by Alice Bampton
The invention of the printing press made the works of Saint Augustine more widely available to early modern readers, and he became a bestselling author, as evidenced by the numerous editions of his works published during the 16th through 17th centuries.
“The Printed Saint Augustine: Early Editions in Special Collections,” a major exhibit on display in Falvey Memorial Library until May 30th, features numerous early editions of Augustine’s works, augmented by fascinating commentary.
On display is the first English translation of City of God, published in 1610. Was this edition commissioned to convince investors that English expansion in colonial Virginia was an opportunity to promote Christianity in the New World, as an Augustine scholar suggests?
Also featured is a 1555 critical edition by Erasmus, a reprint of the Complete Works edited by the famous humanist in 1528. Erasmus based his edition on Amerbach’s but included the three works omitted from that 1506 version. “Besides correcting errors in the previous edition, Erasmus added his own observations,” according to the exhibit’s explanatory text in the case “Early Complete Works.”
“The Printed Saint Augustine,” curated by Bente Polites, Special Collections librarian, is on display on Falvey’s second floor. This exhibit evolved from the small display Bente created to celebrate both Augustinian Heritage Month and the marathon reading of Saint Augustine’s Confessions in November, 2010.
Bente explains that while Special Collections had a collection of early works by Saint Augustine, she has made “an effort to acquire 15th and 16th century editions of Saint Augustine’s Confessions.” Special Collections owns approximately one thousand volumes by Saint Augustine and also collects works by other Augustinians for the Augustiniana collection.
This exhibit focuses on early editions, from the 15th through 17th centuries, of Saint Augustine’s works, although one case, “Early English Translations,” features works from the 19th century.
Of interest to art lovers is the open volume, Principalium Sententiarum in Explanationem Libri Psalmorum, printed in Paris, 1529, which has a placard stating the “Border of the title page [is] attributed to Hans Holbein the younger.” Holbein the Younger (1497/98 – 1543) was an important Northern Renaissance painter and draftsman. This book is in case 11, located adjacent to the Special Collections department. (more…)