GREGORY I. Moralia sive expositio in Job.

Venice, Andreas Torresanus, de Asula, 1496


Folio. ff. (xv) 327, lacking a1 (blank except title ‘Moralia Sancti Gregorii Pape Super Job’) and I8 (blank). Gothic letter, double column. Outer margin of a2-3 and lower blank margin of I7 repaired, light water stain to upper blank margin of early ll., a few small, scattered, mainly marginal worm holes, intermittent marginal foxing in places, occasional ms. marginalia and image, few scattered ink spots, upper margin of I7 strengthened, early ms note on lower. A very good, generally clean copy, on thick paper, in polished C17 calf, C18 reback in straight-grained morocco, marbled eps, raised bands, spine double gilt ruled, gilt-lettered morocco labels, scattered worm holes at head and foot of spine, extremities a bit rubbed. Bookplate of George Fletcher to ffep, occasional early marginalia.

This edition—‘rigorous […] with a handsome Gothic typeface’—is included among those ‘of priceless value according to the unanimous opinion of bibliographers’ produced by the Torresani two years after Manutius had left, on amicable terms, to set up his own press (Bernoni, ‘Dei Torresani’, 79, n.89). This was also the penultimate edition of the C15. From a Patrician Roman family, Gregory (504-604AD) served as prefect, the highest office in Rome, before deciding to devote his life to the Christian church. Albeit keen on monastic meditation, he was, for his talents in diplomacy and administration, elected pope. He famously organised the first systematic mission to Britain, including Augustine of Canterbury, to convert the Anglo-Saxons. ‘Moralia’ was written during his diplomatic stay at the court of Tiberius II in Constantinople, and it was completed after his papal appointment. His major work, ‘Moralia’ is also one of the longest Western theological texts. It is a monumental commentary on moral questions raised in the book of Job—addressed in their historical, moral, allegorical and typological sense—Job being interpreted as a prefiguration of Christ and of the persecuted Church. ‘Encyclopaedic and synoptic, it is a cornucopia brimming with odd bits of information about the natural world, medicine, human nature, and society mixed unpredictably with sober analyses of guilt and sin, disquisitions on Christology, and reflections on the Church’s place in the world, along with the unfolding of Job’s story’—a manual for Christian life (Straw, ‘Job’s Sin’, 72-73). The sparse annotator of this copy glossed two sections as ‘allegoria’ and ‘moralitas’. Handsome, fresh copy of one of the most influential theological works.

BMC V 312; Goff G433; HC 7933*; GW 11435; Bernoni 89; Renouard 19:1. C. Straw, ‘Job’s Sin in the Moralia of Gregory the Great’, in A Companion to Job in the Middle Ages, ed. T.F. Harkins (Leiden, 2016), 71-100.

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