Eusebii Pamphilii de euangelica praeparatione

Treviso, Michael Manzolus 12 January, 1480.


Folio. 106 unnumbered leaves, a10 b-n8/6 o6 p8, initial and final blanks missing. Roman letter. Small hole not affecting reading to f8, occasional ultra-neat corrections to the text in black ink, almost imperceptible (possibly editorial), occasional typo ‘LIEBR’ for ‘LIBER’ on headers. Faded contemporary annotations to first few leaves. ‘s. 45’ and ‘10 #’ on rear pastedown. A very good, well-margined copy in C18 quarter light brown sheepskin and marbled paper over boards. Spine with gold-tooled single fillet and fleurons. Corners a bit worn, joints cracked.

A remarkably large copy on thick paper of George of Trebizond’s (1396-1486) Latin translation from the Greek of Eusebius’s important work of Christian apologetics, written at the beginning of the fourth century. A disciple of the scholar Pamphilius—hence the name ‘Eusebius Pamphilii’—Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, was an early Christian historian, exegete, and polemicist. His ‘De euangelica praeparatione’ (in Greek, ‘Eusebiou tou Pamphilou Euangelikēs proparaskeuēs’) elicited the interest of George of Trebizond and other Humanists as it argued for the pre-eminence of Judaeo-Christian over Greco-Roman theology, while engaging with the work of historians and philosophers from both sides. As he confutes the religious beliefs of the gentiles, particularly the Greeks, in relation to the Hebrew Scriptures, Eusebius also interprets their pagan ‘errors’ and ‘superstitions’ as an ‘evangelical preparation’—a wisdom deriving from divine revelation before the coming of the Judaic Law.

This second edition, printed by Michael Manzolus, reprises the one published by Nicolaus Jenson in Venice in 1470, the first book using a Roman typeface inspired by Humanist calligraphy. Like Jenson, Manzolus maintained wide margins and blank squares at the beginning of each section to allow ample room for additional illumination. Unlike the previous edition, Manzolus’s was edited by the Humanist scholar Girolamo Bonomi, who praised in verse Eusebius’s work and prepared the table of contents. The volume opens with George of Trebizond’s dedicatory letter to Pope Nicholas V, for whom he had worked as a secretary. There he celebrated his own mastery of Greek, Latin, Christian theology, and classical antiquity, stating that, through his accomplished translation, readers would be able to appreciate Eusebius’s text ‘as in a mirror’.

This fine copy of George of Trebizond’s translation from the Greek of Eusebius’s ‘De euangelica praeparatione’—an extraordinary book where theology, ethnography, and textual interpretation combine effortlessly—is an important testimony to the theoretical and practical achievements of Humanist scholarship.

ISTC ie00121000; Goff E121; Hain 6702; BMC XV VI, 888; GW 9443.


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