POSTEL, Guillaume.


Liber de causis seu de principiis et originibus naturae.

Paris, apud Sebastianum Nivellium, 1552.


FIRST EDITION. 16mo, 36 unnumbered ll., A-D8 E4. Roman letter, occasional Italic or Greek. T-p margins a little thumb soiled, light yellowing. A very good, clean copy in C18 crimson morocco, marbled endpapers, bordered with gilt floral roll, gilt armorial centrepiece of John Ker, 3rd Duke of Roxburghe to covers, spine gilt to a design of fleurons and Greek fillets, all edges gilt to a floral motif, scattered ink splashes to covers, outer margin of lower faded. ‘CP’ and pencilled Roxburghe lot number and price to verso of ffep, occasional early underlining.

Exquisitely bound copy of the scarce first edition of this important work. Formerly in the library of the great bibliophile and collector, John Ker, 3rd Duke of Roxburghe, whose remarkable library was sold in 1812. ‘The sale […] was a most sensational affair and the total of £23,342 was an extraordinary one at the time […] The Roxburghe Club was inaugurated in commemoration […]’ (de Ricci). This lot 623 sold for £8 6s to Money. The library was known to include important and scarce books on magic and mysticism; Gilbert Norrell, a key figure in the C19 Revival of English Magic, acquired several books at the sale. The compiler of the catalogue wrote: ‘there is one class of books […], among which there are some very rare ones, that were not purchased by the late Possessor [the 3rd Duke]. They were collected early in the late century, when free-thinking was much the fashion. William Postel, Giordano Bruno, or Benedict Spinosa, could be no favourites with the late Proprietor, who only valued philosophical writers, in proportion as they improved the morals of mankind’ (‘Catalogue’, I, 16-17).

Guillaume Postel (1510-81), scholar, cosmographer, cartographer and diplomat, had a remarkable knowledge of classical languages as well as Arabic, Syriac and Hebrew. He also provided some of the earliest translations of the Hebrew ‘Zohar’ and ‘Bahir’. In the mid-1540s, in Venice, he became the confessor of Mother Zuana, a mystic from the populace allegedly conversant in ancient religious mysteries, who greatly influenced his views towards millenarianism; for these heretical opinions he was condemned by the Inquisition and imprisoned in Rome. A brief but dense essay on cosmography, ‘Liber’ discusses the causes, principles and nature of things, and reprises the title of the namesake pseudo-Aristotelian work on ‘the pure good’. Postel criticised Aristotelianism when it went against either divine law or reason. He was especially opposed to Scholastic distortions of Aristotle, whose true thought consequently ‘lay neglected’, and even called Averroes, who influenced the Scholastics, an ‘enemy of providence’. In his alternative, syncretic view, Postel equated Aristotle’s Active Intellect, which oversaw the terrestrial sphere, ‘with the Platonic concept of the World Spirit, with the creative force of the universe, and the person of Jesus’ (Petry, 55). Postel’s idiosyncratic ideas on natural philosophy, theology, mysticism and eschatology were very influential for early modern occultism.

Only Newberry copy recorded in the US.

Caillet III, 8898; BM STC Fr., p.364; Brunet IV, 836; French Books 83778. A catalogue of the library of…John duke of Roxburghe (1812); Y. Petry, Gender, Kabbalah, and the Reformation (Leiden, 2004).


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MANDERSTON, William. [with] ALMAIN, Jacques.


MANDERSTON, William. Bipartitum in morali philosophia opusculum.

Paris, [Guillaume Le Bret], 1526. [with]

ALMAIN, Jacques. Moralia […] & libellus De auctoritate Ecclesie.

Paris, [Jehan Petit], 1526.


8vo. 2 works in 1, ff. (iv) clxxxiii; (iv) clix, lacking final blank. Roman letter; Gothic letter. Large woodcut printer’s devices to t-ps, first with 2 folding plates showing philosophical diagrams as genealogical trees, decorated initials. Outer edge of first and last gatherings a bit frayed, I: t-p a little dusty, faint water stain to lower outer blank corner of Y-Z 8 , couple of tiny tears along plate folds, II: lower outer blank corner of Ii 2 torn, a few lower or outer edges untrimmed. Good, clean copies in contemporary French calf, spine repaired at head and foot, double blind ruled to a panel design, outer border with blind roll of tendrils, centre panel with grille de St Laurent rolls of tendrils surrounded by border with rosettes in blind, raised bands, couple of scratches to boards, small repair to corners. I: C16 inscriptions ‘Su[m] (?)llet hunc librum’ (partly erased) and ‘Joannes Chytrius Bonauallensis’ to t-p, occasional contemporary annotations, four to second plate, II: contemporary inscription, smudged, to t-p, slightly later inscriptions and ‘Joannes Chytrius Bonauallensis’ (contemporary) to verso of last.

