NIFO, Augustino

Super Posteriora Aristotelis

Venice, Ottaviano Scoto, 1548


Folio. Pp. (viii) 80. Roman letter, double column. Portrait vignette of author on title page, quasi-geometrical diagrams interspersed in text, printer’s device on verso of last. Upper edge dusty in places, occasional water stains mostly to margins, a little yellowing. In contemporary binding, reused vellum from a C15 ms, title on upper cover, spine and lower edge. Autograph of Hieronimus Tattus on upper cover and tp. Vellum loss from lower cover, head of spine and a little from corners. Medieval Latin manuscript used as binding, stubs in miniscule and majuscule hand.

This rare posthumous edition by Renaissance philosopher Augustino Nifo (C1473-1538/45) demonstrates the scholar’s in depth knowledge of ancient philosophy. Nifo was born in Naples and studied philosophy at the University of Padua, where he developed his taste for Aristotelian thought. He undertook lectureships in Padua, Naples, Rome and Pisa, eventually gaining the good favour of Pope Leo X. He was enlisted to defend the Catholic doctrine of immortality against Pomponazzi and the Alexandrists, ultimately becoming Count Palatine. He debated the division between body and soul, and maintained that the soul is everlasting and indestructible, though bodies perish. He published a great many commentaries on the works of Aristotle, which were widely popular and underwent several reprints.

The Analytica Posteriora is a text from Aristotle’s Organon – the fourth of six works on logic which introduces his syllogistic method. This method utilises deductive reasoning to arrive at a conclusion based on two or more propositions. The aim of such a method was to produce accurate and true scientific knowledge, assuming the premises are truthful in themselves. Aristotle states that for this reason the examples must utilise principles which are already proven to be known or that can be demonstrated to be such. One could use a table – it is not possible to argue that a table is not a table. The fact of a table’s existence is not an opinion. The method has to be undertaken in a linear as opposed to a circular fashion, therefore arriving at a new final conclusion. When the method proves that things are a certain way, it is deemed to be perfect. It denies the existence of opinion and knowledge simultaneously. Aristotle employs this methodology on different examples and concludes that both scientific knowing and intuition are only considered as universally ‘true’ where the latter is the originative source of scientific knowledge. Nifo takes this approach and critically analyses it by applying it to geometrical principles, as demonstrated in the extensive diagrams showing mathematical calculations with shapes of varying complexity.

Hieronimus Tattus was a philologist and erudite of whom scant information is recorded. Tattus is known to have owned and corrected a manuscript of Pliny’s Natural History, written by Hieronymus Baliocus of Novara in 1479 for Gian Matteo Bottigella of Pavia and his wife Bianca Visconti, later owned by Matteo Luigi Canonici (1727-1805) and bought in 1817 by the Bodleian Library, Oxford (now Canon. Class. lat. 295).

Not in BMSTC It. C16; Riccardi 113; This edition not in Cranz.