Augustine, De civitate dei, 1470

ST. AUGUSTINE,
Bishop of Hippo (354–430).
De civitate dei.
Venice: Johannes and Vindelinus de Spira, 1470. (06056)

The first printer in Venice, Johannes de Spira from Speyer, Germany, obtained a patent on the art of printing within the city in 1469. When he died in 1470 during the printing of this edition, his brother Vindelinus was able to carry on the work, but not his brother’s monopoly on the press. Within a decade he and his local competitors had made Venice the leading center of the fifteenth-century printing industry.

In Bridwell Library’s copy of the de Spira edition of De civitate dei, the white-vine decorations were painted over hand-stamped woodblock patterns that served as guides to the anonymous illuminator. These stamped borders and initials were not printed by the de Spiras, but were added separately to multiple copies of this and several other books by an illuminator known as the “Master of the Putti,” who designed the blocks to enhance his productivity as he worked through stacks of printed books.

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Printing in Italy
Augustine, De civitate dei, 1470