OCKHAM, William of.
Dialogus (and) Compendium errorum Johannis papae XXII [with} Opus nonaginta dierum et dialogi [and] Michael de Cesena: LitteraeLyon, Johannes Trechsel, not before 12 September 1494 [and] 16 July 1495
Folio, 2 works in one, FIRST EDITION of second, ff. (x) 276 (xii); ff. (clii). Gothic letter. One initial and three titles painted red, lovely over half-page woodcut depicting a scriptorium, early Latin marginalia to a few ll. First fol. dusty, intermittent slight age yellowing, a very few ll. slightly browned, light waterstain and tiny wormhole to blank margins of some final ll. A very good copy in simple calf c.1600, spine with raised bands, gilt fleurons and title in compartments, repaired at head anFolio, 2 works in one, FIRST EDITION of second, ff. (x) 276 (xii); ff. (clii). Gothic letter. One initial and three titles painted red, lovely over half-page woodcut depicting a scriptorium, early Latin marginalia to a few ll. First fol. dusty, intermittent slight age yellowing, a very few ll. slightly browned, light waterstain and tiny wormhole to blank margins of some final ll. A very good copy in simple calf c.1600, spine with raised bands, gilt fleurons and title in compartments, repaired at head and tail. C20 bookplate “APR” to front pastedown, contemporary ms. “Fratrum minorum mirand pertinet” and later “Seminarii Convenarum Soc. Jesu” to t-p.
Attractive combination of political works by Ockham. The second edition of his famous ‘Dialogus’ (first 1476) is here bound with the first of ‘Opus nonaginta dierum’. Both these works, discussing heresies and criticising Pope John XXII, were extremely controversial and included in the first edition of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (1559).
William of Ockham (c. 1280-1349) was one of the most influential thinkers of the Middle Ages. Most known for the ‘Ockham razor’, a problem-solving philosophical principle which requires always choice of the ‘simplest’ solution, Ockham extensively wrote on theology, logic, metaphysics and politics. Born in the small village of Ockham (Surrey), he entered the Franciscan order. He studied and taught theology at Oxford, then was sent to London to teach in the Franciscan convent. In 1326, a papally-constituted commission at Avignon censured many articles in his commentary to Peter Lombards’ sentences as unorthodox. In the same period, Ockham entered in conflict with Pope Pope John XXII, who attacked and repudiated the doctrine of Franciscan poverty in a series of papal decrees. Ockham defended the position of the Franciscan Minister General Michael of Cesena (c. 1270-1342) and declared the Pope a heretic. Ockham eventually fled to Munich, where he spent the rest of his life.
Composed between 1332 and 1334, ‘Dialogus’ is Ockham’s masterpiece of political theory, a large treatise in three parts written in the form of a dialogue between a master and his student. This remarkable edition features an important preface by Jodocus Badius Ascensius containing a eulogy of the art of printing, and a large beautiful woodcut depicting the master and disciple of the dialogue in a library. Interestingly, it has been suggested that the leaf containing this illustration, which is blank on the verso, had been also separately used and distributed as an advertisement for the book.
‘Dialogus’ is a detailed analysis of the role of ecclesiastical and secular government in Christian society, but it also examines and challenges the concept of heresy. Part one is the most influential and the only section which was completed. Written soon after Ockham’s break with Pope John XXII, the dialogue asks the question of ‘what is heresy’ and supports the provocative theses that the Church is fallible, holding a heretical belief is not enough to make someone a heretic and even churchmen can be guilty of heretical views. The second part contains a short treatise about John XXII’s heretical doctrines concerning the Beatific Vision; however, it does not belong to Ockham and was included in
the Dialogue in place of an authorial work now lost. Part three contains two treatises: the first discusses the constitution of the Church, its power and hierarchy; the second deals with the rights of the Holy Roman Emperor and his power in spiritual matters. Appended to the ‘Dialogus’, is ‘Compendium errorum Johannis papae XXII’, focusing on explaining specific errors committed by Pope John XXII and demonstrating that he is a heretic.
‘The work of ninety days’, second in this collection, is a ‘recitative’ work, in which Ockham reports the opinions of the dissident Franciscans concerning the answer that Pope John XXII’s provided to Michael of Cesena's criticisms of his decrees relating to the Franciscan life. The treatise disproves the pope’s theses that using an object implies a form of ownership, and that property exists and always existed by divine law. Appended to this work (as often happens), are Michael de Cesena’s letters addressed to the chapter of the Franciscans and to Emperor Ludovicus IV ‘the Bavarian'. Ludovicus IV welcomed Cesena and the Franciscans at his court after they fled from Avignon and he became Ockham’s patron.
The earliest ex libris on the title page is contemporary and indicates that the volume was owned by Franciscans, although unfortunately no precise provenance is indicated. This demonstrates the importance and popularity of this work within the order. The scarce marginalia are also in an early hand (although different from the ex libris), and they summarise or point attention to paragraphs of interest, particularly those quoting Augustine. At a later time, the volume entered the library of the seminary of the Society of Jesus, at ‘Convenarum’, most likely Lugudunum Convenarum, now Saint- Bertrand-de-Comminges (not far from Toulouse).1) USTC 202338, ISTC io0000p9000; Goff O9; GW 11905; BMC VIII 296; Graesse V, p. 7. Not in Brunet. 2) USTC 761447, ISTC io00013000; Goff O13; GW 11910; BMC VIII 297; Graesse V, p. 7 See Brunet IV.