Decretales Epistolae.

Paris, Claudium Cheuallonium, 1537.


8vo. ff. (20) 332. Mainly Roman letter, some Italic, woodcut printer’s device to title page, small floriated woodcut initials, two larger at start, depicting Gregory enthroned with a book of the decretals. Light age yellowing, infrequent slight foxing, small ink stain with some corrosion to upper fore edge of final quires, faint mostly marginal damp stain to a few leaves at end. A good copy in contemporary double blind-ruled and thick gilt interlacing rope-work panel-stamped goatskin, slightly arabesque central gilt ornament composed of smaller tools, and matching corner pieces. Spine blind-tooled in criss-cross pattern. Three corners, upper edge of lower board and part of spine carefully repaired. Three pages of early Latin manuscript at start: extract from Titulus VI of the Decretal (p. 24v) on front pastedown, name ‘ASONA’ below; collection of legal maxims in two near-contemporary hands to free endpaper, e.g. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” “Wrong demands no vengeance but justice.” A few leaves annotated with explanatory gloss in very small hand. On title page, autograph at head ‘sorbonnis’, ‘Ad usum Alexandri Bandini’ crossed through, ‘Collegii Solesani’ of the Abbey at Solesmes below, ‘Angiolo Bidarii’ crossed through at foot. On title page verso ‘Ex libris universitis Scrivistica?’. Latin line from 2 Timothy 2 on rear free endpaper right: “No man, being a soldier to God, entangleth himself with secular businesses,” pen and ink drawing, of the end of a lawyer’s bench, to verso. All edges gilt, richly gauffered, matching interlacing of cover panels, lacking ties.

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 offences and divorce and a wide range of what would now be classed as general civil and criminal law. The (all-around) glosses are those originally compiled by Bernardo Bottoni (d. 1266), with later accretions by Giovanni d’Andrea and others.

The attractive binding is from Northern Italy (probably Venetian) and is contemporary with the book. The outer border and panel somewhat resemble Henry Davis Gift Volume 3, 241. The luxurious combination of high-grade goatskin and gilding, and ornately gauffered edges suggest a wealthy law student or practitioner.

Solesmes Abbey is a French Benedictine monastery, founded in 1010. We have not been able to identify Asona, or Alessandro Bandini (though there was a Florentine architect in the 1780s.)

Not in BM STC Fr., Adams, Brunet or Graesse.


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