Augustinus / Vives
De civitate dei … Basel 1522
De Civitate dei […] emendatum […] per […] Joan. Lodovicum Vivem […] et per eundem eruditissmimis planeque divo Augustino dignis commentariis […] illustratum […] — Basileae, ex officina nostra (J. Frobenii), pridie calendas Septembris 1552. [Basel, Froben, 1 Sept. 1522].
First edition of Vives’ commentary.
Folio (360 x 241 mm). (22), 787, (1) pp. Contemporary blindstamped half pigskin over wooden boards. Clasps and one catch gone. Rubbed, slight damages to outer edge of lower half of rear wooden boards. Tear in lower blank margin of Y4, few ink spots. Faint toning to a number of leaves.
Wood-cut borders: aa1 (Tabula Cebetis by Hans Holbein), aa2 (made of 4 border-pieces: the upper and lower pieces by Ambrosius Holbein, kids playing music, and seven boys as artes liberales, vertical pieces by Holbein/Faber), a1 (by Urs Graf, made of 4 border-pieces), Tt8 (Froben’s device, and border by Ambrosius Holbein: Arminius battle, slander of Apelles).
Numerous wood-cut initials of several Basel alphabets.
Provenance: Ex libris Seminarii Grayensis (Gray, Dépt. Haute-Saône ?) on fly-leaf; Seminarii Archiepiscopalis [… ?] on aa2; early notes and underlinings in brown and red ink.
VD16 A 4181; Estelrich no. 100. This edition not in the exhibition catalogue Vives te Leuven, Leuven 1993.
¶ The 1522 edition of De Civitate Dei presents without any doubt the most important commentary on Augustine’s major work so far published. In 1529 it became volume five of Froben’s Augustine edition. However this later edition is lacking Vives’ foreword, introduction and commentary, which took up to nearly 300 of 787 pages in the 1522 edition.
Some aspects of the history of this important edition are reported by Bietenholz (Contemporaries of Erasmus, III, 411f.): “Erasmus persuaded Vives to edit Augustine’s De civitate Dei for the projected Froben edition of the Father’s works. Vives began the task in January 1521, sending his text and commentary in instalments, the last in July 1522. Direct collaboration, however, placed a strain on the relationship of the two men, as Erasmus pressed Vives to complete the project quickly. In July 1522 Vives complained to Cranevelt of the harshness of Erasmus’ letters and of his threats that Froben would publish an incomplete version of the work. Vives suffered from insomnia, and in August 1522, shortly after sending the last books to Basel, fell seriously ill. [To his friend Cranevelt he wrote: “dum Civitatem construo, corpus destruam”.] De civitate Dei was published in September, with an introductory bei Erasmus, an eulogy of Erasmus by Vives, and the dedicatory epistle to Henry VIII […] By August 1528, however, there were signs of a growing coolness in the relationship of the two humanists […] A third reason was continuing friction over De civitate Dei. Early in 1525 Erasmus had complained to Vives that sales of the edition [of 1522] were poor, blaming this on the commentary and pointing out that he had advised brevity. [In fact the Cologne printer and bookdealer Birckmann wrote to Vives, that he had sold more than 30 copies during a short stay in London.] In October 1527 he informed Vives hat the Froben press wished to delay reprinting De civitate Dei for the new collected works of Augustine because many copies of Vives’ edition [of 1522] remained unsold. When Vives countered that he had heard from the bookseller Franz Birckmann [of Cologne] that sales were going well, Erasmus harshly denied this claim […] The quarrel appeared to be patched up when Vives sent Erasmus a conciliatory letter and the Froben press decided to reprint De civitate Dei. However, when De civitate Dei was reissued in December 1529 as the fifth volume in the Froben Augustine, it was in a version improved by Erasmus but without Vives’ commentary and prefaces […].
Despite Erasmus’ negative reaction, Vives’ commentary was a valuable contribution to the elucidation of Augustinian thought and was republished frequently, in English and French translations as well as in Latin. Vives was no longer printed in Basel in Erasmus’ lifetime, whereas after his death the Basel printers revived their in interest in Vives’ work almost explosively […].”
Vives described his commentary as a philosophical treatise „with slight touches of theology here and there“ (Noreña, Vives, 1970, p. 136). It was forbidden by the Jesuits, condemned by the theologians of Louvain in 1546, by Pope Paul IV in 1559, included in the Index of forbidden books impressed in 1584 by order of the General Inquisitor of Spain, Gaspar Quiroga, and, finally, added to the Roman Index of Pope Gregory XVI as late as 1862. (cf. Noreña p. 135)