A discussion of interesting books from my current stock A site


December 2016

Sacrobosco’s “Sphere”,1482

898G   Sacrobosco, Johannes de (ca. 1195 – ca. 1256 A.D.); Regiomontanus, Johannes (1436-1476); Peurbach, Georg von (1423-1461)

Sphaera mundi [with] Johannes Regiomontanus: Disputationes contra Cremonensia deliramenta [and] Georg von Peurbach: Theoricae novae planetarum.

Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 6 July 1482                              $38,000.00
Quarto: 19.5 x 14.3 cm.    a-g8, h4. 30-31 lines, Gothic type


Bound in fine 20th c. dark green crushed morocco with the gilt monogram and armorial device of the noted collector George Abrams. Leaf a2 is printed in red and black and has two very fine decorative initials on black ground. There is a full-page woodcut of an armillary sphere on leaf a1 verso and about 40 diagrams (many half-page) in the text, 8 of which are hand-colored in a green, yellow or red wash). This is handsome copy with a little bit of marginal foxing and a few marginal notes in an early hand.

A fine copy of Erhard Ratdolt’s beautiful printing of Sacrobosco’s “Sphere”, the core astronomical textbook from the Middle Ages to the early 16th century. This edition is the first to include key texts by two of the most influential 15th c. astronomers: Johannes Regiomontanus and Georg Peurbach. Working in the vein of the Renaissance humanists, Peurbach and his student Regiomontanus sought out the extant scientific writings of antiquity, the classical foundations of medieval European and Arabic science. Both men gleaned what they could from ancient authorities but more importantly, moved the science forward, adjusting, correcting, and often discrediting their ancient and medieval predecessors, while performing new scientific investigations of astronomical phenomena. These investigations led to important innovations, placing Renaissance astronomy on a new path.The first of the two supplemental texts in this volume, Peurbach’s “Theoricae Novae Planetarum” (New Theories of the Planets), eventually came to replace Sacrobosco’s “Sphere” and another 13th c. text, the “Theorica planetarum communis” (Universal Theory of the Planets), attributed to Gerard of Cremona. Composed about 1454, Peurbach based his “Theoricae” on the familiar teachings of Ptolemy, Al-Battani, Al-Farghani and caliph Al-Mammun’s astronomer, whose name is unknown. The word “novae” in the title is not meant to refer to a completely new theory but only to emphasize that this work is a compilation of the latest contemporary scientific knowledge. “Following Arab astronomers, Peurbach added trepidation to Ptolemy’s six motions of the celestial spheres and substituted solid crystal spheres for the hypothetical circles employed in Ptolemy’s ‘Almagest’.” (Stillwell, Awakenings)2885_1.In the final text in this volume, “Disputationes contra Cremonensia deliramenta” (Arguments against the Errors of [Gerard of] Cremona), Peurbach’s student Regiomontanus offers a critique of Gerard’s aforementioned “Theorica”, and demonstrates the superiority of Peurbach’s “Theoricae novae.” Adopting the form of a dialogue between ‘Viennensis’ (the “man from Vienna”, representing Regiomontanus) and ‘Cracoviensis’ (“The one from Krakow”, representing Martin Bylica of Ilkusch), Regiomontanus used geometrical proofs, often supplemented by diagrams, to refute specific claims in the earlier “Theorica.” In the course of his critique, Regiomontanus -renowned for the accuracy of his own predictive tables and calendars- also makes corrections to Gerard’s planetary tables.Sacrobosco’s “Sphere”:“Sacrobosco’s fame rests firmly on his ‘De Sphaera’, a work based on Ptolemy and his Arabic commentators, published about 1220 and antedating the ‘Sphaera’ of Grosseteste. It was quite generally adopted as the fundamental astronomy text, for often it was so clear that it needed little or no explanation. It was first used at the University of Paris. There are four chapters to the work. Chapter one defines a sphere, explains its divisions, including the four elements, and also comments on the heavens and their movements. The revolutions of the heavens are from east to west and their shape is spherical. The earth is a sphere, acting as the middle (or center) of the firmament; it is a mere point in relation to the total firmament and is immobile. Its measurements are also included. Chapter two treats the various circles and their names- the celestial circle, the equinoctial, the movement of the ‘primum mobile’ with its two parts, the north and south poles, the zodiac, the ecliptic, the colures, the meridian and the horizon, and the Arctic and Antarctic circles. It closes with an explanation of the five zones. Chapter three explains the cosmic, chronic, and heliacal risings and settings of the signs and also their right and oblique ascensions. Explanations are furnished for the variations in the length of days in different global zones namely the equator, and in zones extending from the equator to the two poles. A discussion of the seven climes ends the chapter. The movement of the sun and other planets and the causes of lunar and solar eclipses form the brief fourth chapter.” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography)