Good copies of these scarce Parisian editions of important works of moral philosophy, produced in small format for the use of university students. This copy belonged to Joannes Chytrius (Kochhafe?), monk at the abbey of Bonneval, near Chartres. Both authors were educated in the Parisian circle of the Scottish nominalist philosopher John Mair (1467-1550). A major figure in Scottish philosophy, William Manderston (c.1485-1552) was a student at Glasgow and Paris. This edition of ‘Bipartitum’, originally published in 1518, was printed the year after he was appointed rector at Paris. A compendium on moral philosophy based on classical and medieval authorities, it focuses on the role of virtue in general and the cardinal virtues in particular. The folding diagrams summarise the structure of the work, heavily influenced by Aristotelianism tempered by Christian doctrines. The first represents the tree of disciplines rooted in positive moral philosophy on one side (‘leges’ and ‘iura’) and non-positive philosophy on the other (‘ethica’, ‘economica’, ‘politica’, ‘poetica’ and ‘rhetorica’). The second shows the ramifications of the Aristotelian soul into its vegetative, sensitive and rational qualities, the third kind including virtues. The work discusses a variety of topics including the passions of the soul, innocence and the state of fallen nature, natural appetites, causality, the moral basis of human actions, and whether God can be wrong. The second work, ‘Moralia’, became a standard textbook of moral theology. Jacques Almain (d.1515) was a prominent theologian and rector at Paris 1507-8. Imbued with Aristotelianism, ‘Moralia’ was first published by Estienne in 1510, and revised posthumously by John Mair in 1516, after the premature death of his star student. It focuses on the acquisition of human virtues, assigning theological virtues solely to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, touching on issues like human will, whether ignorance is sin, faith, moral actions and corruption. Despite its popularity, it was criticised by Juan Luis Vives who said that ‘reading a single page of Seneca or Plutarch would instil a stronger desire to be virtuous than would digesting the whole of Almain’s “Moralia”’ (‘Encyclopaedia’, 580).

I: No copies recorded in the US or UK. Not BM STC Fr. or Pettigree & Walsby, French Books.
II: Only Bowdoin and Chicago copies recorded in the US.
BM STC Fr., p.11; Pettigree & Walsby, French Books, 52721. A. Broadie, History of Scottish Philosophy (Edinburgh, 2009); Encyclopaedia of Medieval Philosophy, ed. H. Lagerlund (London, 2011).


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Illustrium virorum vite.

Paris, Jodocus Badius Ascensius, [1520].


Folio. ff. (xxii) CCCXCIII, lacking final blank. Roman letter, index in quadruple column. T-p in red and black, handsome woodcut border with (above) scholar writing, putti and crowned dragons, (centre) large printer’s device showing Ascensius’s printing press, columns decorated with faces within ovals flanked by grotesques, (below) satyrs, soldiers on horseback and blank escutcheon; decorated initials. T-p a little finger soiled, small marginal ink splash, little repaired tear to lower blank margin of N5 verso, intermittent marginal foxing, few marginal small paper flaws, rubbed ink splash affecting a couple of words, minor water stain to upper blank corner of last two ll. A very good copy in contemporary Piedmontese brown goatskin, lacking ties, triple blind ruled to a panel design, second border single cross-hatched in blind with fleurs-de-lis and three-pointed comets, centre panel bordered with small blind-stamped ivy leaves, three blind-stamped IHS roundels bordered with ivy leaf tool, raised bands, compartments single cross-hatched, later label and ink casemark to spine, all edges green and gauffered to a dentelle design, small repair at head and foot of spine. Later red crayon inscription to front pastedown, early ms. shelfmark and largely discoloured circular stamp to front pastedown, early ms. ex-libris ‘D.D. Ioannis Iacobi Carante I.V.D. Cuneensis’ and ‘Ad uso Del Pre Ludovico Ma Caranta di Cuneo Mre Pa Prefto’ to t-p, c.1600, and ‘Joh[ann]es Joseph Rabius huius libri d[omi]n[u]s. Hunc Antonius Luperia Cuneensis dominus 19 April. 1589 scribebat’ to rear pastedown, the odd contemporary annotation.

