Printed by Oxford's Second Printer - In a Contemporary Oxford Binding

INCUNABULA. ENGLAND. Lathbury [Lathbery], John (d.1362)

Liber moralium super threnis Ieremiae

[Oxford: Theodoric Rood], 31 July 1482


Chancery folio: 29 x 20.7 cm. 290 lvs. unnumbered (of 292, lacking 2 of the 3 blanks). Signatures: a-z⁸ A-I⁸ kk⁸ L-M⁸ N-O⁶ . Lacks blanks a1 and L8. Blank O6 present.

FIRST EDITION. Imprint and date as given by ISTC.

Colophon, leaf L7v, reads: "Explicit exposicio ac moralisacio tercij capituli trenoru[m] Iheremie prophete. Anno d[omi]ni M.cccc.lxxxij. vltima die mensis Julij." Explicit, leaf O5v: "Explicit tabula su[per] trenoru[m] compilatu[m] per Iohannem Latteburij ordinis minorum."

Types: 100B (text), 200G (headings). 2 columns, 40 lines per column, with headlines and marginal index letters, 201 (212) x 127 (139) mm. Capital spaces. Pollard notes the press variant on leaf kk7v, with the correction "secundum" in the explicit.

Bound in a contemporary English binding of blind-stamped calf over wooden boards. Recently rebacked, the original calf underlaid with new leather where there are small losses to the original. Text complete, lacking only 2 of the 3 blanks. The third blank with early annotations, defective at one corner. Rubricated throughout. Numerous 15thc. and additional 16thc. annotations in Latin, the latter with English secretary forms. This copy with a four-piece woodcut border (used only in some copies) on leaf a2r. Top margin of opening leaves a little rough with slight loss to extreme upper margin of border. Some natural paper flaws, a few tears, one small hole affecting a few words of text, occasional soiling, minor dampstaining toward end. A number of deckled edges are preserved.

The binding: Bound in a contemporary Oxford binding of blind-stamped calf over wooden boards. Two of the stamps are very close to those on Oxford bindings examined by Gibson (Early Oxford Bindings, London, Bib. Soc., 1903). They are: Gibson* no. 22 (plate: XXXIII) (squirrel) and Gibson no. 35 (plate: XXXIV) (paschal lamb round). For another Oxford binding with the squirrel tool see Gibson plate VII (now recorded as

Provenance: John Bowen (ownership inscription dated 1801); M.H. Bloxam and Rugby School Library. Unidentified 15th and 16th c. annotators.

Books printed by Rood are extremely rare. The printer is represented in North America by 10 complete volumes, comprising 3 copies of this title (Folger, Morgan, Brown) [a 4thcopy, at Yale Center for British Art, lacks two text leaves], 1 copy (Morgan) of Richardus Rolle de Hampole's "Explanationes in Job" (ISTC ir00305000), and 6 copies (Harvard, Princeton, Morgan, Newberry, UC Law, Yale) of Lyndewode's "Constitutiones provinciales ecclesiae Anglicanae" (ISTC il00413000.) The attribution of Rufinus' "Expositio in symbolum apostolorum" (ISTC ir00352000) to Rood is no longer accepted.

John Lathbury was a Franciscan friar and theologian who studied at Oxford during the 1330s and 1340s. ‘His most influential, and probably his only completed work’ was the present ‘commentary on the Lamentations of Jeremiah’ (ODNB), printed at Oxford by Theodoric Rood. Originally from Cologne, Rood settled in Oxford, bringing type and possibly a press and printing several works between 1481 and 1483/4. 

The printer:

"Theodoric Rood (fl. 1480–1484?), printer, was the second printer active in the university city of Oxford and the first whose identity is known. He came from Cologne as indicated by the colophon of his earliest dated printed work, the Expositio super tres libros Aristotelis de anima of Alexander (Bonini de Alexandria), which was completed on 11 October 1481. He published a number of works aimed at an institutional market, including one in association with the university stationer Thomas Hunt, and in 1481–2 he received payment from the university for goldsmith's work in repairing a bedel's staff. There is nothing to suggest a formal appointment by the university.

"Evidence survives of thirteen editions from Rood's press, seven of which were texts useful for junior members of the university or even for use in schools. Two of these were classical texts, Cicero's Pro Milone and Francescus Griffolinus's Latin translation of the pseudo-Phalaris's Epistolae. Neither was on the undergraduate curriculum yet both were potentially texts for university teaching. Four works were suitable for study by senior members in colleges or religious houses: Richard Rolle's Libellus in novem lectiones mortuorum, John Lathbury's commentary on the Lamentations (published in some sort of association with Hunt and several senior Oxford scholars), William Lyndewode's Constitutiones provinciales ecclesiae Anglicae, and the Expositio super tres libros Aristotelis de anima whose author is not known for certain. The first three works were by Englishmen while the Expositio was then sometimes ascribed to their fellow countryman Alexander of Hales, suggesting that Rood concentrated on English authors writing in Latin in the hope that this would be a profitable market without too much competition from abroad. While the design of his type material is undistinguished, Rood's production shows the work of a competent printer.

