PISTORIUS, Johannes Artis cabalisticae: hoc est, reconditae theologiae et philosophiae

Basle, per Sebastianum Henricipetri, 1587


FIRST EDITION thus. Folio. pp. [52], 979, [1]. Roman, Hebrew, Greek and Italic letter. Woodcut printer’s device on title and on final verso, woodcut diagram, historiated and floriated woodcut initials in various sizes. Light age yellowing with some marginal spotting, quires a-p lightly browned, small paper flaw restored in very outer blank margin of first three leaves. A very good copy, with good margins, in contemporary vellum over thin pasteboard, yapp edges covers bordered with blind double rule, monogramed F within oval gilt surmounted by crown on upper cover, arms gilt within oval on lower, remains of ties

First edition of the great compendium of Christian cabalistic literature, compiled by Johannes Pistorius, physician to Jacob, Margrave of Baden-Durlach. It contains Judah Abrabanel’s Dialoghi di Amore, Archangelus de Burgonuovo’s commentaries on the Conclusiones of Pico della Mirandola, and works by Paulus Ricius, De Coelesti Agricultura (1514 – a compilation of texts including Portae Lucis), De Verbo Mirifico, the De Arte Cabalistica of Reuchlin, and the 1480 translation of the Sepher Yetsirah. “This very popular, varied, and lengthy tome of latin translations, ‘Writers of the Cabalistic Arts’, was surely, if there was one, the Norton Reader of Cabala of the Renaissance. It was an anthology of what must have seemed to Pistorius the most important or most accessible (and appealing) cabalistic texts. More volumes were planned, but this is the only one definitely known to have appeared. Nevertheless, there is probably no more important or influential publication on Cababla in the Renaissance, especially from a Christian (however, Lutheran-Protestant) point of view, than this book, which Blau even claims flatly was one of the most popular and widely read religious documents of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as well as a major conduit for the diffusion of Christian Cababla in English literature” Philip Beitchman ‘Alchemy of the Word: Cabala of the Renaissance’. See Breichman for a detailed breakdown of the works included in this anthology. The Artis Cabalisticae was widely consulted by Milton and therefore the source of his understanding of cabalistic mysticism (Jewish Encyclopedia 13, p.566). A planned second volume containing Jewish cabalistic works was never realised. Pistorius’ father was a well-known Protestant minister, though Pistorius turned from Lutheranism to Calvinism and then entered the Catholic Church in 1588, becoming a priest in 1591, then vicar-general of Constance until 1594. He was an imperial councillor, cathedral provost of Breslau, Apostolic prothonotary, and in 1601 confessor to the Emperor Rudolph II. His numerous writings against Protestantism, while evincing clearness, skill, and thorough knowledge of his opponents, especially of Luther, are marked by controversial sharpness and coarseness. We have unfortunately not as yet been able to identify the gilt monogramed F on the upper cover or the arms on the lower though they are undoubtedly the arms of a contemporary noble German or Swiss family.

BM STC. C16th p. 699. Adams P-1315. Caillet 8702. Graesse V, 535.
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