Hieronymus, Sophronius Eusebius (347-420). Epistolae [Italian]...Ferrara, Laurentius de Rubeis, de Valentia, 12 October 1497.

Hieronymus, Sophronius Eusebius (347-420). Epistolae [Italian]...Ferrara, Laurentius de Rubeis, de Valentia, 12 October 1497.

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Hieronymus, Sophronius Eusebius (347-420).

Epistolae [Italian]. Add: Lupus de Oliveto (Olmeto): Regula monachorum ex Epistolis S. Hieronymi excerpta [Italian] De la observatione del culto de la vera religione (Tr: Mattheo da Ferrara).

Ferrara, Laurentius de Rubeis, de Valentia, 12 October 1497.

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A spectacular illuminated copy

Hieronymus, Sophronius Eusebius (347-420).

Epistolae [Italian]. Add: Lupus de Oliveto (Olmeto): Regula monachorum ex Epistolis S. Hieronymi excerpta [Italian] De la observatione del culto de la vera religione (Tr: Mattheo da Ferrara). Ferrara, Laurentius de Rubeis, de Valentia, 12 October 1497.

Folio (300x206 mm). Collation: a10, b-m8, n-o6, p-r8, s6, t8, u6, x8, y-z6, &6, cum6, rum6, A-N6. [1], CCLXIX, [1] leaves. Text in two columns, 46-50 lines. Type: 6:105R. Xylographic title-page. Full-page woodcuts on fols. a2v and K3v, two four-sided borders on fols. a3r and K4r, and 161 woodcut vignettes, all illuminated by a contemporary Ferrarese artist. Vinestem illuminated initials throughout, on gold, pink, blue or green ground. Rubricated in red, blue, green, or gold. Eighteenth-century gilt-tooled calf, over pasteboards. Covers within two gilt floral friezes, large foliate tool at each inner corner of the central space. Spine with five raised bands, compartments decorated with floral motifs in gilt, title in gold on green morocco lettering-piece. Marbled pastedowns and flyleaves. Edges painted green. Extremities of the spine, and joints slightly rubbed. A very good copy, slightly foxed and spotted in places, the first two leaves somewhat browned. The gold illumination showing through slightly on the verso.

Provenance: possibly from the Ferrarese clarissan monastery of the Corpus Domini (the illuminated device in the border of fol. K4r, see below).

One of the highest achievements in print of the tradition of Ferrarese illustration, in a spectacular illuminated copy. It is also the only illustrated edition of St. Jerome's Epistolae of the fifteenth or early sixteenth centuries, and the only fifteenth-century edition in Italian vernacular. All the woodcuts are original to this edition. “The most attractive of all the Ferrarese illustrations are contained in the Epistles of St. Jerome, printed by Laurentius de Rubeis [...] Their author is evidently inspired by the 'popular' designer at Venice [...] The artist is a most conscious humorist in the wonderful variety of facial expression he gives to St. Jerome's lion, offering its naive comment on the various episodes of the saint's life. As illustrations of contemporary custom, the woodcuts in the last section of the book, dealing with the rules of monastic life, are peculiarly interesting” (A. M. Hind, An Introduction to a History of Woodcut II, p. 510). The architectural borders include elements recalling the style of the Venetian artist konwn as the Pico Master. Three hundred copies of the book were printed, 294 of which were shared by the printer and Giacomo Albertini, a Carmelite friar of the monastery of St. Paul, who paid 40 gold ducates for the paper; the six remaining copies were presentation copies, given to the court of Ercole I d'Este. In the present copy, all the borders as well as the 161 woodcuts were illuminated by a contemporary Ferrarese artist, and there are more than two hundred vinestem initials.

Further, the lower panel of illuminated border on fol. K4r – introducing the Regula monachorum ex Epistolis S. Hieronymi – includes, in a circular frame, a device depicting a calix surmounted by the holy bread: this device might be referred to the Ferrarese clarissan monastery of the Corpus Domini (also called Corpus Christi), which was of the greatest importance for the House of Este, having been over centuries the burial-place of the family, including Ercole I, while members of the house were nuns there, e.g., Eleonora, a daughter of Ercole. The Duke himself could possibly have gifted this magnificently illuminated copy to the monastery, as a sign of religious patronage.

The present copy is in the issue without – like the greatest part of the copies known – the four added preliminary leaves containing the life of St. Jerome. It also include, on fol. a2v, the large woodcut of St. Jerome writing, in some copies replaced by printed dedications respectively to Duke Ercole I, dated to 1494 (e.g., the copy, bound for Duchess of Urbino Eleonora of Aragon, passed in the Rahir sale of 1931, while another copy is now located in the Pierpont Morgan Library), to Duchess of Ferrara Eleonora and her daughter Isabella (as in the copy owned by the State Library in Munich), and to the Doge Agostino Barbarigo, both dated to 1495.

HC 8566; GW 12437; BMC VI, 614; IGI 4746; Goff H-178; G. Antonelli, Ricerche bibliografiche sulle edizioni ferraresi del secolo XV, Ferrara 1830, no. 82: A. Nuovo, Il commercio librario a Ferrara tra XV e XVI secolo, Firenze 1998, pp. 57-82; Sander 3404; A. M. Hind, An Introduction to a History of Woodcut, London 1935, 2, pp. 509-512; L. Armstrong, “The Pico Master: A Venetian Miniaturist of the Late Quattrocento”, Eadem, Studies of Renaissance Miniaturists in Venice, 1, pp. 233-338; D. De Simone, “The Woodcut in Ferrara in the Late Fifteenth Century”, R. H. Jackson - C. Z. Rothkopf (eds.), Book Talk: Essays on Books, Booksellers, Collecting, and Special Collections, New Castle, DE 2006, pp. 57-68; T. Lombardi, Gli Estensi ed il Monastero del Corpus Domini di Ferrara, Ferrara 1980; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 39.