AUGUSTINUS, Aurelius, St. (354-430). De civitate Dei. Rome: Conradus Sweynheym and Arnoldus Pannartz, 1468.
Royal 2° (390 x 267mm). Collation: [1-28; 3-1410 1512 16-2610 27-288] (1/1 blank, 1/2 table of rubrics, 2/8 blank, 3/1 text, 28/7-8 blank). 273 (of 274 leaves, without final blank). Type: 3:115R. 46 lines. Illuminated by a contemporary Roman artist with a full-page white-vine border opening text in green, blue, and red with white dots within burnished gold frame and incorporating two initials, empty laurel wreath in lower margin and birds amongst the tendrils, 21 large illuminated white-vine initials with extensions and gold dots, 2-line initials alternating in red and blue, paragraph marks in rubrics table alternating in red and blue, chapter headings supplied in manuscript in red ink, MS guide-letters. (A few small wormholes, occasional offsetting of decoration.) 17th-century French calf, gilt spine, red edges (restorations to spine and small sections of sides), modern brown half morocco solander box. Provenance: annotation in a contemporary hand on first leaf (shaved), and 'lix' on final verso -- Roderick Terry (bookplate, sale American Art Auction-Anderson Galleries, 7 November 1934, lot 24, $1100 to Rosenbach for:) -- Estelle Doheny (sale Christie's New York, 22 October 1987, lot 78).
SECOND EDITION AND ONE OF THE EARLIEST BOOKS PRINTED AT ROME. Having established a press at the Benedictine monastery at Subiaco, Sweynheym and Pannartz moved their second printing shop to Rome in 1467 at the Palazzo Massimo, very probably at the behest of the great humanist, Cardinal Bessarion. Bessarion's secretary, Giovanni Andrea Bussi, soon became chief editor of the press (and later papal librarian), directing its printing programme of humanistic texts. Sweynheym and Pannartz had already printed the first edition of De Civitate Dei at Subiaco in 1467, and they were to print it a third time in 1470. A list of Sweynheym and Pannartz books, made by Bussi for an appeal to the Pope for financial assistance and printed in the press's 1472 edition of Nicolaus de Lyra's commentary on the Bible, states that 825 copies of De civitate Dei had been printed, each edition thus comprising 275 copies.
St. Augustine's magnum opus is ostensibly an apologia of the Christian church, which he saw as rising from the ruins of the Roman empire, but it is also a work of history and philosophy. In the middle ages 'the writings of Augustine contained perhaps the most substantial body of philosophical ideas then available in Latin' (Kristeller, 'Augustine and the Early Renaissance', Studies in Renaissance Thought and Letters, I, 1956). His works were central to the transmission of Platonic philosophy, and 'both Luther and Calvin took Augustine as the foundation of Protestantism next to the Bible itself' (PMM). HC 2047; BMC IV, 5 (IC. 17107); GW 2875; IGI 967; Goff A-1231.