BONAVENTURE, Saint The life of the most holy father S. Francis

Douai, by Martin Bogard, 1635


16mo. pp. [xxxii], 208, 193-346, [vi] . ã , , A-Z . [lacking ã4 with portrait, last quire bound out of order]. Roman letter, some Italic. Small floriated woodcut initials, typographical ornaments, early autograph of William Eyston (of East Hendred) on title his marks below, bookplate of Milltown Park library on pastedown, with the ex-legato label of William O’Brian below. Title page a little dusty with closed tear repaired on verso, outer and upper edge a little frayed, light age yellowing, light waterstain towards for-edge at beginning, the odd mark. A good copy in charming English crimson morocco circa 1820, covers bordered with a single gilt rule and blind roll, spine triple gilt ruled in compartments, fleurons gilt to centres, edges gilt ruled, marbled endpapers.

Rare second edition of this English translation of the ‘Legenda maior beatissimi patris Francisci’ by Anthony Browne, Second Viscount Montague, dedicated to Lady Winefred Englefield, printed in Douai for the recusant market in England. The last leaf contains a note to the reader to excuse the printing errors as “it being done by strangers ignorant of our language.” Mountague’s dedication was omitted from the first edition but included in this second after his death in 1629.
Commissioned by the Franciscan Order, at the general chapter of Narbonne, Bonaventure wrote his official biography of St. Francis of Assisi in 1260. It was a literary composition intended to provide a unified and complete biography, unlike the Fioretti, which was merely a collection of anecdotes on St, Francis’ life and miracles. St Bonaventure described the life of St Francis as an example to the faithful. There is a general chronological framework in the beginning and end. The initial sections from chapters one to four deal with his early life, his conversion, the foundation and spread of the order; the final sections, from chapter thirteen to the end deal with his receiving of the stigmata, death and canonization. Within this general framework is the core of the treatise, nine chapters on the virtues, such as poverty piety and obedience, which are organized according to themes, drawing on incidents from St. Francis’ life to illustrate them. This section has an inner order according to the three stages of spiritual life: purgation, illumination and perfection. St. Bonaventure (1221-1274), an Italian theologian and monk, is widely considered the greatest Franciscan mystic after St. Francis himself. Some of St. Francis’ early companions were still alive at the time of composition and Bonaventure consulted them to gather anecdotes. The work is also based on two earlier works, those of Thomas of Celano and Julian of Speyer. This charming popular edition of this translation was intended for a Catholic audience in England and Ireland, the translation making it accessible to many more people than the Latin original.
The Eyston family of East Hendred, Hendred House, were recusants who remained Roman Catholic following the English Reformation. The medieval chapel of Saint Amand, a private chapel attached to the manor house, remained in Catholic use during penal times and is still used for occasional services today.

ESTC S112961. STC 3272. Allison and Rogers, II 93. “In this edition the dedicatory epistle by E. H. is omitted and replaced by Viscount Montague’s original dedicatory epistle signed: Anthony Mountague. There is also a new editor’s dedicatory epistle sgd.: F.C. [Franciscus a S. Clara or Franciscus Coventriensis, being both names in religion used by Christopher Davenport].Viscount Montague had died in 1629.” ESTC records three copies in US libraries, Yale, Folger and the University of Texas, Austin.
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