Expositio in psalmos Miserere mei deus… (with) Expositio orationis…

[Paris], [Josse Bade], [1510-20; 1517].


8vo. two vols in one. 1) ff. (40). a-e8. 2) ff. (28). a-c8, d4. Lettre Bâtard, Roman letter in the second work. Josse Bade’s beautiful woodcut ‘printing press’ device on both titles (Renouard ‘Badius Ascensius’ marque no. 1), small white on black cribé initials, some contemporary marginalia and underlinnings in the first sermon of the second work, “Domus lenom. Congr. missionis 1725” ms. on title. Light age yellowing, the occasional very minor marginal mark. Very good copies, crisp and clean, on thick paper, in early brown speckled paper over boards, spine with raised bands, gilt label, lower compartment chewed, early ms. case mark on fly.

Beautifully printed, early Parisian editions by Josse Bade, of two of Savonarola’s most influential works. The first work is compilation of Savonarola’s writings on the psalms including his exposition on St. Ambrose’s rendering of Psalm 80 into a hymn on the Virgin Birth and his ‘Infelix ego’, a Latin meditation on the Miserere, Psalm 51, composed in prison by 8 May 1498, after he was tortured on the rack, and two weeks before he was burned at the stake in the Piazza delle Signoria in Florence on 23 May 1498. Savonarola’s torturers had spared only his right arm during the torture, so that he would be able to sign his confession: after doing so, and in despair at not being strong enough to resist his prolonged torture, he wrote the Infelix ego and a portion of a companion meditation, Tristitia obsedit me, on Psalm 30. He was executed before he was able to complete it. Savonarola was devastated at his own personal weakness. After signing the confession, recanting his beliefs, and denying that his prophecies had been sent by God, he felt the need to prostrate himself before God and beg for forgiveness. Penitential Psalm 51, the Miserere, provided the inspiration for his long and impassioned cry for mercy, a document which was to become highly influential in the years before the Reformation, especially in music history. Almost immediately after his execution Savonarola’s two meditations were in print, and they spread quickly throughout Europe. Of all his writings they became the most famous, appearing in 15 editions in Italy by 1500, and being translated into most European languages during the 16th century. While Infelix ego was translated into Italian, French, German, Flemish, and Spanish, there were more editions of it in English than in any other language (21), all appearing between 1534 and 1578. Infelix ego was widely set by musicians. At first, it was alluded to secretly, rather than being directly set to music. Josquin des Prez’s’s famous setting of the Miserere, written in Ferrara around 1503-1504, is an example; its structure mirroring Savonarola’s meditation, imitating its simplicity and phrasing, and including a refrain of “Miserere mei deus”, after each verse, as in Savonarola’s meditation. The second work contains his important and influential sermon on the Lords Prayer, in which he comments in detail on each line of the prayer. Both editions of these works, finely printed by Josse Bade, are rare. Interestingly Brunet cites another copy in which both are bound together.

1) BM STC Fr. C16th p. 395. Renouard ‘Badius Ascensius’ III p. 248. Brunet, V 159.

2) Not in BM STC Fr. C16th. Renouard ‘Badius Ascensius’ III p. 248. Brunet, V 160.


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