AUGUSTINUS, Aurelius (354-430, Saint). Epistolae. [Strassburg: Johann Mentelin, not after 1471].
Royal 2o (397 x 295 mm). Collation: [1-510 68 7-86 9-1610 178 186 19-2410 258 266 278 2810 298] text, 29/8 blank). 264 leaves. 50 lines, double columns. Type 2a:112bG. 8/6 with only one 45-line column printed as col. 2 on the verso; the recto of the leaf and col. 1 of the verso are blank. One 7-line, many 4- to 2-line initial spaces. Lombard initials, paragraph signs and capital strokes supplied in red. On, Basel illumination consisting of a green initial D on square ground of burnished gold with mauve infilling, scrolling arabesque border in mauve, blue, green and yellow incorporating the coat-of-arms of Hilprand Brandenburg, azure an ox argent. Pinholes visible on most leaves (1, or 2 close together between columns, in extreme upper margins, 2 close together between columns in extreme lower margins). Some deckle edges preserved. Traces of manuscript quiring. Additional blank 2-leaf quire bound at beginning, additional 4-leaf quire containing a contemporary manuscript table bound at end. All of quire 6 and the bifolium 25/2.7 printed on slightly smaller paper with most deckle edges preserved. (Many leaves with some offset or smudging from the print shop; printing flaws to, 5/8v, due to poor inking; double impression on 15/2v; 4/3, 4/9,, 15/9, cancels; the blank outer half of 8/6 cut away, faint dampstain to extreme outer margins of first ca. 15 leaves; a few tiny mostly marginal wormholes;and 10 disjunct.)
Binding: contemporary blind-tooled alum-tawed pigskin binding over partially bevelled wooden boards from the "Meister" bindery in Basel, each cover divided by quadruple or quintuple fillets into two concentric frames and a rectangular central panel, the latter divided into three narrow vertical panels, the central panel on each cover tooled with repeated impressions of a banderole containing the word MEISTER, the flanking panels with impressions of a large knot-work tool in a square frame, the inner frame with repeated impressions of a rectangular tool apparently representing plants growing out of waves, the outer frame with two rows of a small quatrefoil within a square frame (cf. Goldschmidt 5), two chased brass clasps and catchplates incorporating the word "Ave", plain brass corner protectors, vertical strips from a gothic cursive manuscript as sewing guards (uniformly rubbed, some tiny wormholes, upper joint cracked at top, labels removed from front cover and spine); modern cloth drop-back box.
Provenance: HILPRAND BRANDENBURG (d. 1514): illuminated coat-of-arms in border ), his hand-colored woodcut bookplate, contemporary Buxheim inscription recording his donation (Liber Cartusiensium in Buchshaim prope Memmingen proveniens a confratre nostro Hilprando Brandenburg de Bibraco, donato sacerdote, continens librum epistolarum beati Augustini. Oretur pro eo, et pro quibus desideravit) -- Buxheim, Charterhouse: contents note, donation inscription, armorial library stamp -- copious 16th-century reader's notes to letter 116 -- Graf von Ostein -- Graf von Waldbott-Bassenheim: sale, Carl Förster, Munich, 1883 -- oblong blue-bordered perforated label with pencilled number 38 inside back cover -- Paul Schmidt: bookplate -- E.Ph. Goldschmidt: bookplate -- [Sotheby's London, 16 December 1964, lot 270, to Maggs] -- Eric Sexton (1902-1980): bookplate; sale, Christie's New York, 8 April 1981, lot 163 (to Lathrop Harper).
FIRST EDITION of this collection of letters by one of the most influential Fathers of the Latin Church. In a printed advertisement for this edition, Mentelin praised the letters as a work in which "the skill of human eloquence resounds, many difficult and obscure passages of sacred scripture are clearly explained, heresies and deviations from the right faith are crushed with the solid hammer of truth, rules for right living are set forth, virtues are demonstrated, and vices are justly reproved" (cf. BMC). In the late 1460s and early 1470s Mentelin published a number of patristic and theological works, including an edition of Augustine's De civitate dei in 1468. The date of this edition of the Epistolae is derived from the rubrication inscription in the Tegernsee copy now in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
Hilprand Brandenburg (see also lots 7, 15 and 30), whose hand-colored woodcut exlibris is one of the earliest printed bookplates, lived in Basel ca. 1469-1472, where he matriculated at the University in the winter semester of 1468-1469 and was rector in the summer semester of 1471. It was during this period that he began purchasing printed books and having them decorated with illuminated borders incorporating his coat-of-arms. Several of his earliest acquisitions, the present book among them, were printed by Johann Mentelin, and are found in bindings marked with the name stamp "Meister" (Needham Hilprand Brandenburg 45, 49, 50). Formerly attributed to a shop in Strassburg on the basis of the imprints, these bindings are now localized in Basel, largely on the evidence provided by Hilprand's library, which also included a manuscript written for him in Basel ca. 1470 and bound in a Meister binding (Needham 28). Johann Meister, whose name occurs in records of the Basel printing trade and who has been proposed as the likely printer of the so-called Constance Missal, seems to have acted as Johann Mentelin's Basel agent. Five incunables from Hilprand Brandenburg's library are recorded as including his illuminated coat-of-arms; the present volume is the only one known which retains both the illuminated arms and Hilprand's printed exlibris.
H 1966*; BMC I, 55 (IC. 535-536); BSB-Ink. A-887; CIBN A-708; GW 2905; Needham Hilprand Brandenburg 50; Schorbach Mentelin 22; Goff A-1267.