In the C16, this copy was in the private libraries of families near the Piedmontese town of Cuneo. With roots in the hamlet of Quaranta, Joannis Jacobus and Ludovicus Carante respectively were a lawyer ‘in utroque’ and a prefect. Rabia and Luperia were local surnames, the latter aristocratic. The handsome contemporary binding was most likely produced in the Cuneo territory. Given the IHS stamps, a good candidate may be the Cistercian Abbey of Santa Maria di Staffarda, a large and influential institution, with a scriptorium until the end of the C15.

A very good copy of this handsome Parisian edition of Plutarch’s ‘Lives’, produced at the famous press ‘Prelum Ascensianum’. Established in 1503 by the classicist Jodocus Badius Ascensius (or Josse Badius, 1462-1535), formerly editor for the Lyonnaise printers Jean Trechsel and de Vingle. Badius specialised in classical editions; the present edited by Gérard de Verceil, with a detailed index. ‘Vitae’, by the Greek philosopher Plutarch (46-119AD), greatly influenced Renaissance ‘mirrors for princes’ and was used for moral instruction. The work provided parallel biographies highlighting the virtues, vices and deeds of renowned Romans and Greeks, including Pericles, Theseus, Cicero, Demosthenes, Romulus and Scipio Africanus (who elicited the interest of the early owner of this copy). First used in 1507, Badius’s ‘marque typographique’, after his own design, is the second, and first detailed, illustration of a printing press. In this edition, a new version appeared, recut by a German artist, with important differences. ‘In the second, the composing stick used by the figure in the act of setting type is changed from the right to the left hand; the press shows improved mechanical construction, indicating greater solidity and strength. […] the figure sitting at the case on the right side of the engraving is intended to represent a woman, instead of a man as in the earlier illustration’ (Roberts, ‘Printer’s Marks’, 116-17). The four tools hanging from the machine are scissors to cut the paper or frisket, a brush for pressing down the cloth or paper tympan, dividers, and a mysterious Y-shaped tool.

Only 4 copies recorded in the US.

Renouard, Imprimeurs & Libraires Parisiens, III, p.179; Pettigree & Walsby, French Books, 83337. Not in USTC, Dibdin, Moss, Brunet or BM STC Fr. W. Roberts, Printers’ Marks (London, 1893).


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Plotini Platonicorum coryphaei opera.

Basel, Ludwig Koenig, 1615.


Folio. pp. (xxxvi) 773 (xlv). Roman letter, with Greek and Italic, mostly double column. T-p in red and black, woodcut portrait of Plotinus, large woodcut printer’s device to recto of last, woodcut initials. Stain at upper gutter of a3, touching first word of 16 lines, very minor marginal worming, couple of edges untrimmed. An excellent, wide-margined copy in high-quality contemporary Dutch vellum, double and single blind ruled, large lozenge-shaped centrepiece with oval and interlacing ribbons, raised bands, C17 title and shelfmark labels to spine. Purchase notes ‘Const. 7 fl.’ (C17) and ‘10 gul. 10 st.’ and ‘paris 10 lib’ (C18) to ffep, C17 inscription ‘A Fletcher’ to t-p.

