ALVERNUS, Guillelmus


ALVERNUS, Guillelmus De fide De legibus

[Augsburg], [Günther Zainer], [1475-6]


FIRST EDITION fol. 139 ex 140 ll. lacking initial blank, unpaginated and unsigned [a9 b-o¹ ], 43 lines plus headline to page, text in an elegant and unusual Gothicised Roman (type 95 reprod. BMC C15th vol II fasc. p.1), guide spaces, undecorated. Single, apparently dismissive, contemporary marginalium to prologue and marginal markings to table. Early ink smudge to one leaf. A fine, well-margined copy on thick paper, in good C19 polished calf by Mackenzie, spine and covers gilt ruled, a.e.r.

First and only early edition of one of the most important works of William of Auvergne, part of his monumental Magisterium divinale, an explanation of the whole natural world, composed about 1231-36. Divided into ten parts, and subdivided into chapters, this attractively produced volume covers i.a. reason, faith and love, the nature of error, belief and its meaning, the power of faith and miracles, the dangers of credulity, heresy, and demonology, the power of the intellect and natural virtue, the errors of the Jews, the dangers of transvestism, superstition, and magic, cults and demons, the errors of Islam (especially in relation to astrology and sex) the cause of ‘idolatories’ such as witchcraft, conjuring, divination, necromancy, elementalism, and other idols and rites and sacrifices.

Thorndike (cit. inf.) devotes an entire chapter to William “whose works present an unexpectedly detailed picture of the magic and superstition of the time. He is well acquainted with the occult literature and the natural philosophy of the day and has much to say of magic, demons, occult virtue, divination and astrology. Finally he also gives considerable information concerning what we may call the school of natural magic and experiment”. Although not free from all the superstitions of his time William here makes clear the distinction between natural and black magic and refutes the power of demons over nature or of the stars over human will. William was in fact very well read in Arabic science and Pseudo-Solomonic esoterica, and acquainted with Hermetic philosophy. He has been called “the first great scholastic, setting the stage for Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, and their disciples. Albertus and Alexander were at Paris with him, as was Roger Bacon”, DSB cit inf.

BMC II 323. GW 11863. Goff G711. Hain 8317. Thorndike vol II pp 219-20, 279-81 and chapter lii. Cantamessa, No. 248 ter. Not in Caillet. cf. DSB XIV pp 388-89.

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