ISTC ij00405000; BMC V 286; Goff J405; Hain-Copinger 14110

Kepler’s Most Influential Work.Epitome astronomiæ copernicanæ

889/g  Kepler, Johannes (1571-1630)

Epitome astronomiæ copernicanæ vsitatâ formâ quæstionum & responsionum conscripta, inque VII. libros digesta, quorum tres hi priores sunt de doctrina sphærica. Habes, amice lector, hac prima parte, præter physicam accuratam explicationem motus terræ diurni, ortusq; ex eo circulorum sphæræ, totam doctrinam sphæricam nova & concinniori methodo, auctiorem, additis exemplis omnis generis computationum astronomicarum & geographicarum, quæ integrarum præceptionum vim sunt complexa.

Frankfurt: Impensis Ioannis Godefridi Schönwetteri, 1635                 $35,000
Octavo: 18 x 11.7 cm.  Second Edition :*6 **4 ***4 A-4S8 4T2 4V7. Complete with blank leaves ***4, Cc6 and Vvvv8, the slip with printed catchword inserted at the foot of ***3v (noted by Cinti), and the folding letterpress table.


3235_1Completely untrimmed, bound in contemporary carta rustica. A beautiful copy with clean, fresh leaves, and only minor cosmetic defects: Title page repaired in gutter, small hole in Ccc7 affecting 2 letters, quire Mmm repaired along folds, a few quires at end with small tears around the sewing, resewn with new spine lining and vellum sewing supports.

KEPLER’S LONGEST AND MOST INFLUENTIAL WORK was first published in three separate volumes from 1618 to 1621. The first published part was placed on the Index of Prohibited Books in 1619. It is possible to see, from this uncut copy, that one half of each sheet was printed with an ample fore-edge, and the other half with a narrow fore-edge, which explains why copies generally have much narrower dimensions. Kepler’s “Epitome” is the “first systematic complete presentation of astronomy to introduce the idea of modern celestial mechanics founded by Kepler… The title gives no inkling that Kepler had erected an entirely new structure on the foundation of the Copernican theory, that he had rescued the Copernican conception, at that time disputed and little believed, and helped it to break through by introducing his planetary laws and by treating the phenomena of the motions physically.”(Caspar, Kepler) “Kepler designed this work as an inexpensive and readily understandable textbook of the new astronomy, hence the octavo size, the small and crowded type, and the question-and-answer format. By far the longest of Kepler’s books, it was originally issued in three parts… As a result of its Copernican view the book was placed on the Index, thereby joining Copernicus’s ‘De Revolutionibus’, which had been placed on the Index a few years earlier in 1616. “In its comprehensiveness and systematic character the ‘Epitome’ is comparable to Ptolemy’s ‘Almagest’ and Copernicus’s ‘De Revolutionibus’. One important detail is Kepler’s extension of his first two planetary laws to all the other planets as well as to the moon and the four satellites of Jupiter’ (Johannes Kepler Quadricentennial Celebration, University of Texas at Austin (1971), 77). 3235_2-1“At the same time that Kepler was preparing his planetary ephemerides and his ‘Harmonices mundi’, he also embarked upon his longest and perhaps most influential book, an introductory textbook for Copernican astronomy in general and Keplerian astronomy in particular… The ‘Epitome astronomiae Copernicanae’ gave a systematic treatment of all of heliocentric astronomy, including the three relationships now called Kepler’s laws. “Although Bk IV came last conceptually, it was published in sequence. Subtitled ‘Celestial Physics, that is, Every Size, Motion, and Proportion in the Heavens Explained by a Cause Either Natural or Archetypal’, it is the most remarkable section of the ‘Epitome’. To a large extent it epitomized both the ‘Harmonice’ and Kepler’s new lunar theory, completed just before this part was sent to press… Kepler’s harmonic law, which he had discovered just as the ‘Harmonice’ was going to press, now received a far more extensive treatment.” (Owen Gingerich, ‘Johannes Kepler’ in The General History of Astronomy, volume 2, Planetary astronomy from the Renaissance to the rise of astrophysics Part A: Tycho Brahe to Newton). “Kepler’s Epitome… presents a systematic treatment of the field of astronomy, perhaps the fullest such treatment since the ‘Almagest’ of Ptolemy… Kepler, reiterating ideas that he had expressed earlier, hypothesizes that force is needed to sustain motion and that hence some force must be acting on the planets. This force, he speculates, originates from the sun, decreases with distance from the sun, can act over a vacuum, and may be magnetic. In contrast to many scientists of the time, Kepler believes much of space to be a vacuum.”(Parkinson)

