Breviarium totius iuris canonici.

Memmingen, Albrecht Kunne, 1486.


Folio. ff. (v) 2-129 (*4 a10 b-n8 o10 p8 q6), last blank. Gothic letter, double column, ms. initials in red and blue, attractive contemporary coloured woodcut portrait of Paolo Attavanti in his library to recto of first fol. Light age browning to a few ll., slight marginal foxing, a few wormholes to margins of first and last gathering, early marginal repair to first fol., occasional minor thumb or grease marks, blank lower outer corner of fol. 27 torn away. An excellent, well-margined copy, on high-quality thick paper, in contemporary south German calf over wooden boards, lacking clasps, a few small holes. Blind-tooled to a triple-ruled panel design, second border with interlacing fleurs-de-lis and leafy branch, centre panel with stamped floral diapers. New spine superimposed c1600, four original compartments, gilt double-ruled dentelle border to each, raised bands, gilt author and title, a few wormholes at foot. Occasional early annotation in brown-black and red ink, early ex-libris ‘Sum Georgij Lorber (?) Carinthius natione’ to fly, ex-libris ‘Munus dnj Joannis Pächler Beneficiati S Agnetis Brixina Anno dni M D XXXV XV Novembris’, ‘Ad Bibliotheca Neocell. B.V. 1486’ and ‘Sera in fundo parsimonia Jacob[u]s Cendr[u]s (?)’ to first fol., ‘Memingen per Albert Kune 1486’ on second, early Latin inscription ‘Modo finis omniums rerum (?)’ to recto of last, ms legal notes concerning the beginning or renewal of proceedings, especially in relation to ‘infidelibus’ which would normally refer to Muslims or pagans to fly and last.

The woodcut image of Paolo Attavanti in his library on the first fol., bearing the acronym ‘M[agister] P[aulus] F[lorentinus] o[rdinis] S[ancti] S[piritus]’ is the first author portrait ever to appear in a printed book. It first appeared in the 1479 edition of this text, published by Leonardus Pachel and Ulrich Scinzenzeler.

Excellent, well-margined copy of this masterful manual of canon law. Paolo Attavanti (1445-99) was a Florentine preacher, theologian and ‘doctor in utroque iuris’ (canon and civil law). He was a valued member of the humanist circle of Lorenzo de’ Medici, which included the philosopher Marsilio Ficino. A prolific writer, he authored hagiographic and historical works, and a commentary to Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’. This legal work was a manual for practitioners designed to make the consultation of canon law ‘easier, speedier and pleasanter’. Canon law was the legal system of the Roman Catholic Church, regulating the rights and duties of individuals, property, crime, trials, etc. The thorough index of the ‘Breviarium’ refers the reader to hundreds of subjects, from purgatory, penance and the images of saints to practical questions like procedures for the election of bishops and the duration of a father’s punishment across generations. Fundamental in canon law was the code of behaviour for religious, including whether they were allowed to bear weapons and their duty to avoid all kinds of theatrical spectacles. Judicial regulations covered all phases of trials and explained, for instance, that no criminal accusations could be accepted from excommunicates, actors, heretics, heathens and Jews. Strict regulations on marriage were crucial as aristocrats and princes often infringed them by marrying a close relative or having illegitimate children. The ‘arbor consanguinitatis’, which occupies an entire page, illustrated the degrees of kinship whereby individuals were too closely related to be granted leave to marry. The annotator of this copy was interested in these issues as he highlighted sections on the illegitimate offspring of priests, bishops and popes.

The ownership of this copy can be traced to Bavaria. In 1535, the book was left by the heirs of Johann Pächler (d.1535), vicar of Egern and ‘beneficiatus’ (or donor) to the altar of St Agnes in the Duomo of Bressanone, to the Abbey of Novacella in South Tyrol. A catalogue of the Bibliotheca Neocellensis, published in 1777, includes what is probably this copy, listed as a 4to, its actual size.

Only Harvard Law School copy recorded in the US.

BMC II, 604; GW M30141; Goff P180; H 7161*. C. Pertinger, Raritas librorum in Bibliotheca Novacellensi (Brixinae, 1777).


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