THOMAS A KEMPIS (ca. 1380-1471). Imitatio Christi. [Augsburg:] Günther Zainer, [before 5 June 1473].
Chancery 2° (303 x 204mm). Collation: 1-210 310(+10) 4-710 86. 76 leaves, fo. 76v blank. Type: 2:118G. 35 lines. The first leaf with CONTEMPORARY SOUTH-GERMAN ILLUMINATION, 5-line initial in magenta on gold ground within green frame, scrolling foliate and floral extension to 3 sides, 3- to 6-line initials in red, one with later penwork decoration. Fo. 3/10 is a cancel printed on a narrow leaf, as in most other copies; the outer margin here has been extended. MS. correction to the name 'Gintheum' in colophon as in most, if not all, copies. (Wormed, marginal repair in 4 leaves.) Early 20th-century brown morocco by Tuckett. Provenance: contemporary marginal annotations; Lord Amherst of Hackney (1835-1908, pencilled note on flyleaf, sale Sotheby's, 24 March 1909, lot 472, £200 to Delauney).
THE AMHERST COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION of the most influential devotional work of the later Middle Ages. Although its authorship has been mistakenly attributed to Jean Gerson, it is the work of Thomas à Kempis, whose holograph manuscript survives at the Bibliothèque Royale at Brussels. It is the most influential document of the devotio moderna, a lay movement advocating pursuit of a religious life in imitation of Christ, through meditation, instruction and writing. Because access to Scripture was central to this aim of universal spirituality, the copying of manuscripts was one actitivy of its members, and two manuscripts, a Bible and the works of St. Bernard, copied by Thomas à Kempis survive at Darmstadt; in 1475 a printing press was established by the community at Brussels. Zainer issued the Imitatio Christi both separately and in combination with 8 other tracts. A LARGE COPY. HC *8589; BMC II, 318 (IB. 5542-43); CIBN H-118; Goff I-4; PMM 13.