COLUMNA, Petrus Galatinus.


De arcanis catholicae veritatis, contra obstinatissimam Judeorum nostrem tempestatis perfidiam: ex Talmud, aliisque hebraicis libris nuper excerptum. Epigramma hebraicum.

Orthona, per Hieronymum Soncinu, 1518


FIRST EDITION fol. ff. 311 (i). Roman, Hebrew and Greek letter. 13 ll. within striking white on black woodcut borders of foliage and urns, white on black initials with strapwork background. Intermittent contemporary scholarly marginalia, occasionally extensive and some clearly cabalistic in content. Light marginal foxing, last leaf holed with loss of two letters, a good, clean, thick paper copy in vellum over bds. Circa 1600, speckled blue edges.

A very rare and curious Cabalistic work from Gerson Soncino’s short lived Orthona press, which produced four books, one of them in Hebrew. “Most interesting of all of these is the work of Petrus Galatinus, the Franciscan, ‘On the Mystery of the Catholic Truth’ (…) we find among [Gerson’s] publications the ancient classics as well as Catholic publications (…) and most remarkable of all the book of Galatinus, which was not only Catholic but distinctly anti-Jewish in purpose, introduced to the public in Hebrew verses by the author or some apostate editor as a book filled with loveliness, expounding the secrets of the Talmud in which may be found the very foundation of Christian Messianism the unity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The desire to find support in the Hebrew books for the doctrine of the Trinity arose out of the spread of Cabalism, a so-called science, through which Jewish mystics attempted to explain the mysteries of heaven and earth, and which had many Christian devotees, among them the famous Cardinal Egidio of Viterbo, who in this very year 1518 had assisted in the establishment of a Hebrew press in the city of Rome”. (Amram cit. infr.)

Galatinus (al. Columna) was a converted Jew from Apulia who in the present work, dedicated to the Emperor Maximilian no less, undertook the defence of Reuchlin for his interest in the Cabala and Jewish books. He explains that in times past the Cabala had been secretly and orally transmitted, though recent Jews such as the Rabbi Simeon had written about it lest it be lost entirely, albeit in veiled terms. Galatinus holds that the Talmudic tradition enables one to piece out gaps or corrupt passages in scripture. He also deals at length with the Tetragrammaton and the divine names, the rest of the book being concerned chiefly with the Messiah and the time of His coming. A remarkable and substantial work of Judeo-Christian mysticism of the esoteric kind which fascinated many of the Renaissance’s most considerable minds.

It is also a beautifully produced and very handsome volume.

BM STC It. p.192. Manzoni 108. Amram pp. 124-6. Brunet II 1447 “Elle renferme plusieurs pièces qu’on n’a pas réimpr.” Thorndike VI pp. 445. (who had not seen a copy). Caillet II 4304. Not in Mortimer, Harvard C16 It., Sander or Essling.

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