The Father of Bibliography
Liber de Scriptoribus Ecclesiasticis.
148 leaves, including the final blank), Roman letter (except for the two-line title in gothic type), 51 lines & headline, capital spaces with guide letters. Folio (290 x 188 mm.), late 17th-cent. panelled English speckled calf (rebacked with the orig. spine laid-down, minor staining to a few leaves in blank upper margins). Basel: J. Amerbach, 1494.
First edition of the “first bibliography to be compiled as a practical work of reference.”–Grolier Club, Bibliography, 7.
Tritheim (1462-1516), one of the leading polymaths of his age, was appointed the 25th abbot of the monastery at Sponheim in 1483. “One of the first of his many self-imposed tasks was the reorganization and cataloguing of the monastic library, if one can call reorganization the process of transforming forty-eight mongrel volumes into a splendid collection of 2,000 printed books and manuscripts, many of great importance and rarity…
“It was during the progress of this work, no doubt, as his exceptional knowledge of books caused inquiries frequently to be addressed to him, that he conceived the notion of compiling a new and ambitious bibliography of ecclesiastical writers. He began work in 1487, and by the spring of 1492 he was able to send the complete manuscript to the bishop of Worms. He then revised it, and in 1494 the Liber de scriptoribus ecclesiasticis, a folio of nearly 300 pages, issued from the Basle press of Johann Amerbach…
“From Alexander, bishop of Cappadocia, down to himself, Tritheim sets out in chronological order nearly a thousand writers, largely but not exclusively ecclesiastical, giving a short account of each followed by a list of his (or her) writings. Nor are these lists merely perfunctory: it is obvious from such a heading as that for St. Augustine, under which he enumerates 277 works, that Tritheim must have lavished an immense amount of genuine research on his bibliography. In all about 7,000 books are recorded. An alphabetical index of authors, arranged of course by Christian names, is added. The contrast between the feeble theological bibliographies of the manuscript age and this first attempt in the printing era is very striking.”–Besterman, The Beginnings of Systematic Bibliography, pp. 7-8.
The title of the book is somewhat misleading since the work is not restricted to ecclesiastical writers but also includes authors such as Dante, Poggio, and Sebastian Brant.
A fine and crisp copy of a book which has become uncommon on the market, preserved in a box. Bookplate of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Cowley, Oxford. With a note on the rear paste-down referring to “Derby” (the Earls of Derby?) and a shelf-mark.
❧ Goff T-452.
Item ID: 5595