N. de Lyra, Postillae, 1472

NICOLAUS DE LYRA (c. 1270–1349). Postilla super totam Bibliam.
Edited by Joannes Andrea de Bussi, Bishop of Aleria (1417–1475). Vol. 5.
Rome: Conradus Sweynheym and Arnoldus Pannartz, 13 March 1472. (06486)

This is the final volume of the first printed edition of Nicolaus de Lyra’s commentary on the complete Bible, issued by Sweynheym and Pannartz in five massive volumes in 1471–72. The French Franciscan’s commentary was praised enthusiastically by later scholars, including Martin Luther, both for its familiarity with Rabbinical teaching and its literal exegesis of the scriptures. The illuminated floral border in Bridwell Library’s copy is accented with closely observed fruits, birds, and insects in the manner of the Venetian painter Carlo Crivelli (c. 1430–c. 1495). The inclusion of the immodestly dressed female saint holding an ointment jar in the lower margin indicates that the book was illuminated for an institution dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen.

The text on the page facing the illumination provides a fascinating document of early printing productivity. This petition for papal support of the press lists all 37 of the editions that Sweynheym and Pannartz had produced between 1465 and 1472, including the total number of copies printed of each edition. Whereas the printers produced most of their books in runs of 275 or 300 copies, the figure of 1,100 copies given for the Postilla is explained by the fact that they had printed 275 copies of each of the four volumes completed by 13 March 1472. Volume II, the fifth to be printed, did not appear until 26 May 1472.

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Printing in Italy
N. de Lyra, Postillae, 1472