TRITHEMIUS, Johannes [with] BASIL THE GREAT (1) Catalogus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum [with] (2) De Spiritu Sancto … Erasmo Roterdamo interprete

(1) Cologne, Peter Quentel, 1531; (2) Basel, Froben and Episcopius, 1532


4to, two works in one: 1) ff. [8], CLXXXIIII; 2) pp. [12], 130, [2]. Roman letter, little Greek and Gothic; historiated initials, large printer’s device on the second title and final leaf, large woodcut initial depicting Xanthippe pouring water on Socrates at 2A2r; light stain to upper corner on the first three and last two gatherings, margins occasionally yellowed; rust spot at CIIIIr. A very good copy in beautiful English contemporary calf, thick-wooden boards neatly tooled in blind, triple fillet, three panels with Renaissance ornaments and foliage (Oldham, Blind-stamped Bindings, nos 648, 896, use by F.I. binder in London between 1538-1551); morocco label on spine; one original clasp and remains of other; skilfully rebacked and spine remounted; little loss and tiny nail holes possibly from lost plaquette on rear; title inscribed in an early English sixteenth-century hand with the motto ‘Fare fac’ and a reference to Erasmus; additions in the same hand in Latin and English to the first work; extensive Greek glosses in an elegant contemporary hand in the second; contemporary annotations in English hand on rear endpaper; title inscribed horizontally and vertically (later and earlier) on front edge.

1) Third enlarged edition of this bio-bibliography of Christian writers, ranging from the first centuries to early modern times, which first appeared in Basel in 1494. Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516) was a German Benedictine, abbot of Sponheim and Renaissance scholar. He exerted considerable influence over his contemporaries as a lexicographer, chronicler and occultist. He composed the first books on cryptography and Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus were among his students. He also wrote extensively on monastic life and drew up several compilations, such as those on German famous men and eminent Benedictines. His catalogue of ecclesiastical writers was completed in 1492. Trithemius relied on a vast amount of ancient and medieval sources. The book was sought after by scholars as a reliable reference work and guide to forming a learned library. It covers a much wider range than is often thought. The recorded authors were all clerics, as most scholars were, but their subject matter
extends over all human learning. This copy bears remarkable annotations by an early English hand. The motto ‘Fare fac’ points towards a member of the Fairfax family of Denton, possibly Edward, who died in 1635, or Charles (1597-1673). Both were students of antiquities and sons of first Lord Fairfax. The annotator dwelt in particular on English authors’ profiles, such as Bede, William of Ockham and Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury.

2) FIRST LATIN EDITION of this authoritative theological treatise on the Holy Spirit. The Greek original had been published two months earlier (March 1532) by Froben and Episcopus, as part of the works of Basil the Great collected by Erasmus. The eldest of the so-called Cappadocian Fathers, Basil (c.330-379) is one of the most influential theologians of Christianity. Although he longed for an ascetic and contemplative life, he was an active bishop in Cesarea and took part in the fight against the heretical Eastern movements, such as Arianism. He left several letters, homilies, monastic rules and theological writings, which are highly regarded by different Christian Churches. His treatise on the Holy Spirit represented his major contribution to the understanding of the Trinitarian nature of God, a debated topic before and after the Council of Nicea (325). As the greatest humanist of his times, Erasmus was not only concerned with providing polished editions of classical authors. He also recovered from darkness the writings of many Church Fathers, going back to the sources of Christian faith. In this copy, some of Erasmus’s linguistic choices were annotated by an elegant and very knowledgeable hand, quoting the original Greek text in the margins.

1) BM STC Ger., 870; Adams, T 966; Besterman, p. 2940.2) Not in BM STC. Ger.; Adams, B 356.
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