HOLKOT, Robert


HOLKOT, Robert Quaestiones super quatuor libros Sententiarum Petri Lombardi

Lyon, Johannes Trechsel, 5-20 Apr. 1497


FIRST EDITION. 4to. 178 unnumbered ff., 88 a-n8 o10 A8 B6 C-H8 I10. Gothic letter, double column. 7-line initials supplied in red, at start of books in red and blue with anthropomorphic and zoomorphic penflourishing (e.g., herons) and animal figures (e.g., unicorn, owl, dragon), 3-line initials supplied in red; woodcut printer’s device to last. T-p and last a bit soiled at margins, marginal early pen trials or ink smudges to couple of ll., slight yellowing, light oil stain to upper margin of first two gatherings, minor water stain to upper or outer edge in a few places, extreme upper outer blank corner of A2 torn, tiny worm trail to lower blank margin of A8. A good copy, on thick, high-quality paper, in c1600 contemporary reversed sheep, lacking ties, sewing exposed, rubbed with some loss at head, horizontal scratches to lower board, corners bumped. Early ms. ‘1497’ to front pastedown, on t-p: C16 ms. ‘mi est amy secret Fre[re] Jacques Maistret’, ‘Ad usum fratris Jacobi Maistret Carmelitae Lugdunensis teste suo sigi[ll]o manuali’, ‘L Berthiot 1679’, ‘L Berthiot 1684’ and scattered autograph by both owners, two more (smudged and illegible) to t-p verso, C16 ms. notes, ms. page numbers (C16) supplied, C16 ms. ‘mon coeur de mon amour’ to lower blank margins of last two ll., ‘Jassain’, French mottoes and pen trials to last verso and rear pastedown.

An attractive and interesting copy, rubricated and with some C16 annotations, of the first edition of this incredibly learned work in Scholastic philosophy—the standard theology textbook of the middle ages. The English Dominican Robert Holkot (or Holcot, c.1290-1349) was a renowned philosopher and biblical exegete, professor of theology at Oxford and follower of William of Ockham’s scholasticism. His commentary on Peter Lombard’s (1096-1160) ‘Libri Quattuor Sententiarum’ has survived in a greater number of mss than the commentary by William of Ockham. A collection of statements on the Scriptures by acknowledged authorities, the ‘Sentences’ discussed the Trinity, the Creation, the incarnation of the word, and the doctrine of signs, touching on the sacraments, demons, sin and human will. This first edition was produced, from numerous, often imperfect manuscripts, by the famous scholar and printer Jodocus Badius Ascensius (1462-1535), editor and proofreader for Jean Trechsel in Lyon, in 1492-98.

The C16 annotator of this copy was keen on calligraphy and drawings, highlighting sidenotes with inked scrolls, and drawing maniculae and diagrammatic penflourishings. He was interested in a variety of questions: belief in the articles of faith, their relationship to ‘ratio naturalis’ (the law of nature), free will and the intellect, God’s distributive justice, the determination of what is just, whether God and angels can read our secret thoughts, the significance of the priest’s words during baptism and whether they remain the same in different languages, which water is pure enough (when it remains within its species) to validate baptism (sea water, due to salt, is mixed with ‘eartly parts’; thermal water is fine, urine or beer are not), and baptism of children ‘in periculo mortis’.  

Jacques Maistret (1584-1615) was a Catholic bishop, and a monk in the Carmelite monastery of Lyon. Lazare Berthiot (fl. C17) was prior of the Carmelite convent of Chalon, Narbonne.

ISTC ih00287000; Goff H287; HC 8763*; BMC VIII 300; GW 12890.