VENETUS, Paulus Summa philosophie naturalis (with) Liber de compositione mundi.

Lyon, Antoine du Ry and Simon Vincent, 1525


4to. Two works in one, I) ff. (vi) 176, 84, AA6 a-x8 aA-kK8 lL4; II) ff. 17 (i) unnumbered, A-C4 D6. Gothic letter, double column, separate t-p to each, decorated initials. First t-p in red and black within attractive woodcut architectural border with cherubs, foliage and birds, tryptic of Jesus carrying the cross (left), Judas’s kiss (right) and Holy Shroud held by Sts Peter and Paul (centre), woodcut vignette of presentation of the author; printed geometrical diagrams and meteorological phenomena. Second t-p in black only, c.50 handsome woodcuts of zodiac, planets and constellations, printer’s device to last. Mostly light age browning, first t-p a bit dusty with marginal tears in a few places, small ink stains to fore-edge of first few ll., faint water stain to first few gatherings, clean marginal tear to fol. 169, occasional marginal marks. A good, well-margined copy in contemporary Lyonnaise calf over wooden boards, lacking clasps. Blind-tooled to a double-ruled panel design, outer border with blind-stamped phoenix, interlaced cranes and foliage, second with roll of birds and foliage, third and central panel with floral decorative rolls. Spine in five compartments, blind-tooled double-ruled stripes to each, upper joint repaired. Extensive early Latin marginalia to a few ll., occasionally smudged, two-line Latin ms. on vision, c1500 on verso of last, early Latin quotations from Aristotle to last, rear ep and pastedown and circular drawing with partially smudged Latin words to rear pastedown.

The fine, crisp blind stamps on the outer border—a phoenix and interlaced cranes—are the same as those on BL, c66g11 (published 1522). They also reprise the decoration of the architectural border on the t-p of both these editions. This t-p had been used in Vincent’s books since at least 1512, and was created by the famous Lyon-based Flemish illustrator and (possibly) wood-engraver Guillaume II Leroy (fl. 1498-1528). The elegant combination of similar decorations in the binding and t-p of this copy does not seem accidental. It was probably a ‘marque de libraire’ used for books on sale in his shop, based on one of his successful and highly recognisable t-p.

Very uncommon, finely illustrated copies of two most influential C14 commentaries on Aristotle. Paulus Venetus (c.1368-1428) was an Augustinian friar, philosopher and theologian, who studied at Oxford and Padua. His most successful and most re-printed works include ‘Logica magna’, inspired by William of Ockham’s theories, and numerous commentaries on the Aristotelian corpus influenced by the Averroism of Jean de Jandun and Sigieri di Brabante. First published in Venice in 1476, the ‘Summa philosophie naturalis’ is a compendium of Aristotelian theories on the natural world. It features John Argiropoulos’s C15 Latin translations of ‘De physico auditu’, ‘De celo et mundo’, ‘De generatione et corruptione’, ‘Metheoricorum’ and ‘De anima’ alongside Paulus’s commentary (‘Metaphysica’ is also present but without the Aristotelian text). The thematic index highlights the astounding variety of subjects—from the nature of comets and the heavens to why it is advisable to fast before taking a bath, the difference between reason and the senses, earthquakes and why light is necessary to perceive colours. The ‘Metheoricorum’ includes fine woodcuts of visual phenomena resulting from the interaction of the four elements, like sundry kinds of falling stars, ‘ignes fatui’ and ‘caprae saltantes’. The ‘Liber de compositione mundi’ is a brief treatise on astronomy, handsomely and extensively illustrated with woodcuts of celestial diagrams including the position of the zodiac in relation to other heavenly bodies and the physical representation of the earth, as well as personified planets and constellations.

The contemporary scholar of physics who authored the marginalia in ‘De celo et mundo’ and ‘De generatione et corruptione’ was interested in the ‘motus’ of bodies as determined by the interaction of the four elements. He annotated Paulus’s commentary with references to other authorities like Jacobus de Forlivio (c.1360-1414), professor of logic and medicine at Padua and Bologna, the Aristotelian philosopher Marsilius of Padua (c.1275-c.1342) and Albert of Saxony (c.1320-c.1390), a scholar of logic and physics.

1) Only Harvard and Pennsylvania copies recorded in the US.USTC 121901; Gültlingen, Repertoire bibliographique II, 177. Not in BM STC Fr., Baudrier, Brunet or Graesse. USTC 155629. Not in BM STC Fr., Baudrier, Brunet or Graesse. A. and H. Joly, ‘À la recherche de Guillaume Leroy, Le peintre’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts 61 (1963), 279-92.2) Only Princeton and Mount Holyoke copies recorded in the US.USTC 155269; Gültlingen, Repertoire bibliographique II, 176. Not in BM STC Fr., Baudrier, Brunet or Graesse.

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