LACTANTIUS [with] (2) TERTULLIAN (1) Divinarum institutionum libri septem (with) (2) Apologeticus adversus gentes.

Venice, in aedibus haeredum Aldi, et Andreae soceri, 1535


8vo. Two works in one, ff. (xii) 328 (xvi) 47 (xliii). Italic letter, occasional Roman and Greek. Printer’s device to t-p and recto of last. Light age browning in places, heavier to pre-penultimate gathering, some slight marginal foxing, tiny worm trails to lower outer corner of first few ll., faint water stains to some margins, small ink spot to fol. 317 obscuring a few letters, occasional contemporary marginalia. A very good, well-margined copy in handsome contemporary probably Bolognese goatskin, traces of ties, a few wormholes to covers, blue edges faded. Blind-tooled to a triple-ruled panel design, panel border with interlacing floral branch, centre panels with blind-tooled ivy leaves to corners and rhombus-shaped centrepieces with fleurons. Spine in four compartments, blind-tooled double-ruled border and cross-hatched single-rule decoration to each, raised bands with blind-tooled single rule, a few wormholes, loss to three compartments. Inscriptions ‘Ex libris ferd. di Gasparina (?) 1707’, ‘Festina lente’, ‘Est de Neapolj’ (both contemporary) to t-p, early erased inscription ending in ‘nativitati dñi 1558’ to fol. 258, occasional early annotation.

The handsome binding was made in central-northern Italy. It resembles a Bolognese binding in de Marinis II, 1270 bis.

Very good, well-margined editions of these milestones of early Christian apologetics, edited by the monk and humanist Onorato Fascitello (1502-64). Born in Numidia, Lactantius (c.250-325AD) moved to Greece where he taught rhetoric and converted to Christianity. After resigning his post to escape Diocletian’s religious persecutions, he lived in poverty until he became advisor to Emperor Constantine. The main focus of his works is the criticism of pagan cults and the formulation of a coherent Christian theology. ‘Institutiones divinae’ was the first attempt at a large-scale theorisation of Christianity in Latin; it was later turned into an ‘Epitome’. The owner of this copy was interested in Book I on ‘false’ religions. He highlighted sections on pagan deities and demi-gods in Greek and Egyptian cults—e.g., Mercury (or Thoth), the Sibyls, Hercules Africanus, Apollo and Jupiter—and on Euhemeristic theories explaining why pagan gods were rather posthumously deified humans. Lactantius conceived ‘De opificio Dei’ as a defence of Christian truth during Diocletian’s persecutions, and wrote ‘De ira Dei’ against Epicurean and Stoic beliefs. The poems ‘Phoenix’, ‘Carmen de Dominica Resurrectione’ and ‘Carmen de Passione Domini’ are no longer attributed to Lactantius; the first inspired the famous, namesake Anglo-Saxon poem. Tertullian (155-240AD), of whom little is known, was born in Carthage and was probably a lawyer and priest. He became one of the earliest defenders of Christianity against pagan cults like Gnosticism; he was also the first writer in Latin to use the word ‘trinity’. Tertullian’s ‘Apologeticus’ discussed key theological questions like the nature of Christ and the devil, the kingdom of God, the Roman religion, and why pagan deities should not be considered ‘gods’. This Aldine work only appeared, very appropriately, bound with Lactantius’s critique of paganism. Unlike in the first Aldine edition of 1515, it is here recorded in the initial t-p and its pagination integrated in the register.

Rénouard 113:2; BM STC It. p. 366; Brunet II, 736.
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