LACTANTIUS, Lucius Coelius Firmianus (c.240-c.320). Opera. Subiaco, Benedictine monastery of St. Scholastica: [Conradus Sweynheym and Arnoldus Pannartz], 29 October 1465.
Median 2° (333 x 228mm). Collation: [110 22; 3-710 812; 9-1510 1612; 17-1910] (1/1r table of rubrics. 1/10 blank, 2/1r Lactantius's errata discovered by Antonius Raudensis, 3/1r De divinis institutionibus bks. 1-3, 9/1r bks. 4-7, 17/1r De ira dei, De opificio dei, 19/9-10 blank). 185 (of 186, without final blank) leaves. 36 lines. Type: 120SG; 120Greek, some spaces left for Greek. 6-line initial in red opening each work and book (initial to book 6 with pasted-in correction slip), 1- and 2-line initials and paragraph marks in red, MS headings in red in a contemporary hand, early MS quiring occasionally just visible, contemporary number of books 2-7 of De divinis institutionibus written in headline in pale ink, modern pencilled foliation. (Very faint dampstain at lower hinge and in 3/6, a few negligible marginal tears, occasional faint spotting, light stains from rubricator's ink on 16/10v.) 18th-century German gold-tooled red morocco, simple roll border on sides, spine compartments tooled with urn and swags, marbled endpapers, contemporary flyleaf [its watermark very similar to Piccard Ochsenkopf XIII:805, produced in northern Italy and used in Germany (Donaueschingen), c.1464-5] preserved at front, gilt edges (a few scuffs). Provenance: several marginal annotations in a contemporary hand (a few washed) -- 18th-century bibliographical references on front flyleaf.
FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST DATED BOOK PRINTED IN ITALY, AND ONE OF ONLY FOUR BOOKS PRINTED BY SWEYNHEYM AND PANNARTZ AT THEIR FIRST PRESS AT SUBIACO. Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, clerics from the archdioceses of Mainz and Cologne respectively, established a press in about 1464 at the Benedictine monastery of St. Scholastica at Subiaco, which has long been considered the birthplace of printing in Italy. Although that honour is now given to a town in the Romagna, where an itinerant German printer operated about 1462/63, whose illustrated Passion prayers survives in a single fragment (sold Christie's, 23 November 1998, lot 18), it does not detract from the essential importance of the Subiaco press. The monks, under the supervision of Sweynheym, who had probably learned his craft in the printing shop of Fust and Schoeffer at Mainz, and Pannartz, issued only four editions: a grammar by Donatus, no copy of which survives; Cicero's De oratore; the present edition of the works of Lactantius, dated 29 October 1465; and St. Augustine's De civitate Dei, dated 12 June 1467, by which time Sweynheym and Pannartz had already established their second press, at Rome.
THE SUBIACO LACTANTIUS CONTAINS THE FIRST GREEK FOUNT. It was apparently cast in the course of printing the edition, for it does not appear in the earliest printed quires, where the Greek passages are left blank. Its appearance, together with the paper stocks, shows that the text was distributed between two presses and that the Greek type was first available for a few words in quire 4 and in sufficient quantity from quire 6 for one press and from at least quire 16 for the other. This is the only appearance of this Greek type; Sweyheym and Pannartz cast a second Greek fount for their books printed at Rome. Also in 1465, Fust and Schoeffer at Mainz printed only a few words of Greek in their first edition of Cicero's Paradoxa.
THE BOTFIELD COPY CONTAINS THE 2-LEAF QUIRE CITING ERRORS IN THE TEXT OF LACTANTIUS BY ANTONIUS RAUDENSIS, WHICH IS OFTEN MISSING. This quire is printed on paper marked with a cardinal's hat, which was also used (admixed with other stocks) for the final quires of the text (in the present copy first used in quire 16) and the rubrics table.
A LARGE, FRESH COPY. With last line on fo. 3/1r reset to correct final word to 'p[re]ceptis'. Cf. R. Proctor, The Printing of Greek in the fifteenth Century, pp. 24ff. HC *9806; BMC IV, 2 (IB. 17006-9); Goff L-1; IGI 5619; BSB-Ink L-2; Polain(B) 2418.