A handsome copy, of illustrious provenance of Plotinus’s works, edited by Marsilio Ficino. This copy (‘Bib. Fletcheriana’, 109.26) belonged to the Scottish writer and politician Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (1655-1716) ‘the most learned man of his day’, and the owner of the largest private library in Scotland, with c.6,000 volumes. In 1683-88, he was in exile in the Netherlands for plotting against James II. In 1683, a major sale took place in Leiden of one of the greatest libraries in Europe, owned by the late Dutch humanist Nicolaus Heinsius (1620-81). The purchase note ‘10 gul. 10 st.’ [10 gulden, 10 stuivers] on this copy matches the buying price for lot 110 (see ‘Bib. Heinsiana’, p.109). Like other similar notes in Fletcher’s books from the sale, it does not appear to be in his own hand; it may have been a secretary or auction house clerk. ‘While Fletcher owned a copy of the “Heinsiana” and a number of books from the sale […] his attendance or representation at the sale must remain a matter of conjecture. […] if not present at the sale itself, [he] was clearly on the scene soon after and would have been able to purchase items from the sale from local booksellers, as the many volumes in his library priced in “guilders” and “stuivers” may attest’ (Sibbald, ‘Heinsiana’, 151). The earliest purchase note (‘Const. 7 fl.’) resembles Heinsius’s hand very closely; it sheds light into the price rise in Holland for the same edition in the course of 70 years. The third purchase note—‘Paris 10 lib’—reprises other such notes present in Fletcher’s books. Other books in his library catalogue (see Willems, ‘Bib. Fletcheriana’) include ‘Paris’ or mention Parisian editions of the same works. They were likely acquired in Paris if not by Fletcher himself, then by James Fall, who since the 1670s had provided him with information on book prices from Paris (ODNB). This copy appears as lot 312 in Deighton Bell’s ‘A catalogue of classical literature’ (1972).

Fletcher also owned the editio princeps of Plotinus’s Greek text, printed by Petrus Perna in Basel in 1580 (‘Bib. Fletcheriana’, p.176). The same sheets, including Perna’s original dedication, were used for the second issue, just altering the t-p. The text was edited, with a Latin translation, by the Neo-Platonist philosopher Marsilio Ficino (1433-99), from mss given to him by Cosimo de’ Medici. Born in Egypt, Plotinus (204-70AD) studied philosophy at Alexandria under Ammonius Sacca; his most important ideas, which greatly influenced pagan, Judeo-Christian and Islamic metaphysics, concern the One, the Soul and the Intellect. This edition begins with his disciple Porphyry’s famous biographical account. Plotinus, he wrote, ‘abstained from animal flesh’ and ‘would not swallow medication containing animal products’, information which fed into early modern debates on vegetarianism and the ethics of eating animal flesh. Through Ficino’s translation of Porphyry’s ‘De abstinentia’, and together with the theories of other Platonists like Porphyry and Iamblichus, Plotinus’s ideas on the rationality of animals were similarly influential (Muratori, ‘Renaissance Vegetarianism’, 2, 43). The rest of the work is occupied by the six ‘Enneads’, based on the writings of his student Porphyry. In the Renaissance, Plotinus provided fertile philosophical ground for the Neo-Platonist reconciliation of Platonism and Christianity.  

UCB, Illinois and Virginia copies recorded in the US.

Brunet IV, 727; Willems, Bib. Fletcheriana, p.176. J.A. Sibbald, ‘The Heinsiana’, in Documenting the Early Modern Book World, ed. M. Walsby et al. (Leiden, 2013), 141-60. C. Muratori, Renaissance Vegetarianism (Oxford, forthcoming). With many thanks to J.A. Sibbald for his helpful comments.


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Aristotelous Politikon Bib. Th. Aristotelis Politicorum Libri VIII.

Leiden, ex Officina Elzeviriana, 1621.


8vo. 2 vols, pp. (xvi) 388; 389-1045 (xli). Roman letter, with Greek, mostly double column. Woodcut printer’s device to t-p, decorated initials. Uniform light age browning, edges a little dusty, slight foxing to first and last ll. of each, lower outer corner of Lll 1 torn affecting two words, marginal paper flaw at lower edge of Eee 5 . A very good copy in early C18 English crimson morocco, marbled eps, double gilt ruled, small gilt rosettes to corners, inner edges gilt, raised bands, same gilt decoration to spine, gilt-lettered title, a little cracking, some corners a bit bumped. Bookplate of Robert J. Hayhurst to front pastedown of vol. 1.

A very good, richly bound copy of this Greek and Latin edition of Aristotle’s immensely influential essay on political philosophy—the basis of early model political theory. ‘A respectable and scarce edition: it is very neatly printed by the Elzevirs’ (Moss). ‘Editio nitida’ (Hoffman). In eight books, the work discusses the institution of the ‘polis’, intellectual and moral virtues as applied to politics, the nature of citizens, types of government, the ideal state and citizens’ education. It was produced by the great humanist Daniel Heinsius (1580-1655), professor at Leiden and editor of numerous Elzevir classical texts. It also features the fragmentary Greek and Latin texts of Heraclides Lembus’s ‘De politiis’ and the Jewish historian Nicolaus Damascenus’s ethnographic account ‘De moribus gentium’. The last few pages are devoted to the Jesuit classicist Andreas Schottus’s annotations to Aristotle’s ‘Politics’. An exquisite set.

