The Citie of God .. with the Learned Commentis of Jo. Lod. Vives.

London, Printed by George Eld, 1610.


FIRST EDITION thus. Folio pp.(xx) 921 (xi) first and last blank. [A⁴, ²A⁶, B-4I⁶, 4K⁴] Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut printer’s device on title, large historiated woodcut initials, grotesque woodcut headpieces and ornaments, bibliographical note of ‘E. H. Barker’ on pastedown, autograph ‘J Treacher’ 1839 below. Title a little dusty at head, light age yellowing, a few tiny single wormholes in lower margin of opening leaves the odd marginal mark or spot. A very good copy, crisp and clean in handsome contemporary English calf, covers bordered with a triple blind rule, strapwork arabesque gilt stamped at centres, spine with raised bands, expertly rebacked, original spine laid down, gilt ornament in compartments, in a green baize lined wooden case.

First edition of the first English translation of St. Augustine’s ‘City of God’, the first comprehensive survey of human history and the original text of that new science which Voltaire named ‘the philosophy of history’. It is designed as a great apologetic treatise in vindication of the Christian Church, which Augustine conceived as rising in the form of a new civic order on the ruins of the Roman Empire. It was begun in 413 and appeared in portions until 426. The first five books deal with the polytheism of Rome, the next five with Greek philosophy especially the Platonists and neo-Platonists, and the last twelve the history of time and eternity. Many modern concepts of the just society in economics, and of the just ruler in politics, derive from the work which presents history as having the goal of the salvation of mankind.

The dedication by Thorpe to William, earl of Pembroke, speaks of Healey as dead, and apologises for consequent imperfections in the translation. A second edition, revised, was issued in 1620, with a new dedication by William Crashaw to Pembroke and his brother Philip. Healey followed the elaborate edition of Juan Luis Vives, translating his commentary, and turning into English verse the numerous quotations by St. Augustine and by Vives from Greek and Latin poets. Extraordinarily it was the only English translation of the City of God till the appearance in 1871 of a translation of all Augustine’s works under the editorship of Marcus Dods.

“‘The City of God’ pervaded the whole Middle Ages – Einhard tells us that it was one of Charlemagne’s favourite books – and in the struggle between Pope and Emperor both sides drew arguments from it … The book remained authoritative until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when Bossuet was the last ‘Augustinian’ historian; and Vico was much indebted to him… The idea of international law was partly derived from the book; Grotius cites St. Augustine. Both Luther and Calvin took Augustine as the foundation of Protestantism next to the Bible itself… In our own day Lionel Curtis, Jacques Maritain, Reinhold Nebuhr, Paul Tillich and other thinkers have drawn inspiration from this great work.” – Printing and the Mind of Man 3 on the first edition.

This copy belonged to the classical scholar and lexicographer E. H. Barker (1788–1839) amanuensis and librarian to the famous Samuel Parr, “English classical scholar, was born at Hollym in Yorkshire. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, as a scholar in 1807, but left the university without a degree, being prevented by religious scruples from taking the oath then required. … After acting as amanuensis to the famous Samuel Parr, he settled down at Thetford in Norfolk, where he lived for about twenty-five years. … Barker was a prolific writer on classical and other subjects.… It is as a lexicographer, however, that Barker is chiefly known. While at Hatton, he conceived the design of a new edition of Stephanus’s Thesaurus Graecae Linguae. … It was completed in twelve volumes (1816–1828). ..He also published notes on the Etymologicum Gudianum, and collaborated with Professor Dunbar of Edinburgh in a Greek and English Lexicon (1831). The editio princeps (1820) of the treatise attributed to Arcadius, Περὶ τόνων, was published by him from a Paris MS. Continental scholars entertained a more favourable opinion of him than those of his own country.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.

ESTC S106897. STC 916. Pforzheimer, 19. Lowndes I, p. 87.


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