Durandus, 1459

DURANDUS, Guillelmus (1237–1296).
Rationale divinorum officiorum.
Printed on vellum.
[Mainz]: Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer, 6 October 1459. (06278)

This is Bridwell Library’s earliest printed book, preceded only by the 31 leaves from the Gutenberg Bible, the 1459 Psalter leaf, and perhaps the undated leaf from the 36-Line Bible in its collection of fifteenth-century printing. It was perhaps the fourth book of significant length printed in Europe, the third to bear its date of publication, and the first printed edition of a post-biblical author’s work. This is also the first dated book that was printed in a smaller type designed for solitary reading. Fust and Schoeffer again used their Psalter initials to decorate this edition, printed entirely on vellum.

Durandus, Bishop of Mende in southern France, was an influential canonist and liturgist. His Rationale divinorum officiorum is a treatise on the significance of the sacramental ceremonies, describing the church edifice, its officers, their vestments, the Mass, the other divine offices, the dominical feast days, saints’ days, and the liturgical calendar. The text was printed in 44 fifteenth-century editions.

The Bridwell Library copy was bound in gilt red morocco by Christopher Chapman, who worked for the Earl of Oxford, Edward Harley (1689–1741). Although the Earl’s accounts show that Jane Steel bound a Durandus (edition unknown) in gilt red morocco for him in 1717, the Earl’s only recorded copy of the 1459 Durandus is preserved at Vienna in an 18th-century binding not by Steel. The Bridwell copy appears to be in a binding that Chapman made for another patron.

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Early Masterpieces
Durandus, 1459