GREGORY IX Decretales domini pape Gregorii noni […].

Venice, Lucantonio Giunta, 1514


4to, ff. (iv), 536, (lvi). Red and black gothic letter, double column, text framed by the commentary. T-p within woodcut border with grotesques, foliage, putti and animals, title and printers’ mark (Lucantonio Giunta’s lily) in red. Decorated woodcut initials, full page woodcut depicting Jesus before Pilate on verso of fv. 182 quarter to half page woodcuts illustrating text, full page ‘Arbor consanguinitatis’ on verso of f. ccccxv and ‘Arbor affinitatis’ on recto of f. ccccxv, printed side notes, very rare Latin marginalia. Intermittent age yellowing, small ink splash to t-p and next couple of leaves, ink burn with loss of 5 and 2 words respectively to ff. cclxxx-cclxxxi, some margins lightly waterstained, worm-trail at gutter of ff. l-lxviii, marginal foxing and spotting to central and final gatherings, outer edges a bit soiled. Repair to lower blank margin of t-p. A good copy in contemporary morocco, covers triple blind ruled to a panel design, second panel filled with roll of running plant-scroll decoration, blind stamped ornament in central panel. Spine triple blind ruled in 7 compartments, triple blind rule cross design in 4 compartments, four later ties. Spine remounted.

A handsomely illustrated edition of Pope Gregory IX’s decretals, printed by the Venetian Lucantonio Giunta in 1514. Among the other illustrated editions of this fundamental canonical text, such as the first printed edition by Heinrich Eggesteyn (Strasbourg, 1470-72) with 13 miniatures or the 1528 edition by Octavianus Scoto (Venice) with only five, this one stands out for the considerably higher number of pictures illustrating the text. In this volume, the printer included – in addition to the full-page tables of descent and consanguinity (Arbor Consanguinitatis and Affinitatis) – more than 180 splendid woodcuts. The full-page scene depicting Pilate washing his hands before Christ (f. V, verso) is perhaps the most fascinating. In fact, it is a copy of a woodcut realised by the famous Swiss goldsmith, painter and printmaker Urs Graf (1485-1528), whose artistic output arises from Albrecht’s Dürer tradition. Interestingly, Pilate is wearing a Jewish hat and a beard: from the eleventh century onwards, this was a popular iconography used to symbolise that, together with Pilate, the Jews were to blame for Christ’s death. Part of a series of 25 woodcuts of Christ’s ministry and the Passion, this picture appeared for the first time in ‘Passionis Christi unum ex quattuor Evangelistis Textum’, published in Strasbourg by J. Knoblouch in 1507. The artist realised another reproduction of an Urs Graf’s scene, which appears in the ‘Decretum Gratiani’ printed by L. Giunta in the same year. As the style of the numerous woodcuts in both editions is similar, it is possible that they were made by the same artist – however, an identification is not proposed by Essling and Sander.

The Decretals of Gregorii IX, also known as ‘Liber Extra’, is a compilation of constitutions, papal letters and conciliar canons published by Pope Gregory IX in 1234. This collection was realised by the jurist St. Raymond of Penyafort, a Dominican, as a replacement and update to the former Decretum Gratiani published in 1050. This edition, framed by the standard gloss (or Glossa Ordinaria) by the canonist Bernardo Bottoni, is arranged in five books, respectively concerned with the institutions of church government, procedure, clerical life, marriage and criminal law. Within each chapter, headings are rubricated to mark that they have the force of law. Part of the Corpus Iuris Canonici, Gregory IX’s Decretals remained binding law of the Catholic church until 1917.

At the beginning of the XVI century, the Giunta press in Venice was one of the leading publishers in Venice, exporting copies all around Europe. 

A very good copy of this milestone of canon law, with unique and beautiful illustrations.


USTC 800250; OPAC SBN CNCE013386; Censimento nazionale delle edizioni italiane del XVI secolo 13386; Sander 3281; Essling 1818.
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