Beatus Rhenanus - Editio Princeps


Online: Title Page ---- Reverse of Title Page --- Dedication page f.a2r in R's own copy --- page 357 in R's own copy (same page in Paterniacensis manuscript) --- page 432 in R's own copy


1521 : EDITIO PRINCEPS. Adams T405. Basle, edited by Beatus Rhenanus of Selestadt, printed by Froben. Far and away the most sumptuous of the editions, with fine engravings, broad margins, etc. There is a list of contents on the reverse of the title page. Each text is preceded by an Argumentum but is otherwise largely devoid of notes, with the exception of De Corona, and 6 brief notes on Ad martyras.

Rhenanus had access to two manuscripts, according to his preface, the Paterniacensis (from Payerne/Paeterlingen) which he had found at the house of Jacques Zimmerman, and been given; and the now lost Hirsaugiensis (from Hirsau in Lower Germany), which he had borrowed through an intermediary, Thomas Rapp. He mentions the Gorze and Fulda codices (both also lost), but says in the preface that he couldn't get hold of them. The presses at Froben were idle at that moment, and Rhenanus took the opportunity to undertake a rapid publication in order to seize the moment, but at the expense of quality.  Comparison of pages against the Paterniacensis such as p.357 (above) shows that he mainly simply printed the text before him, and indeed the Paterniacensis shows that he gave it to the printers, marked up, as copy.

The order of treatises given in the edition is not that of any of the manuscripts, but intermingles works from both, and adds the Apologeticum at the end, copied from the 1515 Aldine edition (his own copy of the latter is still among his papers at Sélestat).  The order of the works from the Hirsaugensis seems to be the same as those listed in the catalogue of Trithemius.

Copies seen:  Cambridge University Library;
Copies not seen: British Library, Oxford Colleges: Brasenose, Corpus, New, Queens
Adams lists: CUL, Emmanuel (Spieringk bdg)

Apparently the artwork is by Hans Holbein the Younger, or in his style anyway (see biblio for this).

Notes from Munier: 

The edition is dated the kalends (1st) of July, 1521 (see title page). "For the frontispiece Froben reused the engravings on metal created by Jacob Faber based on the designs of Ambroise Holbein (brother of Holbein the Younger), who was working at Basle between 1515 and 1518.  These engravings had been used in June 1518 to illustrate the edition of the Lives of the Caesars of Suetonius (and other authors), and represent the legend of Tantalus, king of Lydia who, admitted to the table of the gods, stole nectar and ambrosia in order to give them to mortal men.  Then, to test divine prescience, he killed his own son Pelops and served his flesh to the gods at a banquet.  Thrown into Tartarus, Tantalus was chained to a tree, heavy with fruit, in the middle of a limpid lake.  Tormented by hunger and thirst, whenever he sought to drink the water level fell below his grasp, and when he reached for the fruit they lifted out of his reach (see lower figure).  The figurines at the sides evoke the story of Pelops, cut into pieces by resuscitated by Zeus/Jupiter -- represented here deliberating with Hermes/Mercury.  Jupiter replaces the shoulder that Demeter/Ceres had eaten with a piece of ivory." (planche 32).

Rhenanus had grown up in a reforming environment, and some of his comments are not respectful to the pre-reformation church.  The annotations of Rhenanus on Tertullian later appeared in the Index of the inquistion; first in that of Paul IV, in 1559, which condemned en bloc all the works of Rhenanus.  (Title of edition: Index auctorum et librorum qui ab officio Sanctae Romanae et Universalis Inquisitionis caveri ab omnibus et singulis in universa Christiani republica mandantur, sub censuris contra legentes vel tenentest libros prohibentes in Bulla, quae lecta est in coena Domini expressism et sub aliis poenis in Decreto eiusdem Sacri officii contentis.  Romae apud Antonium Bladum, Cameralem impressorem.) The index prohibitorum librorum of 1564 has: "Beati Rhenani scholia in Tertullianeum" Still more aggressive was the censure in the index of the Inquisitor General Quiroga, Cardinal-Archbishop of Toledo, Primate of Spain, published in 1583: Beati Rhenani epistola de primatu Petri ubicumque reperiatur, sive seorsum sive libro decimo operis epistolarum Fabritii ad Fridericum Nauseum.  Item ejusdem Beati Rhenani prologi, annotations seu scholia in Tertullianum.  Que tamen annotationes poterunt legi, si expurgentur. (Munier, p.238, and n.14, p.259).  The additional phrase allowing that they might be read once expurgated, donec repurgentur, appears at the end of the 16th century.  Both the Pamelius and Rigaltius editions, intended to be authorised for use in Roman Catholic circles, take account of these censures. However the scholia in Tertullianum only disappeared from the index in that of Leo XIII in 1900. 