Willems 180; Moss I, 129; Hoffman I, 312; Brunet I, 468. Not in Dibdin.


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HOLKOT, Robert.


Quaestiones super quatuor libros Sententiarum Petri Lombardi.

Lyon, Johannes Trechsel, 5-20 Apr. 1497.


FIRST EDITION. Small folio. 178 unnumbered ff., 8 8 a-n 8 o 10 A 8 B 6 C-H 8 I 10 . Gothic letter, double column. Woodcut printer’s device to last. A little marginal soiling to t-p and last, small clean tear from upper edge of t-p repaired, occasional slight toning, small light water stain to lower or upper blank margin of a handful of ll., smudge to lower blank margin of l 3-4 . A very good copy, on thick paper, in contemporary Flemish calf over wooden boards, rebacked with original spine onlaid, traces of C14 rubricated vellum ms. used as front pastedown, another (with genealogical diagram visible to verso) preserved at rear, quadruple blind ruled to a panel design, outer border with blind-stamped half-lozenges with grapes and bearded faces to corners, second border with blind-stamped tendrils and fleurons to corners, centre panel cross-hatched in blind with quadruple ruling, fleurons within lozenges and half-lozenges in blind, raised bands, spine blind ruled, corners repaired, couple of minor scratches to upper board. Early symbols to upper and lower margin, C19 bibliographical note, contemporary ex-libris Ghysbertus Konrardi(?) and C16 purchase note ‘Frater Joannes de la Vega emit hunc liber frater (?) cumdi(?), die’ (partly erased) to t-p, the odd C15 marginalia, C15 inscriptions (one with recipe of white wine from berries to treat constipation) and traces of ms. genealogical diagram (arbor consanguinitatis?) to rear pastedown.

In a charming contemporary Flemish binding, with an uncommon tool of blind-stamped bearded faces—probably green men. It bears the same design as Petrus de Palude’s ‘In quattuor sententiarum’ (Venice, 1495), now BMawrCL f.P-502 (Scott Husby Database). The latter comes from the Franciscan monastery of Louvain, though the binding was probably made in the town. ‘The binderies of the university town of Louvain produced some interesting bindings as early as the last quarter of the C15, but owing to the large scale destruction of the Louvain archives in WWI, there will be, unfortunately, no further possibility of identifying bindings from this source’ (Diehl, ‘Bookbinding’, 132). Ghysbertus Konrardi was probably the same recorded as a student from Leiden at Louvain in 1475 (see ‘Matricules – Ancienne Université de Louvain’). The copy was later purchased by the Spanish friar Juan de la Vega, who enrolled as a student in 1549 (Cole, ‘Studentenmobiliteit’, 151). This major work of Scholastic philosophy was the standard theology textbook of the middle ages. The English Dominican Robert Holkot (or Holcot, c.1290-1349) was a renowned philosopher and biblical exegete, professor of theology at Oxford and follower of William of Ockham’s scholasticism. His commentary on Peter Lombard’s (1096-1160) ‘Libri Quattuor Sententiarum’ has survived in a greater number of mss than the commentary by William of Ockham. A collection of statements on the Scriptures by acknowledged authorities, the ‘Sentences’ discussed the Trinity, the Creation, the incarnation of the word, and the doctrine of signs, touching on the sacraments, demons, sin and human will. This first edition was produced, from numerous, often imperfect manuscripts, by the famous scholar and printer Jodocus Badius Ascensius (1462-1535), editor and proofreader for Jean Trechsel in Lyon, in 1492-98.

Goff H287; HC 8763*; BMC VIII 300; GW 12890. E. Diehl, Bookbinding: Its Background and Technique (New York, 1980); T. Cole, Studentenmobiliteit tussen de Nederlanden en het Iberisch Schiereiland (Ghent University, 1996).


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Moralia sive expositio in Job.

Venice, Andreas Torresanus, de Asula, 11 Apr. 1496.


