Tractatus Utilis de septem peccatis mortalibus.

Paris (?), Denis Roce, 1510 (?).


8vo., 12 unnumbered and unsigned leaves, final blank. Gothic letter, woodcut initials. Age yellowing, light damp staining to upper margin of first seven leaves, a good clean copy in modern paper over boards. Contemporary manuscript ex libris on verso of final blank “Nicolas Racinus.”

A treatise on the seven deadly sins, drawing heavily from Scripture, but based on the accepted terms of the day, put forth by Pope Gregory I and also depicted in Dante’s ‘Inferno.’ The short work includes chapters on gula (gluttony), luxuria (lust), avaritia (greed), superbia (pride), invidia (envy), ira (wrath), and accidia (apathy).

Nider begins with gluttony because he believes that wine is the root of all other sins, that it distorts the senses into heresy, lust, or anger. The concluding chapter on apathy (now replaced with ‘sloth’) is the longest, discussing the dangers of disengagement with the world through extreme sorrow, and a sinful lack of sympathy for the misfortunes of others. The size and brevity of the work suggest the pamphlet could rest in the pocket, as a practical and useful reminder to avoid vice, hence also the ‘utilis’ in the title.

Johannes Nider (1380 – 1438) was a Dominican friar from Swabia, who attended the Councils of Constance (1414 – 18) as an advocate for reforming the Dominican order, and Basel (1431 – 4), where he began his most famous work, the ‘Formicarius,’ on witchcraft. It was one of the earliest books to attribute magic to women rather than educated males – a fairly shocking idea for the time.

Not in Adams, BM STC Fr. We have located only one other copy at the BN. OCLC 780161378.


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