The Rubrics of the First Book of Lactantius Firmianus's On the Divine Institutes Against the Pagans Begin …


This very rare work by Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius is one of the first books printed in Italy and the first dated Italian imprint. It was produced by the German typographers Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, who established a printing press in 1465 at the Benedictine abbey of Subiaco, near Rome. According to the colophon, the book was completed “In the year of Our Lord 1465, in the second year of the papacy of Paul II, the thirteenth indiction and the last day but two of the month of October. In the venerable monastery of Subiaco.” Sweynheym and Pannartz moved to Rome in 1467 and by 1475 had printed 50 books, including works by church fathers and classical Roman authors. This volume contains the seven books of Lactantius’s most important work, Divinarum institutionum libri VII (The divine institutions), and two minor works by the same author. Born in North Africa late in the third century AD, Lactantius was a teacher of rhetoric who, after his conversion, wrote works patterned after classical models that explained Christianity in ways intended to appeal to educated Romans still practicing the traditional religions of their empire. Written between 303 and 311, Divinarum institutionum argues the futility of pagan belief and the logic and truth of Christianity. The beginning of the volume contains a table of nine explanatory commentaries introducing the texts that follow. Throughout most of the book, the first letters of paragraphs are in red or blue, and the beginnings of chapters are handwritten in red. Initial capital letters illuminated with gold leaf open each of the nine books within the work. The volume was bound in gold-tooled red morocco leather in the middle of the 19th century.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, Monastery of Subiaco

Title in Original Language

Lactantii Firmiani de diuinis institutionibus aduersus gentes rubrice pmi libri incipiunt


Type of Item

Physical Description

Printed book, with manuscript titles in red and 9 first letters illuminated on gold foil. 181 pages; 36 lines. 30.5 x 21.5 centimeters

Last updated: October 17, 2011