Lauingen: [Eponymous Press,] 12 April, 1473.
Chancery folio: 27 x 18 cm. 107 leaves (of 108, lacking initial blank). Collation: [a-k10, l8
A very fine, wide-margined copy bound in 19th-century paneled morocco gilt by Holloway (signs of light wear). Rubricated, with large red painted initials at the openings of books 1 and 4, woodcut initials, many painted over in red (a little marginal dampstaining and fingersoiling, a few spots). Provenance: occasional marginalia – Eichstätt, Bavaria, Dominicans, St. Peter (bookplate dated 1742 on first leaf) – Henry Hucks Gibbs (1819-1907), 1st Baron Aldenham, merchant banker; armorial bookplate of Aldenham House, Herts, and signature dated 1866) – Elaine and Alexandre Rosenberg - acquired from Lathrop C. Harper, New York, 3 February 1966.
This is one of only two books printed at Lauingen in the 15th century. The press at this small town on the Danube in Swabia was probably associated with the convent of Augustinian Hermits there. One other book, Augustine's De anima et spiritu, dated 9 November 1472 but without a stated place of printing, is ascribed to the same anonymous Lauingen press on the basis of the type—one of the earliest roman types used in Germany.
First edition of Augustine’s “Harmony of the Gospels”, an attempt to resolve the Synoptic Problem, that is, to account for the apparent contradictions in the evangelists’ accounts of the life of Christ and to arrive at a definitive version of that narrative. Dividing all variations in the Gospels into two main categories: differences in the orders of events and differences in the details of the same event, Augustine worked meticulously through all of the inconsistencies from beginning to end, and produced “the most sophisticated and comprehensive explanation of the writing of the Gospels in all of early Christianity.”(Dungan)
“The ‘De consensu Evangelistarum libri IV’ was written c. 400-405 to refute those who accused the evangelists of contradictions, and to prove 1. the evangelists’ authority vs. pagan philosophers (who accused the evangelists of having falsely attributed divinity to Christ), 2. the historicity of their discourse, and 3. the harmony of their accounts. It is likely that Augustine’s lengthy treatise was a response to Porphyry’s criticism of the evangelists’ accounts rather than to Manichaean attacks against Gospels discrepancies, as was long believed.
“Augustine’s treatise exerted a very strong and enduring influence on the history of Biblical exegesis. The reason for this is that Augustine formulated the theoretical principles of harmonizing the Gospel accounts, which ‘remained the last word for a thousand years’ (Dungan 12), at least in the West.” (Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine)
“Where Origen saw the harmony of the four Gospels primarily on the spiritual level, and Eusebius identified the verbal similarities among the four without attempting to combine them physically, Augustine was the first major Theologian since Tatian to treat all verses and stories in the four Gospels as if they were fragments of a jigsaw puzzle that could be combined in one, continuous, literally true super-narrative. As such, Augustine set a pattern that flourished in the Church for more than a thousand years; indeed, it continues to this day….
He believed that Matthew wrote first, highlighting the Kingly nature of Jesus. Augustine then, originally, believed that Mark, highlighting the human nature of Jesus, was dependent on Matthew for his composition, with Luke, highlighting the priestly nature of Jesus, following with knowledge of both of them. Later, after a long study of the Gospels that is manifested in the ‘Harmony of the Gospels’, Augustine concludes that it is more likely to him that Luke followed and depended on Matthew, and then Mark wrote with knowledge of and dependence on both Matthew and Luke.
“As for the… question, ‘How were the holy Gospels actually composed?’, Augustine towered far above anyone else in the entire history of early Christianity. His complex, articulate, and theologically sophisticated series of answers to this question were more advanced than anything anyone else had written. Here, quite unlike Origen, Augustine sought to weave together the actual words of the four Gospels, to prove that the Gospel authors were in harmony in their outward, physical writings as well as at their spiritual level. In the course of doing this, he noticed the close similarities in wording and order between Matthew, Mark, and Luke, prompting him to revise his original statement about the order of composition that Mark was the abbreviator of Matthew, to the new idea that Mark had used Luke as well. In this, Augustine anticipated the discovery of Henry Owen and Johann Griesbach, many centuries later….
“Augustine’s comprehensive and sophisticated analysis ended the debate. Nothing more was heard from the Manichaeans or the Porphyrians or the Neoplatonists. The increasing suppression of these religions may have had something to do with it, but, whatever the reason, Augustine's exhaustive discussion of the similarities and differences among the Gospels became the last word on the subject for more than one thousand years. It also paved the way for countless harmonies, especially in the sixteenth century and after, down to the present time.”(Dungan, History of the Synoptic Problem).
ISTC ia01257000; HC 1981*; GW 2897; BMC II 545; BSB-Ink A-866; Bod-inc A-539; Goff A-1257