[Jerome attr.] Vitae sanctorum patrum, sive Vitas patrum. [with] De laude et effectu virtutum. [with] Pseudo-Macarius: Epistola ad monachos
Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 7 May 1478. First edition thus.
Royal Folio; leaves measure 415 mm x 285 mm, with vast margins, apparently untrimmed. Bound in 15th-century blind-stamped South-German pigskin over wooden boards. Covers richly decorated in blind using both rolls and individual stamps, including flowerpots, dragon, double-headed eagle, ‘lamb of God’, text banners, etc; rear cover of somewhat different design with more geometric patterns. The quality of tooling – both in workmanship and in the detailing of the stamps – is superb. Most likely a formerly chained binding with evidence of several formerly present metal bosses, corner-pieces and clasps (all now gone).
Old manuscript title to top spine compartment.
246 leaves (forming total of 492 pages); foliated in roman numerals: , ccxxxviii,  ff. Collation: [16 2-1310.8 14-1510 16-2510.8 26-278 286]. Complete, including all three integral blanks [11, 21, 286]. Printed in double column; 51 lines per page and headline. Text in fine large gothic letter: Type: 3:110aG (text), 4:160G (headings and headlines). Rubricated throughout in contemporary hand: 3- to 6-line lombard initials
supplied in red and/or green, some with intricate penwork infill decorations and/or long marginal extensions, paragraph marks and capital strokes in red. Opening 14-line initial ‘B’ on 22r splendidly illuminated by contemporary South-German artist: the delicately painted letter ‘B’ filled with intricate tracery in lighter shades of blue is inhabited with a fine scene of St Jerome with his lion and an open book on a lectern (painted in red, white, brown and orange), all against the solid liquid gold background; the initial’s extensions form winding vines terminating in large flowers and gold bezants, painted with consummate skill. in shades of blue, green and pink. Includes general Index (tabula) on leaves 12r-6v and index to part II on leaves 161r-2v. Colophon on 285v.
Very Good antiquarian condition. Complete, including all three integral blanks. Binding rubbed, with wear to extremities, several small holes to boards, minor repairs to spine; clasps and metal bosses
perished. Inner hinges reinforced. Pastedowns removed (if ever present) revealing insides of the wooden boards. The index leaves (1st quire) with a few tiny wormholes (not affecting legibility). Text block near fine
with only minor occasional soiling; a few leaves at the end with fore-edge very lightly frayed. In all, a splendid, extremely attractive illuminated example of this massive, superbly printed early incunabulum with vast margins (likely uncut) in its original monastic binding.
Bibliographic references: Goff H-199; Hain/Copinger 8595; BMC II 416; Bod-inc H-111; BSB-Ink V-250; Polain(B) 3992. Vitae patrum sanctorum (or Vitas patrum, as it is often called) is one of the most important sources on the early history of monasticism (cenobitism) and the ‘Desert Fathers,’ i.e. the ascetics and heremits in Egypt, Palestine and Mesopotamia of the first five centuries A.D. It served as the source of inspiration for St. Benedict who wrote the first monastic rule in the 6th century.