De consilio sapientis.

Venice, [Paolo Manuzio], 1560.


FIRST EDITION. Small 4to, ff. 125, (11). Aldine device to title page, one woodcut historiated initial. Light age yellowing and some light browning, the odd minor stain and marginal tear. A very good, crisp, well margined copy in mottled calf over boards C1700, gilt title on red morocco label to spine, raised bands gilt in compartments, fleurons gilt in each, edges sprinkled red, rubbed. Later inscription to front pastedown.

First very rare edition of this treatise on Roman law, civil procedure, contracts and wills by the jurist from Padua Pace Scala, a close friend of Paolo Manuzio, and an example of Paolo’s very rare legal printing.

The “consilia” were expert opinions requested by the judge to interpret a legal case regarding a specific field. From the C12th they became essential in the lawsuit, in both forms, oral and written. The judge was often not the presiding official of a court and the right decision came from the educated “doctor consulens” whom the judge (nor always trained in the law) or the parties put in charge for guidance, rendered  in the form of an impartial consilium. The consilia mainly concerned civil law but, as Pace observed, the opinions given by Ippolito Marsili and others showed that princes and magistrates often needed help from expert jurists even in penal cases. The work focuses on the system of the consilium and the role played by the expert in the legal cases. The subject matter is divided into 4 books, each articulated in several chapters. The first encompasses the origin and general nature of the consilium, the profile of the expert and classification of their opinions. In the second chapter Scala states that the consilium has been used since the Roman age and that definitions were already provided in Marco Mantua and Tiberius Decianus’ writings. For instance, Acilius was considered to be the first expert on civil law, according to Cicero’s “De amicitia”. The second book deals with the development of the discipline during Augustus’ empire and explains which disputes require the consilium, not only regarding the general civil law but also marriage, estates, trade and administration (Cicero’s “De oratore”). The book 3 and 4 focus on the definition of expert jurist and the approval of his consilium which determined the judge’s sentence. The book 4 also describes the qualities of the expert (the “wise” man), such as nobility, as a combination of wisdom, deeds and ancestry. Admission from lower classes was taken into consideration but people who had broken the law, as well as Jews, were excluded. The treatise ends with a section on contracts and wills which relate to consilia commissioned by individual litigants.

Scala reports on the use of the consilium in the Venetian society and presents a legal system based on knowledge and merit rather than on wealth and ancestry. Numerous are the quotations from classical authors as well as from medieval, such as Bartolo of Sassoferrato (d. 1357) and his pupil Baldo degli Ubaldi from Perugia (1327-1400), famous for his consilia on all fields of civil and private law. Amongst the texts analysed, are the Digest and Codex in Justinian’s “Corpus Juris Civilis” and the Corpus Juris Canonici. 

Only the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (Austin) copy recorded in the US. Not in Brunet or Graesse. Adams, S 549; BM STC It., p. 616; Renouard, 179:1 (“rare”).


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