Confessiones. Aurelius AUGUSTINUS, Saint.
The first spiritual autobiography

Confessiones. Milan: Johannes Bonus, 21 July 1475.

Chancery 4to (213 x 151 mm). Collation: [a-v8 x4]. 164 leaves, unfoliated. 26 lines. Type 1:105R. 4- and 5-line capital spaces, some with printed guide letters. Roman capitals supplied in red.  Worming in first four and last two quires, marginal dampstaining to last dozen leaves. 18th-century parchment over pasteboards, goatskin gilt lettering piece on spine (slightly frayed), imprint and date added in ink; plain edges, green silk ribbon marker. Lower edges untrimmed, revealing contemporary manuscript and stamped quire signatures. Provenance: deleted but still visible contemporary inscription on title, S[an]ct[ae] Mariae mre [i.e., martyre?]  Rumani ad Vsu[m] fr[atr]is Siri [or Sixi] d[e] b[er]gamo [flourish] fr. B[o?]tho de Pallo [pallatio?] Vig. [Vigevano?] co. manu p[ro]pria; Herculis de Silva, bookplate; (with Lardanchet, catalogue 2004/1).

Second edition of the Confessions of Saint Augustine, printed five years after the first (Strassburg: Mentelin, [not after 1470]). Only four fifteenth-century editions of Augustine’s spiritual autobiography are recorded, each printed in a different city. Praised by Luther, the Confessions only regained popularity with the Reformation.

This was the first and only dated edition of three produced on the second press of Johannes Bonus, who identified himself as a German Augustinian in his verse colophons. He had worked previously for the Augustinians in Savona, near Genoa, where he printed at least two editions in 1474. Victor Scholderer commented on this edition in the introduction to BMC VI: “This is a most attractive little book, well printed with a roman fount differing from that used at Savona, and apparently influenced by the type-styles of Rome as much as those of Venice, which deserves the epithet `very beautiful’ bestowed upon it by Proctor where its effect is not ruined by swarms of peculiar `double-decker’ contractions.”

The wide margins of this large copy have preserved most of the manuscript and stamped quire signatures: the first seven quires are numbered in manuscript, while the rest, from quire h on, bear small stamped signatures. Signatures are found in the lower outer corners of the rectos of the first four leaves of each quire; the manuscript signatures are signed with arabic numerals (c1, c2, c3, c4), while the stamped signatures use the letter followed by the requisite number of tiny crosses (e.g., k+, k++, etc.). This may imply a two-press production, a possibility noted by Scholderer, who remarked that the watermarks of the BMC copy change after quire [l].  Our copy also contains different paper stocks, but a closer analysis would be necessary to determine the distribution, as several gatherings are without visible watermarks. William Blades, in his study of The Use and Development of Signatures in Books (1890), noted that hand-stamped signatures, with the signatures placed far from the text block, constituted a transitional experiment, intended to replace hard-to-read manuscript signatures, used only by some Italian presses in the mid-1470’s. He cites several examples, including books with both manuscript and stamped signatures, as here (though he includes no editions from this press).

The contemporary inscription of a Brother Sixi(?) points to a Bergamesque monastic provenance, but I have not succeeded in identifying the house. A manuscript in Ravenna from 1477 has a similar inscription, transcribed as “ad usum Fraris Sixi de Pergamo,” in Giuseppe Mazzatinti, ed., Inventari dei manoscritti delle biblioteche d'Italia: Ravenna, vol. 5 (1895), p. 164.

As noted in Scholderer’s description of the British Library copy, an extra (27th) line was added at the end of p. [b]6r after printing off. ISTC ia01251000; Goff A-1251; GW 2894; BMC VI xxiii and 728; CIBN A-693; Walsh 3082; Bod-inc A-536. 

Item #3172

Price: $28,000.00