Saint Cyprian (ca. A.D. 200-258) was one of the most illustrious figures in early church history. In a time of intense persecution and division within the church, Cyprian was beheaded and became the first African bishop to die a martyr. Cyprian's writings are not only important sources for the history of early church life and of ecclesiastical law, but they are noted for their literary merit as well.
It was no accident that Paulus Manutius, shortly after arriving in Rome as the church's official printer, set about to publish the works of Cyprian. At the time the Reformation was in full swing and the Council of Trent was hotly embroiled in the debate over the primacy of the pope in Rome, a theme of some of Cyprian's writing.
Although edited by Latino Latini, one of the most capable editors of his day, intrigue and great controversy soon surrounded the 1563 Aldine Cyprian text. In one of his private letters, Latini complains that after all his laborious and careful editing somehow portions of the text had been altered: "some passages were retained contrary to the evidence of the manuscripts, and even some additions made." The text had in fact been extensively interpolated in favor of those supporting the position of absolute papal power. Under these circumstances, Latini would not allow his name to be connected with the edition, "deeming it no light crime to conceal the truth or to alter the smallest letter." Thus, powerless to prevent Vatican officials from tampering with his text for polemical advantage, one of the most competent editors of the period felt compelled to resign from his work.