MELANCHTHON, Philip Loci communes theologici

Augsburg, [H. Steiner], 1536


8vo. 176 unnumbered leaves, a-y8. Italic letter, little Greek. T-p within woodcut border with grotesques, decorated initials. Outer lower corner of t-p torn just touching border, light water stain to few lower or upper blank margins, lower margin of last 10 ll. chewed. A very good copy bound in two vellum ms. leaves, upper cover: Old Testament excerpt (Job 6:8-11) from C13 (English?) bible, lower: excerpt from C15 (Netherlandish?) ms. of St Bonaventure’s rule, former a bit soiled. Contemporary partly erased ex-libris ‘liber engelberti holstein ouerhoff’ to t-p, contemporary Latin inscriptions from Augustine’s De gratia et libero arbitrio to verso of t-p and moral passage with stoic motto to verso of last, occasional contemporary annotations including transcriptions and translations from the Greek.

A handsomely bound copy of an enlarged edition of this influential theological work. Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a major Reformed theologian with outstanding linguistic skills. After studying theology and biblical exegesis, he was awarded the Greek professorship at Wittenberg, upon the advice of Luther, with whom he collaborated in the following years on documents including the Augsburg Confession. First published in 1521 and reprinted and revised numerous times in his lifetime, ‘Loci’ was devised to circulate the new Reformed ideas to a wider audience, in the form of simple statements—a format later borrowed by Calvin. It features sections on fundamental tenets, including sin and predestination. The early owner (and probably the annotator) of this copy was probably Engelbertus Holstein (fl.1550s-1572), called Overhof, whose name appears in a charter dated 1551 from Bredevort near Aalten, in the Netherlands (Gelders Archief, 0481/306). At service of the Lord of Bredevort, in 1572, during the Dutch revolt, he was probably in the Calvinist army during the ransacking of local monasteries (Brink, ‘Een geuzerie’, 198). He was interested in major Reformed questions including faith, free will, salvation by good works (hence the Augustinian quotation copied at the beginning), the number of sacraments and their meaning, penance, the dominion of the Church and customs. He often translated Melanchthon’s Greek phrases into Latin, and highlighted passages, for instance, on man’s inherent corruption from original sin, hence the impossibility to satisfy the requirements of divine law, and that free will requires the assistance of the Holy Spirit. He also reflected on the meaning of ‘justification’, faith and grace. In ‘Loci’, Melanchthon ‘wished to show that reformed theology taught the whole Gospel, and did not just exaggerate a part of it’, so as to refute Catholic critics (Cameron, ‘Philipp Melanchthon’, 718). This all-embracing work was therefore suitable reading for educated new reformed believers like our annotator. Since 1535, a year after the English Act of Supremacy, the work had borne a dedication to Henry VIII, for his interest in the Gospel and the arts. This edition retained the dedication in the year of Anne Boleyn’s execution and ‘Loci’ remained ‘a crucial work at a crucial point in the English Reformation’, probably capable of softening Henry VIII’s previously harsh attitude towards the Lutherans (Schofield, ‘Philip Melanchthon’). A beautifully-bound copy of this theological milestone of the early Reformation.

Only Illinois copy recorded in the US.Not in BM STC Ger., Brunet, Graesse or Adams.J. Schofield, Philip Melanchthon and the English Reformation (London, 2006); E. Cameron, ‘Philipp Melanchthon: Image and Substance’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 4 (1997), 705-22; J.N.B. van den Brink, ‘Een Geuzerie te Breedevoort in 1572’, Nederlands archief voor kerkgeschiedenis 27 (1934-35), 193-204.
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