SCOTUS, John Duns.

SCOTUS, John Duns. Reportata super primum [-quartum] sententiaru(m)ca

Paris, Jean Granjon, 1517-1518


FIRST EDITION. Folio, four parts in one, separate t-ps., ff. 63 (i); ff. 72 (ii); ff. (ii) 64; ff. 87 (i). Gothic letter, woodcut floriated and figured initials, some with dragons, handsome woodcut architectural title pages with putti holding French royal arms at head, central vignette and lower section with mermaids, marine creatures and printer’s device. Light age yellowing, minor soiling and waterstains to blank margins of first and final ll., rare slight marginal foxing, a few small wormholes to blank outer margin of some gatherings, tear from lower blank margin of one fol. Early ms. title inked to fore edge “Repor(tata) Sco(t)I”. A very good copy in contemporary Italian calf, covers blind ruled to a panel design, a bit rubbed in places, first, third and fourth borders with charming rolls of interlaced strapwork, central panel with decorative stamps in a chessboard pattern. Spine with blind ruled raised bands, head and tail repaired, decorated brass clasps and catch plates.

An attractive copy of the first edition of Scotus’s commentary on Peter Lombard’s ‘Sentences’, based on his Parisian lectures. The design of the fine binding is common to several printing centres in Italy, with the knotwork rolls in the first and second border widely diffused. However, the charming third roll with tiny dots and the central panel decorated with repeated small stamps are characteristic of bindings produced in Naples (de Marinis’ no. 114-15, 217 and 224, ‘Legatura Artistica in Italia’, vol I). This is an elegant example of Renaissance craftsmanship and examples in this condition are rare.

This first edition of Scotus complete Parisian lectures was realised thanks to the initiative of the great Scottish philosopher and historian John Major (or Mair, 1467–1550). In the introduction, Mair explains that, astonished that the ‘Reportata Parisiensia’ had not yet been printed, he looked in the libraries of Paris and found two manuscripts that, although corrupt in places, were worth publication. Mair entrusted two young graduates – Jacques Rufin and Pierre Du Sault – with the task of preparing the edition and supervised their work. The first three books were completed in 1517, the fourth in 1518.

John Duns Scotus (c. 1265-1308) is one of the most prominent Scholastic philosophers and theologians of the High Middle ages. He was known as ‘Doctor Subtilis’ (the subtle doctor), for his complex and nuanced philosophical arguments. A pioneer of the classical defence of the immaculate conception of Mary, he discussed human and God’s will and controversial topics such as divine illumination. A Scottish Franciscan friar, Scotus studied at Oxford in the 1280s and began teaching during his final years. In 1302, he became professor at the prestigious University of Paris, but was exiled from France due to taking Pope Boniface VIII’s side in the dispute with King Philip IV over the taxation of Church property. He went back to Paris in 1304 and was later transferred to the Franciscan studium at Cologne, where he died.

Scotus’ most important work is his commentary on the ‘Four books of Sentences’ by Peter Lombard. Composed in the 12th century, Lombard’s ‘Sentences’ is a compilation of Biblical texts and important passages from the Church Fathers. Covering entire Christian theology, it became the most widely adopted textbook on the topic in medieval universities. Scotus’s commentary is a fundamental source of information concerning his philosophical views and it contains some of his most famous arguments, e.g. his metaphysical argument for the existence of God. Many different versions of this commentary are known: the early ‘Lectura’, a commentary on Books I and II of the Sententiae prepared by Scotus for his first course of theology at Oxford; ‘Ordinatio’, a revised and longer version based on the Lectura, prepared for publication; and the ‘Reportata Parisiensia’ (here), containing student notes on the lectures that Scotus gave at the university of Paris in the years 1302–05.

USTC 144808; Adams D1127. Not in Brunet, Graesse or BM STC Fr. 16 th century. See: Worldcat and USTC record only three copies in the US (Kansas University, Yale University, Saint Bonaventure University).
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