D. Ambrosii Mediolanensis Episcopi De Officiis. Libri Tres.

Mainz, Excudebat Ioannes Albinus, 1602.


8vo. [xiv], 375, [i]. Roman letter, some Italic and Greek, text in double column. Small woodcut headpieces, typographical ornaments, manuscript monogram ‘MM’ at foot of tp, another ‘J I M’ besides, “Liber johannis Manley 1616” on verso of title. Light age yellowing, some spotting, small waterstain in lower margin, chip to fore-edge of t-p (softening) tiny worm-trail in lower blank margin becoming single pinprick holes towards end. A good copy in fine contemporary English calf, covers bordered with a double gilt rule, large gilt stamped corner-pieces, central scrolled gilt stamped lozenge around a small oval, semée of small tools gilt, letters H and M (possibly Henry Manley) gilt in central ovals respectively, spine with repeated scroll tools, red morocco label gilt, all edges gilt and gauffered

A very good copy of this rare edition of the De Officiis of St. Ambrose in a very fine contemporary English binding. De officiis, by Ambrose of Milan (c. 339–397), is one of the most important texts of Latin Patristic literature, and a major work of early Christian ethics. Modelled on the De officiis of Cicero, it synthesizes Stoic assumptions on virtue and expediency with biblical patterns of humility, charity, and self–denial to present Ambrose’s vision of the appropriate conduct for representatives of the church of Milan in the late 380s. Ambrose tries to demonstrate that Christian values not only match but also exceed the moral standards advocated by Cicero. His purpose is not to build bridges between Cicero and Christ, but to replace Cicero’s work with a new Christian account of duties, designed to show the social triumph of the gospel in the world of the Roman Empire. “Ambrose’s De Officiis has proved to be the most influential of all his surviving works, and is among the most important texts of patristic literature. As a document which reflects the spiritual convictions and the moral and intellectual assumptions of a leading western churchman of the late fourth century, De Officiis has been studied, quoted, edited, and translated by a host of scholars over the centuries. It deserves study on a variety of levels: as a major example of Christian humanism; as evidence of the relationship between Stoicism and early Christianity; as a seminal work of moral theology and manual of clerical instruction; and as a reflection of the social and intellectual prejudices of the son of a high ranking Roman offical and former provincial governor turned bishop. In all of these areas, the importance of the text as a work of historical interest is not in doubt.” Ivor J. Davidson ‘Ambrose’s de officiis and the Intellectual Climate of the Late Fourth Century.’ The work contains copious citations fromScripture and Cicero, and is of great interest for its historical and social context.

The binding is fine example of a late sixteenth century, early seventeenth-century English gilt stamped centre and corner-piece design with a semée of small tools. It is very similar in style and finish to another in the BL shelfmark c46b3 on a work from the same period, and is in very finely preserved condition. 

BM STC Ger. C17th. vol. 1 A551. 

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