Decretales cum summariis suis et textuum divisionibus ac etiam rebicaru continuationibus.

Venice, Baptista de Tortis, 1489.


FIRST EDITION thus. Folio. ff. (iv) 288 (i) with both blanks (A1 and K8). Gothic letter. Printed in red and black in double column for both text and glosses, elegant white on red woodcut printer’s device on verso of last, capital spaces with guide letters, neat contemporary marginal notes in an elegant hand with ‘nota bene’ and pointing hands, including a small portrait drawing of a scribe with a beard, and occasional grotesque heads, five line Latin epigram commencing ‘Sub qua lege vivebant antiqui’ in contemporary Italic manuscript on blank recto of first leaf, various manuscript aphorisms (?) in similar hand on final blank. Some damp spotting on first few leaves, little marginal water stain at head, occasional marginal thumb mark, a few leaves of first gathering slightly loose. A very good, well margined copy, crisp and clean on thick paper in near contemporary limp vellum, a little worn at extremities, some loss at tail of spine, a very handsome volume.

Extremely rare first edition of the Decretals of Gregory IX with the additional glosses of Hieronymus Clarius, beautifully printed in red and black by de Tortis at Venice. BMC lists two further editions by De Tortis with Clarius’ glosses of 1491 and 1494, which are near reprints of each other, and very close copies of this. Both have notes in the prologue identifying the number of copies printed at 2,300. The present edition must have been much smaller, or for some reason has survived in far fewer numbers, as it is considerably rarer, with no copy recorded in any libraries in the USA or in the UK. As far as we can ascertain, it is the first published work of any kind by Hieronymus Clarius so perhaps the publisher avoided a risk on an untried author/ editor. Certainly it must have been an expensive production.

The text is beautifully and very carefully printed with tiny index letters for the glosses making them particularly useful and easy to reference. The whole work is elegantly laid out and conceived, in a fine Gothic letter with titles, capitals and chapters in red, making it easy to read and use. Prepared originally by Raymundus de Pennaforte and promulgated in 1234, the Decretals of Gregory IX remained the basis of canon law at least until 1918. Decretals are Papal edicts that formulate decisions in ecclesiastical law. These make up most of the ‘Corpus Juris’. They cover such topics as usury, the treatment of heretics and schismatics, the rights and restrictions applying to Muslims and Jews, testamentary succession, sexual offenses and divorce and a wide range of what would now be classed as general civil and criminal law.

The Decretals, also known as the Liber extra, a compilation of 1971 papal letters, constitutions and conciliar canons drawn principally from the century prior to its issue, has long been understood as a key text for the study of the medieval papacy, the rise of scholasticism within the universities, and the extension of the Church’s jurisdiction into almost every area of medieval life. This edition is glossed by Hieronymous Clarius, Archpriest of Brescia, who subsequently published several other legal works with de Tortis including a Corpus Iuris Civilis a year later. We have not been able to find any further information about him except his speciality in canon law. His gloss on the decretals is considerably rarer than those of Bernard Bottoni with the additions of Joannes Andreae. A very good original copy of this monumental publication.

Not in BMC or Goff. ISTC No. ig00464500. HC 8022. Pell Ms 5413. IGI 4467. GKW 11479.


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