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A Rare and interesting book

Posted Monday, 21st May 2012

Josse van Clichtove, De vita et moribus sacerdotum opusculum … secunda emissio. Parisiis: Ex officina Simonis Colinaei, 1520 (USTC 145230).

A Flemish theologian, Josse van Clichtove (d. 1543) was a prolific author and editor. Already as a student in Paris, he was interested in monastic reform and pastoral theology. One of his aims as an editor was to promote the works of the Christian Fathers to a wider audience and he gained a reputation as an authoritative theologian, with leading humanists such as Jacobus Wimpfeling and Beatus Rhenanus showing great appreciation for his learning. He was a firm opponent of Martin Luther’s ideas and critical of his contemporary Erasmus of Rotterdam. Initially a firm critic of current sacerdotal practices, in later life Clichtove focused his attentions more on attacking the rise of Lutheran theology.

This work here sets out Clichtove’s ideas about the proper behaviour and duties of the priest. The first edition of this work was published in 1519 with a pictorial title page by Henri Estienne the Elder (d. 1520), the founder of a distinguished line of printers, who printed a number of Clichtove’s works in the 1510s.

Henri the Elder’s widow married Simon de Colines, Estienne’s assistant, who published this second edition in 1520. Only two earlier editions which bear Colines’ name are now known to survive. The first dated edition under Colines’ supervision was a Greek translation of Cato’s Distichs, printed in 1518 (USTC 160484). Another work by Clichtove, a tract on the duties of the king, was printed by him in 1519 (USTC 186848).

The title page of this 1520 edition is very plain compared to the first edition (USTC 145034) – for an image of the title page, have a look here.

It is one of the oldest works in the Angus Library, but it is not entirely clear when it was added to the collection. A handwritten note on the back of the front cover describes the work as ‘tres rare’ (i.e. very rare) in 1786 when it was bought at the sale chez ‘le duc de la Valliere’ in Paris. It is described on USTC as a quarto, which may mean that the Angus Library copy was quite heavily cut down to resemble an octavo when it was rebound in the eighteenth century.

Contemporaries of Erasmus: A Biographical Register of the Renaissance and Reformation, Volumes 1-3. Ed. P.G. Bietenholz and T.B. Deutscher. University of Toronto Press, 2003.

S.H. Steinberg, Five hundred years of Printing. New edition, revised by John Trevitt. [London]: British Library, 1996. P. 39.

Universal Short Title Catalogue (University of St Andrews, available online at

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