JOHN of SALISBURY
Policraticus sive De nugis Curialium, et vestigiis philosophorum … Metalogicus.Leiden, Ioannis Maire, 1639
8vo., pp.(xvi) 931 (i). Mostly Roman letter, title in red and black with printer’s woodcut device, C17 autograph of Petrus Guizard either side, woodcut ornament at end. Slight browning, light foxing, a good copy in contemporary vellum, yapp fore-edges, later morocco label, a.e.r. Eng. bookplate of Frances Nash on pastedown, early shelfmark at head, five digit number on blank verso of t.p., early ms price on rear pastedown, a.e.r.
The two most important works of John of Salisbury (c1115-1180), scholar, diplomat, bishop, politician, historian and philosopher –the most intellectually accomplished Englishman of his day, and certainly the best known representative of English learning in continental Europe. The Policraticus or “Statesman’s Book” is a discourse on the principle of government and is one of the most important medieval treatises on statecraft and political theory.
John knew what he was writing about; having studied at Paris principally under Abelard, he spent several years at the court of Pope Eugene III before becoming private secretary to Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, and then his successor Thomas à Becket. He was at the centre of the troubled dealings between Becket, King Henry II, his barons, and Pope Adrian IV, and legend has it was present and injured at Beckett’s martyrdom. As John himself put it, with Henry’s increasing foreign absences “the charge of all Britain as touching church matters, was laid upon me”. Falling into disfavour gave him time to write this massive analysis of political and public life from a philosophical and ethical point of view. The virtues and vices of a prince, the constitutions of the ancients, the abuses of courtiers, the corruption of the state, the justification of tyrannicide, the unity and functioning of society, the role and obligations of the military, the duties and responsibilities of power in church and state.
In the Metalogicus, John defends the study of logic and philosophy, and the scholastic syllabus, against opponents of a liberal education. It is the first Western attempt to provide an outline for incorporating the whole of Artistotle’s Organon, which he considers in detail, into a college curriculum. It is also of great value as giving us one of the clearest insights into the teaching and subject matter of the Parisian schools of the first half of the 12th century.
This is the second and best early edition of the Metalogicus. The first (Paris, 1610) is both inaccurate and incomplete.Shaaber J215. Brunet III 547.