Jacob of Voragine.
Lyon: De Gaselle, scribe, September 1, 1468.
Acquired through the Allan Morgan Standish, the Ross H. Chamberlain, and the Stanford University Bookstore Funds.
Jacob of Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa and medieval hagiographer, was born at Viraggio (now Varazze), near Genoa, about 1230;
he died on 13 July, about 1298. In 1244 he entered the Order of St. Dominic, and soon became famous for his piety, learning,
and zeal in the care of souls. His fame as a preacher spread throughout Italy, and he was called upon to preach from the most
celebrated pulpits of Lombardy. After teaching Holy Scripture and theology in various houses of his order in Northern Italy,
he was elected provincial of Lombardy in 1267, holding this office until 1286, when he become Definitor of the Lombard province of Dominicans.
Jacob of Voragine is best known as the author of a collection of legendary lives of the saints, which was entitled "Legenda Sanctorum"
by its author, but soon became known as Legenda Aurea (Golden Legend). The body of the work, which contains 177 chapters
(according to others, 182), is divided into five sections: from Advent to Christmas, from Christmas to Septuagesima, from Septuagesima
to Easter, from Easter to Octave of Pentecost, and from the Octave of Pentecost to Advent. The chief object of Jacob of Voragine and
of other medieval hagiologists was not to compose historically accurate biographies but to write books of devotion. The work enjoyed an
immense popularity and its influence is seen in the prose and poetic literature of many nations. It became the basis of many passionaries
of the Middle Ages and religious poems of later times. Longfellow's "Golden Legend," which, with two other poems, forms the trilogy entitled
Christus, owes its name and many of its ideas to the Golden Legend of de Voragine.
First printed in Basel in 1470, two years after this manuscript, the Golden Legend was a medieval best seller, so that by 1500 at least
seventy-four Latin editions had been published as well as three translations into English, five into French, eight into Italian, fourteen into
Low German, and three into Bohemian. More than a thousand manuscript copies of the work survive. It was one of the first books William Caxton
printed in the English language, Caxton’s version appearing in 1483. Written in simple, readable Latin, the book was read in its day for its stories;
it is the closest thing we have to an encyclopedia of the lore of the saints in the late Middle Ages and as such it is invaluable to art historians
and mediaevalists who seek to identify saints depicted in art by their deeds and attributes.
See the Socrates record for this item.
Special Collections: Rare Books Division: Gunst Collection