Caspar 87; Cinti 97

Do Humans Have Dignity? — The Calvinist International

I recently wrote about Steven D. Smith’s arguments in The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, and more specifically, about how he demonstrates the vacuity of many of the Western world’s central political buzzwords, such as equality and freedom. In the course of his critique of Martha Nussbaum, he mentions another one that I thought deserved its own…

via Do Humans Have Dignity? — The Calvinist International

Cardano’s Second Great Encyclopedia of Science & Nature

888G Cardano, Girolamo (1501-1576)2960_3

De rerum varietate libri XVII.

Basel: Heinrich Petri, 1557                                              $8,500
Thick octavo: 17 x 11 cm. [32] (the last two blank), 1194 (i.e. 1204), [64] pp.Second edition. a-b8 (b8 blank), A-Z8, a-z8, aA-zZ8, AA-KK8. With an added foldout woodcut illustration of an astrolabe (p. 769), a separate sheet with volvelles loosely inserted, and a folding table (p. 791.)

2960_1Bound in contemporary alum-tawed pigskin over wooden board, lacking clasps, blind-ruled in compartments and tooled with stamps of the Evangelists and acanthus rolls alternating with medallion portraits of Luther, Jan Hus, Erasmus, and others. The text itself is in excellent condition; bright and crisp. With a portrait of Cardano on the verso of the title, numerous small woodcuts in the text, and the folding table and astrolabe mentioned above. The sheet with the volvelles for the astrolabe is intact. Provenance: Georg Agricola, Bishop of Seckau from 1572 to 1584, inscription on f.f.e.p. A second 16th c. inscription with the name Balthasaar Braun appears on the title, along with a monastic inscription from the library of the monastery at Windberg.


The “De rerum varietate” is Cardano’s second important encyclopedia of science, mechanics, and metaphysics; it covers all aspects of the natural world, “from cosmology to the construction of machines; from the usefulness of natural sciences to the evil influence of demons; from the laws of mechanics to cryptology. It is a mine of facts, both real and imaginary; of notes on the state of the sciences; of superstition, technology, alchemy, and various branches of the occult. The similarities between the scientific opinions expressed by Cardano in these two works and those of Leonardo da Vinci, at that time unpublished, have led some historians… to suppose that Cardano has used 2960_4Leonardo’s manuscript notes; others insist that the similarity is entirely coincidental. Be that as it may, Cardano must always be credited with having introduced new ideas that inspired new investigations.’ (DSB III, 66)“The work forms a sequel to De Subtilitate, and, together with it, contains the author’s notions on physics and metaphysics. Of special chemical interest is Book X (p. 375-410), comprising one chapter on fire… a chapter on distillation with woodcuts of apparatus, and a chapter on chemistry. It finishes by a chapter on glass.”(Duveen).The book also includes chapters on glass, metals, mineralogy, botany, zoology, experiments of various kinds, astronomy, astrology, etc.

