CANON LAW FOR CONFESSORS

Supplementum Summae Magistratiae seu Pisanellae.

[Italy, c. 1450]

£79,500

Illuminated Latin ms. on vellum, thick 8vo, 187x130mm. 360 leaves, wanting perhaps a bifolium from end (last leaves of alphabetical index with entries after ‘F’), text complete, collation: i-xxxvi10, with catchwords and traces of original quire and leaf signatures. Double column, 47 lines, good semi-humanist bookhand, capitals and rubrics in red, paragraph marks in red or blue, initials in simple red or blue (some with contrasting penwork), one large illuminated initial on frontispiece enclosed within white vine foliage on blue, green and muted red grounds, slight damage to innermost part, one large thumb-smudge to bottom outer corner of last leaf, very minor marginal wormholes, in excellent condition on ivory-white vellum. Contemporary binding of reversed doeskin over bevelled wooden boards, remains of two clasps at foredge, rebacked, green leather title pieces, scuffs, tears and holes to exterior sides of binding, back board somewhat wormed, folded cloth-covered case within fitted red morocco slipcase.

A popular Confessor’s handbook,  a handsome copy written within years or decades of the life of the author; in excellent condition, and still in its original binding.

Provenance:

  1. Most probably copied in northern Italy, and certainly within years or decades of the life of the author. The text saw great popularity in the second half of the fifteenth century, particularly in Italy, and this copy would appear to be among those produced in the first flush of interest.
  2. Col. Robert Coleman Hall Brock (1861-1906; his armorial printed ex libris pasted to front board), prominent Philadelphia lawyer who served as colonel and commander of the 2nd Regiment, Pennsylvania National Guard. His family’s wealth came from what his obituary called “immense coal and iron estates” and enabled him an Oxford education as well as the chance to build up large and wide-ranging collections. Just before his death he was addressed as “one of the wealthiest and best known of American philatelists”. In later years he gambled excessively in Monte Carlo and in 1903 became one of the very first Americans to drive from coast to coast.
  3. Christie’s, New York, 19 May 1995, lot 96 : photocopy of catalogue included.
  4. The Book Block of Connecticut; their cat. 10, no. 3: catalogue clippings and illuminated exhibition label included.
  5. Dr Wolfgang G. Scholz (1928-2015) of Nuremberg, Germany, and Mystic, Connecticut, USA: his receipt from the Book Block for $6500 dated 1984, included. His collection recently dispersed by auction.

Nicolas de Osimo (also ‘Ausmo’ and ‘Auximo’) was a Franciscan preacher who lived from some point in the last decades of the fourteenth century to 1451. He turned to the contemplative religious life after an initial training as a lawyer (graduated Bologna 1393), and from the convent of San Paolo served the Franciscan Order in Apulia, modern day Bosnia, and while he seems never to have travelled there held office as the Order’s Superior in Palestine.

The present work is his revision and extension of the popular Summa of Bartholomeus of San Concordio (c. 1260-1347) as well as drawing on John of Frieburg’s Summa confessorum. It is a manual of moral guidance and Canon Law that was greatly popular in the second half of the fifteenth century. It updated the texts of its predecessors, but also crucially, it arranged its subject matter alphabetically, making it an easy to use practical tool for medieval confessors. As it notes at the conclusion of the text (here fol. 359v), it was completed on 28 November 1444 at the Franciscan convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli, near Milan. Despite substantial scholarly interest (see for example, M. Sensi, ‘Il Supplementum alla Pisanella di Nicola da Osimo’, in Bollettino storico della città di Foligno, vol. 35/6, 2012-13, pp. 325-36), there is no modern edition and no accurate listing of surviving manuscripts beyond general academic statements of its popularity. That said, it is rare to the market and only nine copies for sale can be traced in the last century.

L3287

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