Folio. ff. (xv) 327, lacking a1 (blank except title ‘Moralia Sancti Gregorii Pape Super Job’) and I8 (blank). Gothic letter, double column. Outer margin of a2-3 and lower blank margin of I7 repaired, light water stain to upper blank margin of early ll., a few small, scattered, mainly marginal worm holes, intermittent marginal foxing in places, occasional ms. marginalia and image, few scattered ink spots, upper margin of I7 strengthened, early ms note on lower. A very good, generally clean copy, on thick paper, in polished C17 calf, C18 reback in straight-grained morocco, marbled eps, raised bands, spine double gilt ruled, gilt-lettered morocco labels, scattered worm holes at head and foot of spine, extremities a bit rubbed. Bookplate of George Fletcher to ffep, occasional early marginalia.

This edition—‘rigorous […] with a handsome Gothic typeface’—is included among those ‘of priceless value according to the unanimous opinion of bibliographers’ produced by the Torresani two years after Manutius had left, on amicable terms, to set up his own press  (Bernoni, ‘Dei Torresani’, 79, n.89). This was also the penultimate edition of the C15. From a Patrician Roman family, Gregory (504-604AD) served as prefect, the highest office in Rome, before deciding to devote his life to the Christian church. Albeit keen on monastic meditation, he was, for his talents in diplomacy and administration, elected pope. He famously organised the first systematic mission to Britain, including Augustine of Canterbury, to convert the Anglo-Saxons. ‘Moralia’ was written during his diplomatic stay at the court of Tiberius II in Constantinople, and it was completed after his papal appointment. His major work, ‘Moralia’ is also one of the longest Western theological texts. It is a monumental commentary on moral questions raised in the book of Job—addressed in their historical, moral, allegorical and typological sense—Job being interpreted as a prefiguration of Christ and of the persecuted Church. ‘Encyclopaedic and synoptic, it is a cornucopia brimming with odd bits of information about the natural world, medicine, human nature, and society mixed unpredictably with sober analyses of guilt and sin, disquisitions on Christology, and reflections on the Church’s place in the world, along with the unfolding of Job’s story’—a manual for Christian life (Straw, ‘Job’s Sin’, 72-73). The sparse annotator of this copy glossed two sections as ‘allegoria’ and ‘moralitas’. Handsome, fresh copy of one of the most influential theological works.

BMC V 312; Goff G433; HC 7933*; GW 11435; Bernoni 89; Renouard 19:1. C. Straw, ‘Job’s Sin in the Moralia of Gregory the Great’, in A Companion to Job in the Middle Ages, ed. T.F. Harkins (Leiden, 2016), 71-100.


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PONTANO, Giovanni


De rebus coelestibus libri XIIII.

Florence, per hæredes Philippi Iuntæ, 1520.


8vo. ff. 336 [326] (vi). Italic letter, occasional Roman. Woodcut Giunta device to verso of P7 and last leaf. T-p little soiled and thumbed, intermittent faint water stain to lower margins, washed ms. note to lower blank margin of a2, minor marginal spots and marks. A remarkably clean, well-margined copy in C16 Italian morocco, double blind ruled to a panel design, raised bands, spine single blind ruled in four compartments, each cross-hatched in blind, joints rubbed, paper labels to spine. Pictorial bookplate c.1900 of the Masonic Supreme Council of 33 to front pastedown, later bibliographic annotation to fep, C17/C18 ex-libris of Antonius Niccoli, Petrus Merighi and Hiacyntus Martinus to t-p, also ‘N. 452’ and stamped monogram A.N., modern bookplate of Arthur Armory Houghton Jr. to rear pastedown.  