VD 16, C 920; IA 132.071; Duveen 117; Thorndike V, 563 ff.; Cf. Ferguson I, 141; Sinkankas 1145

Le journal des savants 1681-1699

Journal Des Sçavans  : The First Scientific Journal   After a bit of incubation on the shelf, I have decided to work my way through these Fourteen Volumes.  I am offering this set  for        …

Source: Le journal des savants 1681-1699

Enquiries into Vulgar and Common Errors

883G Sir Thomas Browne 1605-1682

The Works of the learned Sr Thomas Brown, Kt. Doctor of Physick, late of Norwich.containing I. Enquiries into Vulgar and Common Errors. II Religio Medici: With Annotations and Observations upon it. III. Hydriotaphia; or, Urn-Burial: Together with The Garden of Cyrus. IV. Certain Miscellany Tracts.


London: Printed for Tho. Baffet, Ric. Chiswell, Tho. Sawbridge, Charles Mearn, and Charles Brome, 1686                                  $1,900

Large Folio 18.5 x 31 cm      A6, (a)4, B-Z4, Aa-Zz4, Aaa-Iii4, KKK6, LLL-QQQ4, RRR6-Zzz4, Aaaa-Dddd4, Eeee2        First Edition. This copy is nicely bound in older calf and rebaked about 100 years ago.

“Browne was born in London and educated at Winchester and Oxford. After a brief period of professional work he continued his medical studies at Montpellier, Padua, and Leyden. For a time he lived in Yorkshire, where he wrote Religio Medici. In 1637 he settled at Norwich to practice his profession. In spite of his wish that mankind might procreate like trees- a wish not endorsed by Sir Kenelm Digby and James Howell- Browne married and had a dozen children. He followed with paternal and scientific interest the travels and medical researches of his son Edward, an upon ‘honest Tom,’ who sojourned in France and then entered the navy, he lavished advice ranging from underwear to the heroic examples ‘in your beloved Plutark.’ Browne was the physician and friend of Joseph Hall, Bishop of Norwich in 1641-1647.

Browne corresponded with Henry Power, Evelyn, Ashmole, Lilly, Dugdale, Oldenburg, Aubrey, and others. Why he did not become a member of the Royal Society we do not know. Although a royalist in sympathy, Browne never let public disturbances interrupt his varied studies and experiments, the collecting of books and rarities, and meditations on all things below and above the moon. […] Browne was knighted in 1671, on the occasion of a royal visit to Norwich, the uniquely generous mayor effacing himself in favor of the town’s most illustrious citizen.” (quoted from D. Bush, page 272, English Lit. in the Earlier 17th C.)“[Thomas Browne’s] affluence and established residence (the transport of a collection containing many folio volumes is not lightly to be undertaken) enabled him to build up in ten years or so the substantial scholarly library which provided the materials for his dsc_0178longest work,
Pseudodoxia Epidemica or Enquiries into very many Received Tenets and Commonly Presumed Truths. First published in 1646, it was revised and expanded in successive editions up to the sixth in 1672. In it Browne took up a suggestion by Bacon in his Advancement of Learning that there should be compiled a list of erroneous beliefs held at that time in the fields of the natural sciences and general knowledge. Browne went further, and, by combining in his disquisition on each topic the testimonies of authority, reason, and experiment, endeavored to dispose once for all of some hundreds of fallacies. The work, executed with wide learning, wit, and characteristic style, immediately established his reputation as a savant, remaining popular at home and abroad for at least a century.” (quoted from page xv of the preface of Robin Robbins’ edition of Religio Medici, Hydriotaphia, and The Garden of Cyrus) “Browne is more scientific than Bacon when he discusses some notions already touched in Sylva Sylvarum: for instance, that coral is soft under water and hardens in the air; that a salamander can live in and extinguish fire (if ancient tradition is true, says Bacon, the creature has a very close skin and some very cold ‘virtue’); that the chameleon lives on air (Bacon makes air its ‘principall Sustenance’ but admits flies as well). In the examination of these and other arresting items in his encyclopedia, Browne appeals to critical authority, reason, and experience; of these criteria only the last is strictly Baconian.   But Browne was in fact a tireless observer and experimenter. And when a whale was thrown upon the coast of Norfolk he verified his notion of spermaceti; in later years he was able, through his son, to test the belief that ‘the Ostridge digesteth Iron’ -after swallowing a nugget the bird died ‘of a soden.’ But in the settling of a more commonplace problem, the reputed inequality of the badger’s legs, the mere report of the senses appears, happily for readers, to count less than abstract and almost metaphysical logic. Many exotic and ‘occult’ traditions were less readily verifiable by experience, and in this un-Baconian realm Browne of necessity relied upon reason and the weighing of authorities. Over many years he had gathered bits of strange learning from countless books, both the standard ones and, preferably, the remote and unfamiliar, and his antiquarian instinct could enjoy what his scientific reason denied.” (Bush page 273)


