GAIETANUS de THIENIS; JANDUNO, Joannes de. Expositio in Aristotelem De anima. […] Quaestiones de sensu agente. […] Quaestiones super libro de substantia orbis.

Venice, Bonetus Locatellus, for Octavianus Scotus, decimo kal. Januarias, 1493 [i.e., 23 Dec 1492 or 1493].


Folio. ff. [2], 112, [2], [*]2 A-T6. Gothic letter, double column. Two ½-page circular woodcut diagrams illustrating the kinds of soul and the spheres, 6 smaller woodcut diagrams, decorated initials. Handful of scattered small worm holes to initial gatherings, mainly to blank margins or interlinear, titlepage somewhat soiled and strengthened at gutter, few ancient repairs, one touching four letters (no loss), large ink smudge to outer blank margin of A6 and B2, occasional minor marks, intermittent ink stains at gutter. A very good copy in modern vellum over boards, contemporary ms ‘[con]ventus s[an]cti d[o]m[ini]ci’ and C17 ‘Conventus Santi Dominici Civitatis Eiusdem’ to first leaf, ms ‘Ad usu[m] Fr[atr]is Anselmi Vincetini, or[dinis] fr[atru]m eremita[rum] S Augustini que[m] accomodavi F[rat]ri An[toni]o Taurisino eiusde[m] ordinis dei 16 Junij 1517’ to title, contemporary ms ‘con[ven]tus s[an]cti d[omi]n[i]ci c. placie [Piacenza?]’ at foot of C5, occasional C16 ms marginalia in a cursive and an Italic hand.

A very good copy of the second edition of this important incunabular collection of three Aristotelian commentaries, the first two being milestones of early psychology. Gaietanus de Thiene (1387-1465?) was professor of philosophy and medicine at Padua, where he introduced, through his commentaries, many philosophical theories from England and France. ‘As far as we know, most of these commentaries were written for use in a university setting. As a consequence, the choice of texts commented upon and the degree of detail given to a certain passage is often due, at least in part, to its use in a classroom, a universitarian debate or its relevance for exams’ (Stan. Enc. Phil.). Gaietanus’s commentary on Aristotle’s ‘De anima’ – which has been called the first book of scientific psychology – was read by medical students to understand how a creature could be defined as ‘living’ or ‘having a soul’, the nature and kinds of soul (vegetative, animal, rational, etc.), reproduction, nutrition, the senses and the concept of sensation, the intellect, and movement according to the number of senses possessed. These fundamental questions were argued by physicians, for instance, when determining whether/when a foetus was ‘alive’ or how movements are generated through the brain and nerves. Partly influenced by Averroism, Gaietanus provides short Latin excerpts from ‘De anima’, followed by commentary.

‘Quaestiones de sensu agente’, was written entirely by Gaietanus. Its subject, clearly inspired by ‘De anima’, is ‘sensus agens’ (active sense), which had been explored by the Scholastics and Averroists alike. Active sense was used to explain the act of cognition and perception through the senses, i.e., how the soul is affected by the external object it perceives (e.g., when it ‘memorizes’ it), and how the soul perceives the object in the first place (e.g., when the eye is filled with light). It is followed by two similar ‘quaestiones’, argued by Gaietanus, on the common senses (‘De sensibilibus communibus’) and the intellect (‘De intellectu’).

The third is a commentary on Averroes’s treatise on substance that constitutes the earth by Joannes de Janduno (or Jean de Jandun or Johannes de Gandavo) (c.1285-1323), French philosopher and theologian, professor at Paris. The work investigates whether the form and matter of the heavens as a whole is the same as that of terrestrial bodies, discussing the movement and nature of the heavens, whether they are animate or inanimate, corruptible or incorruptible.

This copy was in two northern Italian convents, one of Augustinian Hermits, the other, Dominican, probably located in Piacenza. The earlier (cursive) annotator – Anselmo Vincetini – was interested in the intellect, glossing a passage, in the commentary to ‘De anima’, with detailed references to interpretations by the medieval Augustinian philosopher Egidio Romano, mentioned by Gaietanus. In ‘De sensu agente’, he glossed two sections on the interaction of the active sense and the soul, with references to the theories of Agostino Nifo. The slightly later annotator glossed passages in Book I on the difference in the soul and intellect of humans and animals, and the ‘accidents’ of knowledge and perception,

ISTC dates this to 23 December 1493, following the colophon date ‘decimo kal. Januarias 1493’, GW suggests 1492. This depends on the reference system, the date in 1493 according to the Julian or 1492 according to the Gregorian calendar.