Handsome clean copy of the second edition of this most influential astrological work. Giovanni Pontano (or Giovanni Gioviano, 1426-1503) was a poet, humanist and diplomat who, after studying at Perugia, moved to Naples. There he became an influential figure at the Accademia Antoniana (later Pontaniana) and the court of Aragon; he has been celebrated as the intellectual who introduced the Renaissance to Naples. His work spanned philosophy, natural science, astrology and poetry, and in 1512 his ‘opera omnia’ in six parts—of which ‘De rebus coelestibus’ was the sixth—was published by the Giunti in Florence. This is the second Giunti edition of the collected works and the fourth of ‘De rebus’ as a separate work. Written in the course of twenty years, it was begun in 1475 just after Pico della Mirandola published his attack on judicial astrology. Pontanus sought to distance himself from the latter to pursue instead a kind of astrology which could benefit man, so that, through this knowledge, ‘astrologers could assess the nature of human beings, hence their inclinations and eventually the ultimate unfolding of their lives’ (Cantamessa III, 6256). Presenting a cosmos based on Ptolemaic doctrines, the first section is a study of the nature, ‘houses’, qualities and ‘fines’ (degrees) which govern the interactions between planets and signs; this is mandatory knowledge for the real astronomer who should seek to identify the complexities of human nature. The second part analyses the ‘mapping’ of the age and life of man onto the celestial system and changes in the qualities of planets according to their position. Parts three to eight focus on the effects of planetary interactions on individuals born under specific conjunctures. The last few sections are mostly devoted to medical conditions (e.g., sterility, skin illnesses, limping, epilepsy, kidney stones, baldness, nervous and mental issues). Despite his attempt to detach himself from judicial astrology, following the credo of Neo-Platonists like Pico and their scepticism against astral causation, Pontano remained greatly attracted to astrology and alchemy as appears from his ‘Letter on the Philosophical Fire’. He was in time celebrated as a protagonist of the hermetic scene in Naples—hence the intriguing Masonic provenance of this copy, from the library of the Supreme Council 33, one of two main governing bodies of the Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the USA.  

BM STC It., p. 533; Brunet IV, 808: ‘Peu commune’; Caillet III, 8830: ‘belle édition’; Riccardi I/2, 303-4; Houzeau-Lancaster I/1, 2335; Catamessa III, 6256; Ann. Giunti, I, n.141.


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MACROBIUS, Ambrosius Theodosius


viri consularis & illustris in somnium Scipionis libri II. Eiusdem saturnaliorum libri VII.

Basel, Johannes I Herwagen, 1535


Folio. pp. [xl] 334 [ii]. Roman letter, some Italic and Greek, entirely ruled in red. Woodcut printer’s device on title, repeated on verso of last, several small woodcut diagrams including a world map, fine white on black criblée, historiated and floriated woodcut initials. Light age yellowing, very occasional minor marginal spotting, small chip at heat of t-p. A fine copy, crisp and clean with excellent margins, in C19th french olive morocco, covers bordered with a triple gilt rule, finely worked to a fanfare design with single and double gilt rules, scrolls, and branches, with a multitude of compartments, all filled with a small tools gilt, around a central oval with the arms of Henri IV gilt stamped at centre on a pointillé ground, spine gilt ruled in a single panel with a semée of fleur de lys gilt, edges gilt ruled, all edges gilt and gauffered, tiny repairs to extremities. 

A beautifully printed edition of the major works of Macrobius, edited by Camerarius with valuable emendations, in a fine C19th morocco binding in a pastiche fanfare style, with the arms of Henry IV of France. This edition contains the two major works that have survived from this Roman grammarian and philosopher. Macrobius was of African descent. He may be the Macrobius mentioned in the Codex Theodosianus as a praetorian prefect of Spain in 399-400, proconsul of Africa in 410, and lord chamberlain in 422. The first work is a commentary on the Dream of Scipio in which the elder Scipio appears to his grandson, and describes the life of the good after death and the constitution of the universe from a Stoic and Neo-Platonic point of view; from this Macrobius discourses upon the nature of the cosmos, transmitting much classical philosophy to the later Middle Ages. Cicero’s ‘Dream’ described the Earth as a globe of insignificant size in comparison to the remainder of the cosmos. The world map in this edition is important as it has evolved from the original Macrobian map which, for a 1000 years, formed the basis of world geography. It was first printed in 1482, showing the continents in the ‘Alveus Oceani’, a big Europe, and a rather small Africa and Asia. The round map is typically divided in 5 climatic zones, demonstrating a pre-Renaissance view of the world, with a large Antipodean section. The map in this edition shows the awakening of the passion for exploration and the cartographic progress in this period. Africa and Asia have grown hugely, and Europe has shrunk considerably. The lines of the climatic zone on the first map of 1482 were straight, suggesting a flat earth, on this map the lines are convex, indicating a spherical world. The Antipodean part has disappeared. There is still, however, no sign of the Americas.