However Rhenanus was to witness violence by the "Rustauds" peasants' revolt at Sélestat in the summer of 1521; by 1525 he had moved away from Lutheranism, as shown by a letter (Horawitz, #240) to Michel Hummelberg on 1st September 1525.  (In the third edition (1539) he states that he submitted his annotations to the judgement of Rome).

The controversial comments did not appear in the dedication,  nor in the Admonitio ad lectorem de quibusdam Tertulliani dogmatis (Warning to the reader about some of Tertullian's teachings) which immediately followed it.  The dedication acknowledges Tertullian's doctrinal eccentricities, but excuse them on account of his early date.  But Munier lists a number of places where Rhenanus, in his commentary, accepts that some of Tertullian's statements contradict medieval church teaching.

The edition is dedicated to Stanislaus Thurzo, bishop of Olmutz in western Moravia, who was the suffragan of the archbishop of Brno.  (Rhenanus  dedicated his 1523 edition of the Auctores historiae ecclesiasticae, and Erasmus did the same in 1525 with his edition of Pliny the Elder).

However I have heard from Jeanne Nuechterlein who writes:

You might be interested to know that Munier has an error in his description of the title-pages. In plate 31 in his article, he shows the main title-page designed by Ambrosius Holbein in 1518, representing Lucian's description of courtly life (Vitae aulicae), and this is the one that was originally used for the Suetonius edition in 1518. Then in discussing plate 32, from which you quote in translation, he is showing and describing the Tantalus title-page on the dedicatory letter; but contrary to what he says this one was designed by Hans Holbein the Younger in 1521 and first used for this edition.

The most comprehensive list of Holbein's prints is the Holbein volume (14, 14A, 14B) of Hollstein's German Engravings, Etchings and Woodcuts 1400-1700 (Roosendaal: Koninklijke van Poll, 1988), edited by Robert Zijlma (this also lists Ambrosius Holbein's prints); it doesn't give any analysis though, it's just a basic catalog. Sources that talk more about the content of the prints are mostly in German, like Christian Müller, Hans Holbein d.J.: Die Druckgraphik im Kupferstichkabinett Basel (Basel: Kupferstichkabinett Basel, 1997), nos. 26 and 28, and Frank Hieronymus, Oberrheinische Buchillustration 2: Basler Buchillustration 1500 bis 1545 (Basel: Universitätsbibliothek Basel, 1984), no. 375/76.

Most writers don't really say much about the relationship between the images and the text. There's a brief comment in the recent exhibition catalog edited by Christian Müller, Hans Holbein the Younger: the Basel Years 1515-1532 (Munich etc.: Prestel, 2006), no. D.8, which is on Holbein's other main print in Tertullian, the Cebes Tablet: here Christian Rümelin says (p. 441) "The components were subject to a concept that was probably developed by the editor, and which presents three aspects of the pagan world of Antiquity: the futile striving toward terrestrial wealth, the temptation of the gods by Tantalus, and the enduring resistance against worldly temptation." So he's referring here to Ambrosius Holbein's Imago vitae aulicae (which is based on Lucian's dialog of the same name and which first appeared in the Suetonius etc. edition), Hans Holbein the Younger's Tantalus, and Hans Holbein the Younger's Cebes Tablet (those two both new for this Tertullian edition; the Cebes Tablet is based on the Greek text then thought to have been by the Theban philosopher Cebes where he's describing the path through life beset by temptations). There's similar comment, in more detail, in Dieter Koppe (ed.), Kostbare illustrierte Bücher des sechzehnten Jahrhunderts in der Stadtbibliothek Trier (Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert, 1995), no. 55, but he wonders whether the program was originally meant for this particular edition--he points out that in De Patientia Tertullian has a long description of Patience which seems like an obvious subject for illustration, but it doesn't appear.

