AQUINAS’ SEMINAL WORK

Prima et secunda pars summe sacre theologie.

Venice, Philippo Pincio Mantuano, 1509.

£2,950

Folio, two volumes, 1) ff. 14, 148; 2) ff. (6), 195, (1). 1) Black letter, preface in Roman; white-on-black decorated initials, large portrait of Aquinas in first initial and large printer’s device on last leaf; title and first gathering a bit browned, few small wormholes occasionally affecting one letter at beginning and end; 2): Black letter; tiny wormholes on title and lower margins of first three gatherings; occasionally browned, marginal damp stains on few leaves, rust spot on ff. 66-76. Good copies, both in contemporary German ¼ pigskin, thick-wooden boards, blind-tooled with wreaths, roses and ‘Maria’ scrolls; slightly rubbed, a couple of minor wormholes, joints a bit cracked. Some contemporary underlining and scholarly annotations throughout, by three German hands, one (1565) a note at f. 43v of 1), another inscribing head of 2) title-page as ‘Joh. Gersb[ae?] 1557 decem. 14’; on both volumes, early ex libris ‘Guilielmi Boller Mogoni consiliarii aulici Eichstettensis 1782’ on title, modern inscription, stamp and bookplate on front pastedown. Titles and shelf mark inked on upper edge in contemporary hand; small circle (additional shelf mark?) curiously branded on both upper boards and upper fore-edge; contemporary abridged title on front board of volume 2/2.

Second sixteenth-century Italian edition of this milestone in the history of Western philosophy and religion, written by St Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225 – 1274) from 1265 until his death. Drawing from Christian, Muslim, Hebrew and Pagan authorities, the work is a vast compendium of the teachings of the medieval Catholic Church. It exerted an immeasurable influence upon all field of human speculation, over four centuries at least. The Summa was so important as to be translated not only into most European languages (including Greek), but even Armenian and Chinese.

It is divided into three parts, the last left unfinished. As was typical of scholastic thinking, topics are presented and treated as questions. The first part deals with theology and contains, amongst many other issues, the famous five proofs of God’s existence as the first unmoved mover, the first cause, the absolutely necessary and perfect being, and the sole rational designer. The second part is divided in two and addresses general and particular ethical problems, from passion, law and grace to the theological and cardinal virtues. The third, uncompleted part focuses on Christ. This comprehensive edition was issued between 1509 and 1512, split as usual into four volumes. It is extremely uncommon to have the entire set and the first volume of part two is particularly rare. Here, this and the fourth volume are missing. Along with the contemporary annotations by German scholars, this copy bears the ex libris of Friederich Wilhelm Boller (1725 – 1792), jurist from Eichstädt and private counsellor. The massive library of this remarkable bibliophile was sold in 1793.

A very interesting copy, unrestored. 

No complete copy recorded outside three Italian libraries. In US: two copies of vol.1, none of vol. 2/1, 3 of vol. 2/2 and only one of vol. 3.

Adams, A 1425 (only 2nd/2 and 3rd vols). Not in BM STC It., Brunet or Graesse.

L1918

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