ORIGEN ADAMANTIUS. Operum tomi duo priores (- tertius et quartus tomi).

Paris, Josse Bade and Jean Petit, 1519


FIRST EDITION. Folio, 4 books in 2, separate t-p to first., third and fourth. ff. (xxxii) 190; 157 (i); ff. (vi) 224; (ii) 175 (i). Roman letter, double column, woodcut floriated initials. Three t-ps in red and black, Bade’s large printing press device at centres, within attractive architectural border of grotesques, satyrs, allegorical creatures, putti and masks. Slight marginal soiling to first leaf of both vols, worm trail to blank outer margin of first gathering of vol 1, wormholes to blank margins of first and last gatherings of vol 2, light age browning to a few central gatherings in vol 2 and to couple of fols in vol 1, remains of tab to one leaf and small paper flaw to lower edge in couple of gatherings of vol 2. Rare marginalia. A fine set of good, wide-margined copies in contemporary pigskin over wooden boards, covers triple blind ruled to a panel design, outer borders and central panels filled with two different floral rolls with foliage, tendrils and rosettes, a little loss and a few wormholes to lower cover of vol. 2. Spines with blind ruled raised bands, tendrils and leaves decoration in compartments, title and author inked in red and black to upper, shelf mark to lower. Original decorated brass catchplates and clasps. Pages of an illustrated German astronomy or almanac used as pastedowns, one featuring a large woodcut depicting a landscape and celestial bodies. C19 bookplate to front pastedowns. Contemporary ms. “ex libris Johannis Battae Camotii”, ‘Loci Capuccinorum Vienn’ and ‘ad fratrem(?) Udalricum’ to t-ps of books 1 and 3.

Second printing of the first edition of the complete works of Origen in Latin (first 1512), in handsome contemporary German bindings. The two fine blind stamped floral rolls on the covers, one with rosettes and foliage on a stem, the other with flowers surrounded by tendrils, are identical to those employed in the workshop of the Augustine monastery of Nuremberg (Augustinerkloster 2. Gruppe, Kyriss K019; see EBDB rolls n. r000168 and r000185), active 1501-1526. This edition was compiled by the theologian Jacques Merlin (1480-1541), who also edited it.

Origen of Alexandria, also known as Origenes Adamantius (c.185-254), is regarded as the most important theologian and biblical scholar of the early church. His exegetical work laid the foundations of the scientific criticism of the Old and New Testaments, and he is famous for his ‘Hexapla’, an edition of the Bible comparing six different versions of the Hebrew and Greek tradition. An extremely prolific writer and commentator, Origen wrote about 2,000 treatises in all the branches of theology. Books 1, 2 and 3 comprehend the entire collection of his homilies, particularly important are those on Genesis and the Psalms, and his commentaries on St. John and on the Song of Songs. Origen’s most discussed and influential works are in Book 4. These are ‘Contra Celsum’, an apologetic work defending orthodox Christianity against the attacks of the pagan philosopher Celsus, and ‘De Principiis’, the first systematic exposition of Christian theology. Some of Origen’s most radical ideas (such as the incorporeal nature of God, or the pre-existence of souls) generated major theological controversies in the V and VI centuries, and were rejected as heretic by the Church. Remarkably, Book 4 contains ‘Apology of Pamphilus for Origen’, written by the scholar Pamphilus of Caesarea in defence of Origen’s views and translated by Tyrannius Rufinus (344-411). Rufinus is Origen’s most important translator, and this collection concludes with his “On the Falsification of the Books of Origen” – an appendix to the translation of Pamphilius, in which he claims that Origen’s writings had suffered interpolations by heretics. Merlin also wrote an ‘Apology for Origen’ (included in Book 3): this apology, which justified some of the errors imputed to Origen, caused his condemnation by the Paris Faculty of Theology in 1522.

‘Loci Cappuccinorum Vienn’ indicates that the volumes were held in the Capuchin church and monastery of Vienna. A date is unspecified, but the volumes were brought there certainly after 1632, when it was consecrated. Next to this indication, there is an earlier ms. note which is of difficult interpretation and possibly reads: ‘ad fratrem Udalricum’. The name ‘Udalricus’ (=Ulrich) was common in northern Europe during the 16th century, particularly in Germany and Austria, where the cult of St. Ulrich of Augsburg was widespread. It most likely refers to a monk or a friar, to whom these volumes were gifted. ‘Joannes Battae (=Baptistae) Camotius’ may be the scholar and philologist Giovanni Battista Camozzi (1515-1581), renowned for his editions, translations and commentaries of Aristotle’s works.

USTC 187288 (vol. 1) and 187286 (vol. 2); Adams A279 (1512); BM STC Fr. p. 330; Brunet IV, p. 228.
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