GREGORIUS I (Saint, 540-604). Dialogi. - PAULUS DIACONUS. Vita S. Gregorii. Translated into Italian by Leonardo de Utino or Dominico Cavalca. Venice: Johannes de Colonia and Johannes Manthen, 1475.
Chancery 2° (250 x 186mm). Collation: a10 b-n8 o10 p6 (a2r Dialogi, o9v colophon, o10r Vita). 120 leaves (of 122, without first and final blanks). 35 lines. Type: 8:110(105)R. 2- to 6-line initial spaces, most with guide-letters, the first two filled in a later hand. (Neat paper repairs at upper margins of a2-6, scattered worming throughout, occasionally repaired, some marginal dampstaining, soiling on f1, neat pen-cancellation of one word ('miser' in 'miser sancto Gregorio') on a2r and a2v.) 18th-century French red morocco, title lettered in gilt on spine with fleurons, leaf sprays and other ornaments in compartments, triple gilt fillet on sides, gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, gilt edges, green silk marker (some light scratches). Provenance: scattered annotations in a 17th- or 18th-century Italian hand -- Le Candele (18th-century bookplate) -- Duc de la Valliere (note of lot number at foot of rear free endpaper) -- P.A. Crevenna (printed ticket numbered 516 on front pastedown) -- Major A.L. McLaughlin (modern bookplate on final pastedown).
FIRST EDITION IN ITALIAN. Gregory's Dialogues, 'concerning the life and miracles of the Italian Fathers, and the eternity of souls', were written in 593, three years after Gregory's elevation to the papacy. The second book of the Dialogues, De vita et miraculis venerabilis Benedicti, is the earliest biographical account of St Benedict that we possess. Gregory has sometimes been criticised for his credulity in accepting these miracle stories, but modern scholarship has presented the work in a more positive light, showing that it broke with the tradition of writing the lives of Christian saints primarily in terms of martyrdom, and offered alternative models of sanctity which proved to be highly influential in the later history of the Church. The emphasis on miracles was designed to prove that despite the Lombard invasion of Italy, the end of the world was not yet at hand: in Gregory's own words, 'even if we undergo great tribulation, we are not entirely deserted by our Maker, as these stupendous miracles attest'. HC (+Add) 7975; BMC V, 231 (IA. 20239); IGI 4424; Goff G-410.