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A: Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States, B: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

John Norton's Copy of Augustinus's Opuscula, 1491, the Earliest Documented 15th Century Printed Book in North America

1635
<p>Proto-title page for the earliest of the two editions of Augustinus's Opuscula printed in Venice in 1491. From the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.</p>

Proto-title page for the earliest of the two editions of Augustinus's Opuscula printed in Venice in 1491. From the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

In 1635 Rev. John Norton, a Puritan divine, brought to Plymouth, Massachusetts a copy of the Venice 1491 edition of St. Augustine's Opuscula. (ISTC No. ia01219000). Preserved in the Boston Public Library, it is the earliest documented 15th century book present in North America. A digital facsimile of the different copy of the same 1491 edition preserved at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek is available at this link.

Norton was renowned for his scholarship and a prolific author of at least 7 books. In 1645 he wrote the first book written in Latin in New England. It was first published in 1648 in London as: Responsio ad totam quaestionum syllogen à clarissimo viro domino Guilielmo Apollonio, : ecclesiae middleburgensis pastore, propositam. : Ad componendas controversias quasdam circa politiam ecclesiasticam in Anglia nunc temporis agitatas spectantem. / Per Iohannem Nortonum ... Londini : typis R.B. impensis Andreae Crook ..., 1648. 

In 1491 no less than 4 editions of the same title were printed: 2 in Venice, 1 in Parma, and 1 in Strassburg. All four of these editions appear to have had large circulations as more than 100 copies of mody have survived. The Boston Public Library holds both 1491 Venice printings. The second is ia1222000. When I revised this entry in August 2019 I did not confirm which edition was previously owned by John Norton.

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