"REDESIGNING THE SHAPE OF HISTORY… AUGUSTINE WOULD DOMINATE WESTERN THOUGHT FOR THE NEXT MILLENNIUM": 1610 FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF AUGUSTINE'S CITIE OF GOD
AUGUSTINE. Of the Citie of God. With the Learned Comments of Io. Lod. Vives. Englished by J[ohn] H[ealy]. (London): by George Eld, 1610. Small folio (8 by 11 inches), contemporary full dark brown calf sympathetically rebacked, gilt centerpieces. $16,500.
Scarce first edition in English of Augustine's monumental "scheme of universal history… providing a vocabulary for Christian thinking in the West for centuries" (Boorstin, Creators, 59). Because of the innovative conception of history he presents in this work, Augustine was considered "the founder of a new science, to which Voltaire assigned the name 'philosophy of history.' For the first time a comprehensive survey of human history is presented" (PMM 3).
When, more than 1100 years after the founding of the "Eternal City," Rome fell to Alaric's barbarian hordes in the year 410, many people blamed Christians for provoking the wrath of the city's protecting gods and thereby bringing catastrophe upon it. In such accusations Augustine discovered "the point of departure for his Christian view of history… The 13 years (413-26) he spent on his City of God created a new kind of defense of the new religion… Augustine proceeded to create his own philosophy of history, which would dominate Western thought for the next millennium. And he provided the most potent weapon against historical pessimism and the classic cycles. His ideas would show an uncanny power to be transformed into a modern idea of progress" (Boorstin). The work exercised enormous influence throughout the Middle Ages and well into the 18th century: Augustine's views on labor and trade affected medieval rules of commerce; his work provided arguments for both sides in the struggle between Pope and Emperor; his descriptions of the just ruler and the tyrant made a powerful impression on Renaissance thought. The concept of international law was derived from his book; he is quoted by Grotius. His writings, along with the Bible, proved foundational for the Protestantism of both Luther and Calvin. Edward Gibbon praised The City of God for "the merit of a magnificent design, vigorously and not unskillfully executed." "Its size and its scope mark it as monumental, and its doctrines find their way into every sphere" (Magill, 141). "This translation of Vives' text and commentaries of Augustine's great work is the only one published in English until the latter half of the 19th century" (Pforzheimer 19). With woodcut printer's device on title page. With the rare index and errata, often lacking. Bound without first and final blank leaves; text complete. STC 916. See PMM 3. Bookplates of Harvard College Library, de-accessioned with the official release stamp initialed by William A. Jackson; and George Herbert Palmer, author and professor at Harvard.
Only very faint occasional dampstaining. Expert restoration to contemporary boards. A very desirable copy of this scarce work.