Occasionally described as a work on the Immaculate Conception, Gaguinus's brief treatise is in fact a theological and physiological examination of the immaculate conception, not of Christ, but of Mary herself. The medieval doctrine, which has no canonical biblical authority, supposes that since Christ could not have been born of a maculate vessel, Mary must also have been conceived without carnal knowledge by her parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim. This notion was not new, having first been referred to in the protoevangelical Gospel of James around 145 AD (in which Anne is described as infertile), but censured by Jerome in the fifth century. Gaguinus's prose discourse, a reworking of his earlier poem on the subject of Anne's conception of Mary, is at times purely theological, sometimes frankly physiological, but is always humanistic, brightly reflecting Gaguinus's substantial classical and legal scholarship. There is some question as to the dating of this edition, with a suggested range of 1495-1499, depending on the authority, but we postulate the book was published sometime shortly after 13 August 1497, when the Theological Faculty of Paris passed a resolution requiring all Doctors of Theology to state a view on the dogma of the immaculate conception of Mary. The subject of the cult of Anne possibly had renewed interest in the late fifteenth century because both the Duchess of Bourbon and the Queen of France were the saint's namesakes, combined with the animus that had built up against Dominican Vincenzo da Bandello from his 1475 and 1481 diatribes, which argued versus the idea of the immaculate conception of Mary. Mary's mother later entered the Protestant discourse when Luther decided to embark on a life of devotion following a close encounter with lightning, when he cried out to St. Anne in fear. This book is a curious and uncommon example of a German printer producing the work of a living French author. One copy located in American libraries (LoC).
Leipzig: Wolfgang Stöckel, 1497.
Quarto in sixes, 185 x 139 x 7 mm (binding), 182 x 135 x 1 mm (text block). A-B6=12 ff. Early 20th-century Bradel binding of thin rigid boards covered in early printed waste; this binding then at some point (c1930) re-covered in light blue wove paper and titled vertically on a spine label in manuscript. A glimpse of the printed waste below the more recent cover paper can be seen at fore-edge of lower board; we have not identifed the few words of gothic text revealed. Interior: Some finger-soiling, title with short marginal tear (not near text), minor staining passim.
Sold at Arenberg Auctions, 14 December 2019, lot 787, whose description notes provenance as Georges Petit, an early 20th-century Paris art and book dealer. A few 16th-c marginalia (cropped); scattered penciled cataloguers' notes to endpapers; earlier inked catalogue number to head margin of title (B. Nr. 13993); in the same hand Nr. 5 inked to head fore-corner, suggesting the book was at one time the fifth member of a sammelband.
ISTC ig00023000, GW 10462. Thuasne, Louis. Roberti Gaguini Epistole et orationes. Paris: É. Bouillon, 1903, vol. I, p 104. Tilley, Arthur Augustus. The Dawn of the French Renaissance. Cambridge: CUP, 1968, p 466. Full bibliographic references available on request.