An abridgemente of the notable worke of Polidore Virgile: Conteining the deuisers and fyrste fyneders…

In 1501, the Pope sent Polydore Vergil to England where he wrote Anglicae Historiae, the first humanist chronicle of British history. He had been raised in Urbino, a small town graced with the magnificent library of Duke Frederico da Montefeltro, who amassed perhaps the largest collection of Latin and Greek manuscripts in Italy, outside of the Vatican. Vergil drew on this vast resource to prepare De inventoribus rerum, published in 1501. Arranged in three books and 67 chapters, the work set out to identify the discoverer of things, starting with the origin of the gods and the word “god.” It concluded with a chapter on who first established prostitution and an admission that the authors are not known for many inventions.

De inventoribus rerum was widely popular. It appeared in 30 Latin editions before Vergil died in 1555 and was translated into French (1521), German (1537), English (1546) and Spanish (1551). Some viewed the book as too secular—most of the inventions had pagan origin. In 1521, Vergil added five books on the origin of Christian traditions, practices and institutions. The Church was not mollified and De inventoribus rerum was placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum in 1564. A sanctioned version appeared in 1576.

Thomas Langley authored an abridged English translation of De inventoribus rerum, which was printed in 1546 (two variants), 1551, and ca. 1560 (the present copy). His Devisers and First Finders covers all eight books, but the text is shortened by nearly two-thirds. Langley was educated at Jesus College, Cambridge and later served as chaplain to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. In his translation, he uses the books on the origins of Christian practices to illustrate how the Church of Rome went awry.

Of particular interest to modern bibliophiles is the passage on the invention of printing: “… one man may Printe more in one day, then many men in many yeres coulde write… It was founde in Germany at Magunce by one J. Cuthenbergus a knight: he found moreover the Inke by his devyse that Prynters use. Xvi. yeres after Printing was found, which was ye yere of our lorde. M. cccc. Lviii., one Conradus an Almaine brought it into Rome: and Nicolaus Johnson a Frencheman did greatly polish & garnish it. And now it is dispersed through the whole world almost.”

Chrzanowski 1560v *

STC 24658

Title List

1479–1550 | 1551–1580 | 1583–1608 | 1609–1675