, Bembo (as here), Medici, Gonzaga, Este and others, evidently in order to increase their monetary value. In this nefarious project Hahn may have been assisted by the Venetian publisher-bookseller Giovanni Battista Albrizzi (1698-1777), who offered some of these manuscripts in a supplement to a catalogue of the Procurator Geraldo Sagredo's library which he had issued anonymously, thereby associating Hahn's books with those of Sagredo and acquiring for them a veneer of respectability. Helmut Boese, who pieced this story together, surmised that Hahn, beset by financial and legal difficulties, may have simply sent the books to Albrizzi in order to get them as far away as possible from Bamberg, where they could be traced back to him. Whatever the circumstances of Albrizzi’s offering, it contained only a selection of Hahn's embellished manuscripts, others of which were located by Boese.
The humanist Modesto Polentoni, son of Sicco Polentoni, from a prominent Padovan family, inscribed other books and manuscripts, including a manuscript of Virgil Bucolica, recorded by Tommassini, who saw it in the library of Lorenzo Pignoria’s library, as from the libraries of Bernardo Bembo and of his son Pietro Bembo (cf. Schoenberg Database no. 194674, current whereabouts unknown). Further research might establish whether Hahn was aware of the connection (or even whether the Bembo provenance in the Virgil manuscript was Hahn’s own falsification...).
This appears to be the only known example of one of Hahn’s spurious title borders in a printed book. Given his close ties to Vice-Chancellor Schönborn, and the Schönborn provenance of the present volume, it is possible that Hahn presented it to his patron.
The copy includes the extra 8-leaf quire containing the first edition of Lactantius' Nephytomon or Epitome Divinarum Institutionum, which in complete form was only published in 1712 at Paris. These additional leaves are lacking in both British Library copies, as well as in the Brussels and Spencer-Rylands copies. The book also contains 8 pages of verse including Lactantius' De ave phoenice, some verses from Ovid's Metamorphoses, and six verses from Dante's Commedia (Inferno XXIV, 106-111) being thus contemporaneous with the earliest editions of the latter work.
Goff L5; HC 9810*; CIBN L-5; Walsh 1532; Bod-inc. L-006; Pr 4040; BMC V 160; BSB-Ink L-5; GW M16566. On the Hahn manuscripts, cf. Helmut Boese, ”Über die 1747 in Venedig verkauften ‘Sagredo"-Handschriften,” Quellen und Forschungen aus italienischen Archiven, 66 (1986), pp. 269-309. Item #3133