"In 1480 Rood began renting a tenement on the High Street, Oxford (now numbers 35–6) from Magdalen College, and it was presumably from here that he published the Expositio in October 1481. The accounts of rental income record that in 1480–81 and 1481–2 Magdalen College received the annual rent of 28s. 6d. from 'Dyryke Dowcheman' and in 1482–3 from 'Dyryk Rode'—with all payments appearing to refer to the same tenement. Rood seems to have left these premises by no later than 15 August 1482 but to have carried on printing in the city until 1483 or even 1484. The paper stock of Constitutiones suggests it was printed about 1483–4 while typographical evidence indicates that some of his undated quarto editions were produced after this edition. Rood's edition of the pseudo-Phalaris letters should be dated to 1481 and not 1485 as previously suggested by Edward Gordon Duff and others, while an English-language edition of Mirk's Liber festivalis (1486–7) can no longer be plausibly attributed to Rood. After he left Oxford, there was no further printing in the city until John Scholar (fl. 1517–1528) set up a press in 1517.

"It is possible that Rood was back in Cologne by 1485, as he may have been the Theodoricus or Diedrich Molner who received the half share of a house that Gertrude, Molner's mother, had inherited from the printer Arnold ther Hoernen, her husband, but not Molner's father. Molner continued as a printer in Cologne at least until 1488 in association with Konrad Welker, who married Gertrude after Hoernen's death, but he did not do well and had to cede his half of the house to creditors in 1495. Molner has in turn been identified with a Theodoricus de Colonia who matriculated in the University of Heidelberg in 1454, but this identification must be treated with caution."(Kristian Jensen, ODNB)

The author:

"John Lathbury [Lathbery], (d. 1362), Franciscan friar and theologian, was born at Lathbury, Buckinghamshire, probably at the beginning of the fourteenth century; when he died in 1362 he was, according to Bale, 'an old man' (Bale, Cat., 1.532–3). He joined the Franciscan order in his twenties, perhaps in the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, where he was ordained subdeacon on 22 April 1329. He studied at Oxford during the 1330s and 1340s, and had become regent master by 1350. In Oxford he formed a close friendship with a German friar, Hermann of Cologne; they discussed matters of theology and exchanged stories and moral exempla, many of which Lathbury later included in his commentary on Jeremiah.

"Although a schoolman, Lathbury evidently was also active in pastoral work in the surrounding districts. In 1342 he was licensed to hear confessions in the diocese of Salisbury, and in November 1352 he was given the same licence in the archdeaconry of Buckingham. At the same time he became involved in the government of his order. In 1343 he was present at a meeting of the provincial chapter, and he may have attended others. Lathbury probably remained in Oxford for the greater part of his career, retiring only in late middle age to the Reading Greyfriars, where he died and was probably buried. In 1348 he gave several of his own books to a relative, a younger John Lathbury. The gift may have coincided with the end of his active career in the schools.

"The elder Lathbury was distinguished for his work as a theologian and exegete. His most influential, and probably his only completed work, was a commentary on the Lamentations of Jeremiah. It is a vast text, incorporating a wide range of sources, including notes made by Robert Grosseteste (d. 1253), whose books Lathbury had studied at first hand in the library of the Oxford Greyfriars. It is most notable, however, for its use of rare and obscure classical texts to elucidate the darker passages of scripture. Lathbury's interest in classical literature, and his willingness to use it as a tool of exegesis, places him in a tradition of English (and especially fraternal) biblical scholarship which had been inaugurated a generation earlier by the Dominican theologians Robert Holcot (d. 1349) and Thomas Waleys. Their work had done much to revive the art of exegesis and promote a ‘literal’ reading of scripture in the first half of the fourteenth century, but with the exception of Lathbury they had few followers or imitators. Indeed he can be seen as one of the last English scholars to employ these methods.

"The commentary circulated widely in late medieval Europe; it was among the first books to be printed at Oxford in 1482, and one of the seven surviving manuscript copies was brought up from the bottom of the sea, in a fisherman's net, probably in the sixteenth century. Lathbury continually reworked and reorganized his commentary, and the revised version circulated in various different guises as part of an Alphabetum morale, a collection of exempla and sermons, and as a series of distinctiones. Lathbury may also have completed a commentary on the  Psalms which is now lost. The fifteenth-century bishop Stephen Patrington (d. 1417), according to Bale, quoted 'Lathbury on the psalms' in one of his sermons. Balealso suggests Lathbury was the author of a commentary on the  Acts of the Apostles, and quotes an incipit, but it is not known to survive, and it is possible that in both cases he confused Lathbury with his kinsman, John Lathbury the younger."(James Clark, ODNB)

ISTC il00075000; HC (+Add) 9928; GW M17160; BMC XI 236; Bod-inc L-043; Goff L-75; not in BSB. For the Yale copy, see Grolier Club. Fifty-five books printed before 1525 (1968), 38; Madan, F. Early Oxford Press, pages 2-3, 255-256; Madan, F. Oxford books, 9, (10)