Augustine, De civitate dei, 1467
Bishop of Hippo (354–430).
De civitate dei.
[Subiaco: Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz], 12 June 1467. (06054)
Few books can compare with the historical significance of the first edition of St. Augustine’s De civitate dei (“City of God”). One of the foundational texts of the Christian tradition, its theological impact during the fifteenth century may be measured by the fact that seventeen Latin editions appeared between 1467 and 1500. Bridwell Library owns all seventeen.
Bridwell Library’s copy of the Subiaco De civitate dei was illuminated with gold initials and an elaborate white-vine border on the first page of text. This variety of decoration, known as “bianchi girari,” revived a style prevalent in Italian manuscripts of the tenth and eleventh centuries. During the Renaissance such manuscripts were believed to date from Roman antiquity. Although the original owner of Bridwell’s copy is unknown, in the late nineteenth century it belonged to the British artist and printer William Morris, who admired both its illumination and its semi-gothic Subiaco types, which he considered the most beautiful of the fifteenth century.