First came Mombritius, probably in 1480, who printed his Sanctuarium in the incunable era. This was essentially a two volume version of a late medieval collection of Saint’s lives.
But next came Luigi Lippomano, or Aloysius Lippomanus, (Wikipedia article) with his vitarum Sanctorum priscorum Patrum, 1551-1560, in 8 volumes in Venice. The links to the volumes are as follows:
- 1 (1551) – https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Mmw8AAAAcAAJ
- 2 (1553) – https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=omw8AAAAcAAJ
- 3 (1554) – https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=EW08AAAAcAAJ
- 4 (1554) – https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=UW08AAAAcAAJ
- 5 (1556) – https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=CNP7E3QFzZ0C
- 6 (1558) – https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=dZEeNdvTevAC
- 7 (1558) – https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Of6xdOV_YYkC
- 8 (1560) – https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=bl5lAAAAcAAJ
I spent some time locating these volumes, which was less easy than you might think, so it’s worth giving the links.
After Lippomanus came Surius, with his De probatis Sanctorum histories (Cologne, 1570-1577); an expanded edition by his colleague Mosander, published as De vitis sanctorum omnium nationum, ordinum et temporum, (Venice, 1581); and a still more expanded version in twelve volumes was printed in Cologne in 1617-18. These I leave for another time.
After that, the Bollandists started up the Acta Sanctorum.
The trouble is that we don’t have a complete set of critically edited Saint’s lives. So these early collections still have value. Which is bizarre!