Shaping the Dominican Rule - The Sole 15th c. Edition

Humbertus de Romanis (1200-1277)

Auslegung uber Sankt Augustins Regel

[Ulm: Conrad Dinckmut,] c. 1488


Chancery folio: 26.5 x 19 cm. 206 leaves. [*]4, a-z/8.10. 7a 33 lines and foliation, 199 (207) x 119 mm. Types 147 and 121.


A large, unsophisticated copy bound in contemporary Augsburg blindstamped calf over wooden boards [Kyriss 81, EBDB w002144], title tooled on upper board, author’s name inscribed on fore-edge. The binding is worn, with a few wormholes, with some scuffs and scratches to the boards; the leather is missing from the head and foot of the spine; the clasps are lacking; binding coming loose from text-block. A printed shelf label is affixed to the upper board. A printed leaf from a life of Saint Oswald in German (from an edition of Jacobus de Voragine's "Leben der Heiligen"?) has been used as a rear pastedown. Light marginal damp-stains to first and final few leaves, marginal paper flaw to one leaf. Provenance: Wolfgang Seydel (1492-1562); inscription dated 9 January 1544, early annotation on p3.

The sole 15thc. edition of Humbert of Romans' important explication of the Rule of St. Augustine, "Expositio regulae beati Augustini Episcopi". The Latin original was not printed until the 16thc. and this is apparently the onlyedition of the German translation. According to ISTC, "current research suggests the Dominican Georg Falder-Pistoris (d. 29.XII.1452) or Johannes Meyer (d. 20.VII.1485) as possible translators."

"Humbert of Romans (Humbertus de Romanis, c.1200-1277) was the fifth master general of the Order of Preachers, from 1254-1263. He was born at Romans-sur-Isère in southeastern France (c.80 kms. south of Lyons). As a young man, he went to Paris to study theology and canon law, becoming a Master of Arts before joining the Order of Preachers in 1224. In 1226, Humbert was appointed lector of theology for the convent in Lyons, for which he was conventual prior in 1237. Around 1238, he was elected prior provincial for the province of Romana, he received several votes at a papal election in 1241, in 1244-45 he was elected prior provincial of Francia, and finally, in 1254, the general chapter elected him master general of the Order. During his generalate, which lasted to 1263, Humbert contributed significantly to a re-organization and homogenization of the Order, an improved relation to the Franciscan Order, and a joined mendicant defense against their many secular critics. After leaving the office of master general in 1263, he went back to his old convent of Lyons, where he continued his series of numerous writings. Humbert died on 14 July 1277 and was buried in Valence (near Romans). He became venerated as Blessed within the Order, but was never officially beatified.

"Humbert has left us a number of written works. These include a commentary on the Rule of St. Augustine and the Dominican constitutions (Expositio regulae beati Augustini Episcopi et super constitutiones fratrum praedicatorum). He also functioned as collector and publisher of earlier Dominican material."(Jakobsen)

The Dominican "Rule":

"The Rule of Saint Augustine was not originally meant to be a rule, and was not used as such until the 11th century. Drawn up in c. 423 as a letter to a convent of nuns, in which they were rebuked for insubordination to their prioress and advised as to the spirit in which good religious should conduct themselves, it lacked the detailed precision needed to stand alone as a religious rule."(Brett)

Dominicans became dissatisfied with the vagueness of the Rule of St. Augustine and came to rely on their own Constitutions, handed down by St. Dominic. However, Humbertus believed that the Rule was crucial to Dominican life and to dispense with it would harm the Order. Hence the need for his Expositio.

The Exposition on the Rule of St. Augustine, Humbertus' longest work, was composed after March 1248. "The commentary is composed of a short prologue in which the author explains the purpose of his literary undertaking, a preamble where he presents the reasons why the Augustinian Rule is highly suitable for the Friars-Preachers, and finally, the actual discussion of the text of the Rule, divided into seven chapters. The first six deal with the Dominican religious life as a state of community, penitence, respectability, poverty, brotherhood, and obedience, while the seventh concerns itself with the reasons why the Rule must be diligently observed."(Brett)

For a fuller discussion of the "Expositio", including an interesting discussion of Humbertus' philosophy of education, see Edward T. Brett, "Humbert of Romans: His Life and Views of Thirteenth-century Society",p. 117-133

The Dominican Reform at Ulm:

“Observant reform, in which religious houses were ‘liberated’ from their significant private possessions and closed off from their formerly ‘open’ accessibility, was particularly attractive to city councils such as that in Ulm, as well as to the wider landed aristocracy. Reform offered greater spiritual prestige while at the same time filling town coffers. The concatenations of reform reached the Dominican house in Ulm in 1465. The prior, Ludwig Fuchs, was praised by the Dominican friar Felix Fabri as a spearhead of far-reaching reforms throughout the city – not only of the Dominican convent, but also the Franciscans of Ulm and the Poor Clares of Söflingen. Fabri himself was sent from the Basle convent to Ulm in about  1468, perhaps to replace an earlier reformer who had himself been sent to reform elsewhere. In just a few years, Observant reform dominated the spirituality of the Dominican houses in the Province of Teutonia, where Ulm was located. Out of fifty-four Dominican convents in the province in 1475, thirty-two of them had accepted reform.”(Beebe,Pilgrim and Preacher: The Audiences and Observant Spirituality of Friar Felix Fabri, p. 13)

The Ulm Dominicans came to have a strong influence on the choice of texts printed by the Ulm printers Johann Zainer and Conrad Dinckmut. “After Zainer left Ulm pressured by debt, Conrad Dinckmut took over printing for the convent in 1493, and the emphasis on Dominican spiritual works continued. Amelung (Früdruck, catalogue number 119, pp. 232-5) suggests that Dinckmut’s 1487/8 German ‘Auslegung über Sankt Augustins Regel’ for ‘closterfrawen’ is probably related to the then almost-completed reform of the Söflingen Poor Clares.”(Ibid., p. 99)

ISTC ih00550000; HC *9090; GW 13649; BMC II 536; BSB-Ink-H-440; Amelung, Frühdruck I 119; Goff H-550