De mystica numerorum significatione.

[Paris, Henri I Estienne, 1513.]


FIRST and ONLY early edition. 4to. ff. 41 (iii). Roman letter, white on black decorated initials. T-p and couple of others a bit thumbed, a very good, thick paper copy in contemporary vellum. Bookplate of Erwin Tomash to front pastedown, illegible remains of early inscription on t-p. In modern folding box.

Very good copy of the first and only edition of this numerological treatise. Educated at Leuven, Josse van Clichtove (1472-1543) was a Belgian theologian and philosopher, and librarian at the Sorbonne; many of his works were harsh critiques of Lutheranism. One of his earliest works, ‘De mystica numerorum significatione’ is a pamphlet on the mystical meaning of numbers in the Scriptures using major ancient and medieval numerical theories including those of Pythagoras, Aristotle, Boethius and St Augustine. It associates numbers to their manifestations in the Bible—e.g., one (the gnostic Monad), three (the Trinity), four (the Evangelists)—reflecting on fundamental theological concepts like hypostasis or the existence of one god in the three distinct persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The work looked back to the ancient numerological tradition criticised on the one hand but on the other widely employed and transmitted to medieval theologians by the Church Fathers, and assimilated in the early Renaissance through the lens of Neo-Platonism. The final ‘epilogus’ summarises the chapters listing the main meanings for each number: e.g., 11 as ‘transgression of the Ten Commandments and sin’ and 40 ‘expiation of sin and time of penitence’. A little known and extremely learned product of late medieval exegesis and the numerological tradition.

Tomash & Williams C103; Renouard 14:5; Brunet II, 108; BM STC It., p. 117; Honeyman II, 725. Not in Riccardi or Smith.


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