The Flowers of Wisdom – In a contemporary Esslingen blinding

INCUNABULA. Spiera, Ambrosius de (1413-1455)

Quadragesimale de floribus sapientiae. Edited by Marcus Venetus.

Venice: Bonetus Locatellus for Octavianus Scotus, 20 February 1488/ 1489


Median quarto: 24 x 18 cm. a10, A-Z8, AA-PP8. Complete. Without the initial (a1) and final (PP8) blanks.

FOURTH EDITION (First published in 1476).

An excellent copy, bound in a very nicely preserved, contemporary Esslingen blinding of blindstamped pigskin over wooden boards [Kyriss 134, EBDB w000012] with metal clasps, as well as intricate metal center- and corner pieces. Binding a bit soiled, title and shelf-mark inked on the spine. Internally this is a bright crisp copy, rubricated, with numerous initials in red with flourishes, and with Scotus' woodcut printer’s device at the end. Provenance: recorded as having been in the collection of the Carmelite friary in Esslingen on 10 February 1520 (inscription).

A very fine copy of these Lenten sermons by Ambrosius Spiera, a Servite theologian born in Treviso near Venice around 1413. Spiera studied rhetoric, poetry, and music under his father, Bartolomeo, head of Treviso's public gymnasium. At 16 he became a novice in the Servite order at Treviso, at the monastery of St. Catherine the Virgin. At the end of his novitiate, around 1430, he went to study at Perugia, where he met St. Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444). In 1441 he began his studies at the University of Padua, and received his doctorate there in 1444. In 1449 Spiera was appointed Procurator General of the order. In this capacity, he lived at Rome in 1453 and 1454, as liaison to the Roman Curia. It was during his tenure at Rome that he delivered his Lenten sermons in the church of Saint Marcellus. He died in 1454 or 1455, probably of the plague.

Spiera's Lenten sermons reflect a distinctly different approach to that used by medieval theologians. The structure he employed was based on classical oration and was frequently used, with modifications, by Renaissance preachers.

"The sermons were intended primarily for students of theology, as Spiera stated in the prologue of the collection, recalling that he wrote this book due to the insistent requests of his students and admiring their 'studiorum solertia.'

"In their actual form, Spiera's sermons resemble more lectures for theologians than popular sermons and yet, the collection found a remarkable readership. Evidently, his students were not the only ones interested in the elaborated theological discussions provided by Spiera."(Delcorno)

ISTC is00681000; HC *922; GW M43134; BMC V 436; BSB-Ink S-525; Goff S-681