That's about all anyone seems to say about the relationship between text and images. Seems to me though that there probably is a deeper connection; I've gotten interested in this because I'm doing some research on the contents of books in which Holbein's prints were used, and I've been looking particularly at Erasmus' ideas about integrating what is useful from antiquity into Christianity. 

Text of the title page and the reverse of it follows:



liani inter Latinos ecclesiae scriptores primi, sine quorum le
ctione nullum diem intermittebat olim diuus Cyprianus,
per Beatum Rhenanum Seletstadiensem è tenebris eruta
atque à situ pro uirili uindicata, adiectis singulorum libro
rum argumétis & alicubi coniecturis,quibus uetustissimus
autor nonnihil illustratur. Quorum catalogum proxima
pagina reperies.

Floruit sub CAESS. Seuero Pertinace,& Antonino Cara
calla,ualde uicinus Apostolorum temporibus, circa annú à
Christo passo CLX. Quare boni cósulenda sunt, huius scri
Pta, si alicubi uarient à receptis horum temporum dogma
Tis, cum omneis synodos antecesserit, Apostolicis illis
Exceptis, quarum in Actis Lucas commeminit,

Gaude lector,& hunc tibi rarum ac nouum
thesaurum para, ac Vale.


De Patientia. Liber I
De carne Christi. Lib. I
De resurrectione carnis. Lib. I
De praescriptione haereticorú. li. I
Aduersus omneis haereses.lib. I
Aduersus Iudaeos. Lib. I
Aduersus Marcionem Lib. V
Aduersus Hermogenem. Li. I
AduersusValentinianos. lib. I
Aduersus Praxeam. lib. I
De corona militis. lib. I
Ad Martyres. lib. I
De Poenitentia. lib. I
De uirginibus uelandis. lib. I
De habitu muliebri. Lib. I
De cultu foeminarum. lib. I
Ad uxorem suam. lib. II
De fuga in persecutione. Lib. I
Ad Scapulam. Lib. I
De exhortatione castitatis. lib. I
De Monogamia. lib. I
De Pallio. lib. I
Apologeticus aduersus gétes. I

Against De Patientia is the text:
Hunc librú aemulatus est diuus Cyprianus, cum librum scriberet De bono patientiae.

Against Adversus Praxeam is the text:
Hunc librú allegat Hieronymus in principio Quaestionú siue traditionum Hebraicarum in Genesim. Et forte est, cuius epitomen fecisse Nouatianú idem alibi testatur Hieronymus.

Against De Monogamia is the text:
Hunc citat Hieronymus in epistola ad Paulinum.


On the third page is the dedicatory preface.


-- Pierre PETITMENGIN, A propos du "Tertullien" de Beatus Rhenanus (1521) ---- Comment on imprimait a Bâle au debut du seizième siecle, Annuaire de la societe des Amis de la Bibliotheque Humanistique de Sélestat (1980) pp.93-106. Checked
-- François HEIM & James HIRSTEIN, Beatus Rhenanus (1485-1547): Lecteur et editeur des textes anciens. Actes du Colloque International tenu à Strasbourg et à Sélestat du 13 au 15 novembre 1998. Brepols (2000), ISBN 2-503-51120-1. Checked.  Article by Charles Munier on the annotations of Rhenanus on the Tertullian editions, p.235ff. Article by Frédéric Chapot on how Rhenanus edited Adversus Hermogenem in his three editions, p.263ff.
-- Pierre PETITMENGIN, Tertullien entre la fin du XIIe et le début du XVIe siècle, in M. CORTESI (ed), Padri Greci e Latini a confronto: Atti del Convegno di studi della Società Internazionale per lo Studio del Medioevo Latino.  Firenze: SISMEL (2004).  pp. 63-88.  Checked.

This page has been online since 11th December 1999.

Return to the Tertullian Project / About these pages