Macrobius’ Saturnalia, with its idolisation of Rome’s pagan past, has been described as a pagan “machine de guerre”. The first book inquires into the origin of the Saturnalia and the festivals of Janus, leading to a history of the Roman calendar, and an attempt to derive all forms of worship from that of the Sun. The second begins with a collection of ‘bons mots’, many ascribed to Cicero and Augustus, and a discussion of various pleasures, especially of the senses, but most is lost. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth books are devoted to Virgil. The latter part of the third book is a dissertation upon luxury and the sumptuary laws. The primary value of the work lies in quotations from earlier writers, many now lost. The form of the Saturnalia is copied from Plato’s Symposium and Gellius’s Noctes Atticae; the chief authorities are listed at the end of this edition.

Joachim Camerarius, 1500-1574, holds one of the foremost places among the German classical scholars of the 16th century. “His numerous editions of the Classics, without attaining the highest rank, are characterised by acumen and good taste”. Sandys, ‘History of Classical Scholarship.’ Camerarius was a man of vast knowledge. He also wrote on history, theology, mathematics, astronomy and pedagogy. “Up to the period of this edition, the text of Macrobius may be said to have received no material aid or illustration: when, under the care of the celebrated Camerarius, and by the help of several important MSS. there is hardly a verse in the poets quoted but what received very considerable emendation. A volume, thus intrinsically valuable will not fail to find a purchaser at a reasonable price” Dibdin.

BM STC Ger. C16th p. 584. USTC 674641. VD 16 ZV 20513. Adams M64. Dibdin 220. Houzeau and Lancaster 1038.


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Treatise of Housholde.

London, In ædibus Thomæ Bertheleti typis impress, 1544.


8vo. ff. 62, [ii]. Signatures: A-H. [without last blank]. Black letter. title within woodcut border, historiated woodcut initials, stamp of “Rothamsted Experimental station” on fly. Light age yellowing, title page a little dusty, the odd marginal mark or spot. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in speckled calf c. 1700, covers bordered with a single gilt rule, rebacked to match, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, a.e.r.

Beautifully printed and very rare edition (probably the third) of the translation of part of Xenophon’s ‘Oeconomicus’ into English by the French theologian and Greek scholar Gentian Hervet. This was the most popular English work on women’s household duties of the C16th in England going through six editions by 1573. It was also the first translation anywhere of Xenophon into the vernacular. “Chapters 7 to 10 of Xenophon’s Oeconomicus contain a dialogue between Isomachus, a rich property owner, and his young wife, whom he instructs in household management. The work was much admired in the Renaissance and was translated into English in 1532 by Gentian Hervet, a member of the household of Lady Margaret, countess of Salisbury, who was Queen Catherine’s friend and governess. Xenohphon’s treatise of Householde was the first direct translation of any work from Greek into English that can be dated.” Charles Fantazzi. ‘The Education of a Christian Woman: A Sixteenth-Century Manual By Juan Luis Vives.’ “Initially educated in France, Hervet spent some of his early career in the 1520’s and 1530’s in England where he developed a close association with the Pole family. .. and in 1526 he translated into English a copy of Erasmus’ ‘Dei immensa misericodia’ at the request of their mother, the countess Margearet of Salisbury. In 1532 Hervet dedicated another English translation, this time to Xenophon’s Treatise of Householde, to Geoffrey. Hervet was a proficient linguist, and fluent in English.” Isabel Davis. ‘Chaucer and Fame: Reputation and Reception.’ Hervet updated the language and customs in the work to a contemporary period, changing things such as translating slaves as servants etc.

The Oeconomicus by Xenophon is a Socratic dialogue principally about household management and agriculture. It is one of the earliest works on economics in its original sense of household management, and a significant source for the social and intellectual history of Classical Athens. Beyond the emphasis on household economics, the dialogue treats such topics as the qualities and relationships of men and women, rural vs. urban life, slavery, religion, and education. Scholars lean towards a relatively late date in Xenophon’s life for the composition of the Oeconomicus, perhaps after 362 BC. Cicero translated the Oeconomicus into Latin, and the work gained popularity during the Renaissance in a number of translations. Hervet’s English version was particularly influential in England.

ESTC S120529. STC 26072. Lowndes 3013. Hull, Chaste Silent & Obedient p. 219 1st edn. (see also page 49). Not in Erdmann.


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