Dijon, Petrus Metlinger 4 July 1491.
4to (218 x 153 mm.). [ii blank], [ii], , [4 blank]p. Gothic types. TWO FULL-PAGE WOODCUTS. On the title, the Virgin Mary shelters Cistercian nuns and monks. On the verso, with Cîteaux Abbey at the center, Paschal II grants papal legitimacy to the Cistercian Order as obeisant founders and members look on; three series of large “rather restless” woodcut initials (BMC VIII: 409).
Gilt-ruled dark brown morocco with light brown morocco inlaid Renaissance scrollwork (E. Vignal), inlaid spine compartments, gilt-lettered title and date, blind-ruled turn-ins.
ONLY EDITION: THE FIRST BOOK PRINTED IN DIJON AND ONE OF THREE PRIVATELY PRINTED ILLUSTRATED FRENCH INCUNABLES.
A bastion of civil and canon law against attacks on the Cistercians. As abbot of Cîteaux and head of the Cistercians, Jean de Cirey (1434-1503) commissioned the publication of these one hundred fifty secular and ecclesiastic privileges granted to the Order. He also summarized each document and added commentary on the most important.
He brought Petrus Metlinger — the first to print in Besançon and in Dôle — to Dijon and installed him in Petits-Cîteaux, the Cistercian guest house, where he produced this beautiful quarto. THE BOOK WAS “TO BE KEPT SECRET AND NOT TO BE COMMUNICATED, GIVEN, OR SOLD UNLESS TO CISTERCIAN CONVENTS” (Claudin).
Cirey’s secretary and THE BOOK’S EDITOR, HUMANIST CONRADUS LEONTORIUS (1460-1511), AUTHENTICATED EACH COPY BY SIGNING THE FINAL PRINTED LEAF AND ADDING HIS PARAPH. The present example subsequently belonged to the Cistercian nuns of Nôtre-Dame de Fontaine-Guérard in Normandy (title inscription).
THE FULL-PAGE WOODCUTS ARE UNIQUE TO THIS EDITION. Their imagery reinforces Cirey’s intent. Just as the privileges protect the Cistercians, so do the Virgin Mary and the Holy See. The cutter, one Wilhelm, departed Dijon in April 1491, after completing the initials and the two large blocks. Letterpress verses were added to the latter at the time of printing.
At least two early readers annotated about thirty pages and the two final blanks. One added the text of an omitted privilege of 1257, which one Fibert corrected and authenticated in 1665.
A fine, fresh copy (a few minor worm holes, one leaf neatly repaired).
¶Hind, History of the Woodcut II: 620-1; Claudin, “Private Printing in France during the Fifteenth Century” in Bibliographica III (1897) 344-70; Wolff, “Conradus Leontorius. Biobibliographie” in Beiträge zur Geschichte der Renaissance und Reformation (1917) 363-410; Guignard, Les monuments primitifs de la Règle cistercienne XC-XCVII, CII-CXII & 650-2; Davies, Catalogue of…Early French Books in the Library of C. Fairfax Murray 457 (3 reprods.); ISTC ip00976000; Goff P-976.