What are the origins of putting epigraphs in a work?

Wikipedia has this example from 1700, but no explanation on when or why epigraphs came into vogue.

Facsimile of the original title page for William Congreve's The Way of the World published in 1700, on which the epigraph from Horace's Satires can be seen in the bottom quarter.

Title page

  • Hey, welcome to Literature.SE! Nice question; glad you asked it! I'm unsure of what tags to put on this, honestly - I know that [history-of-literature] applies, but I'm unsure of [terminology], and not sure what else would apply. Regardless, good question! – Mithical Oct 10 '17 at 19:24
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    @Mithrandir does it need a tag other than history-of-literature? – muru Oct 11 '17 at 6:21

The first known epigraph was used in Froissart's "Chroniques" about 1404 and «Calendarium» of Regimontan at 1476.

Э. стали применяться в лит-ре с нач. 15 в., впервые, насколько известно, в кн. «Хроники» («Chronique», написана к 1404, опубл. 1495) Ж. Фруассара, «Calendarium» Реджомонтано (Венеция, опубл. около 1476), «Максимы» (1665) Ф. де Ларошфуко («Наши добродетели — это чаще всего искусно переряженные пороки»).
- Russian source

Epigraphs began to be used in literature from the beginning of the 15th century. The first known appearance of an epigraph is in the “Cronique” books (written in 1404 and published in 1495) by J. Froissart, “Calendarium” by Reggomontano (Venice, published circa 1476) and “Maxims” (1665) by F. de La Rochefoucauld (“Our virtues are more often all skillfully dressed vices”).
- Russian to English translation

An image of a page with an epigraph from “Chroniques” is available courtesy of the British Library:

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    Hello, welcome to Literature.SE! This looks interesting; but can you please provide some sources to support your claim? Almost all good answers will provide some sort of backup for their claims. An image would also be nice, like the one provided in the question :). (And are you absolutely sure that's the first? If so that would be interesting to know how.) – Mithical Oct 10 '17 at 21:17
  • @Mithrandir, my source was in russian "Literary dictionary" – HasmikGaryaka Oct 10 '17 at 21:30
  • Would you mind editing to include that, with perhaps a quote and a translation? :) – Mithical Oct 10 '17 at 21:30
  • No, nobody can be sure, but it's one of the first printed books, so it can be. – HasmikGaryaka Oct 10 '17 at 21:34
  • Thanks for providing your sources! This is now a much better answer than it was at first! :D – Mithical Oct 10 '17 at 21:54

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