dsc_0165“Hydriotaphia is the leisurely excursion of a scholarly mind into the burial customs of past nations, and The Garden of Cyrus a pursuit of a number and form through art, nature, and philosophy. The two pieces are not devoid of deeper meaning, nor are they presented together by chance: the First is predominantly a meditation on death, the second life. As in The Winter’s Tale, there are things dying and things new-born, with the emphasis- by positioning -on the hope to be vested in the latter against the former’s heavy message.“Hydriotaphia has been considered by George Williamson as a dissertation on human identity and the quest for its immortal retention. Its sections develop from the initial ease of identifying the purpose of the relics discussed, through a consideration of their failure to achieve this purpose -in that it is difficult to date such relics, let alone put a name to them- to the orthodox Christian consolation of expected resurrection, and the vanity by contrast of all earthly monuments.“The movement of thought in The Garden of Cyrus is not so simply charted: the title-page promises a systematic treatise, that the quincunx is to be ‘artificially, naturally, mystically considered,’ but within the broad classes of artifacts, plants and animals, and philosophical ideas, Browne intertwines many heterogeneous observations. The general progression, however, as in Hydriotaphia, is from the concrete to the abstract, the last section, as it draws to a close, proliferating in abstruse queries which express the boundlessly questing life of Browne’ s mind, while acknowledging at the end the limiting humanity of his body, oppressed by the call of sleep.”dsc_0170“Likewise, The Garden of Cyrus is no horticultural handbook: rather, its pentatonic groves and thickets are a musical score transposed into verbal imagery, a reading of ‘that universal and public manuscript’ of the great Platonic Idea, of ‘that harmony which intellectually sounds in the ears of God.’” (Robbins xvi-xvii)

dsc_0175In Certain Miscellany Tracts it is easy to understand why” Thomas Browne is considered a fine stylist and master of English prose. Some of the bizarre images in the Miscellany tracts are reminiscent of some of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story ideas in Hawthorne’s Notebooks, e.g. page 208 (of the Miscellany Tracts) – “An handsome Piece of Deformity expressed in a notable hard Face”; page 212 – “The Skin of a Snake bred out of the Spinal Marrow of a Man”. The assortment of tracts in this volume include “An Answer to certain Queries relating to Fishes, Birds, Insects”; “Of Hawks and Falconry, ancient and modern”; Of Artifical Hills, Mounts or Boroughs in many parts of England: what they are, and to what end raised, and by what Nations”; “A Prophecy concerning the future state of several Nations; in a Letter written upon occasion of an old Prophecy sent to the Author from a Friend, with a request that he would consider it.” The Miscellany Tracts were published fairly soon after the death of Browne in 1682. “The Papers from which these Tracts were printed, were, a while since, deliver’d to me by, those worthy persons, the Lady and Son of the excellent Authour. He himself gave no charge concerning his Manuscripts, either for the suppressing of the publishing of them. Yet, seeing he had procured Transcripts of them, and had kept those Copies by him, it seemeth profitable that He designed them for publick use.” – from “The Publisher to the Reader” (Thomas Tenison).


The Musæun Clausum is one of my favorite tracts’s it is a list of lost or never existing rarities!


Wing B-5150



Two of the Most Important Books in Early Observational Astronomy: Galileo’s “Starry Messenger” and Kepler’s “Dioptrice”

Gassendi, Pierre (1592-1655); Galilei, Galileo (1564-1642); Kepler, Johannes (1571-1630) Petri Gassendi Institutio Astronomica: Juxta Hypotheseis tam Veterum quàm Recentiorum. Cui accesserunt Galil…

Source: Two of the Most Important Books in Early Observational Astronomy: Galileo’s “Starry Messenger” and Kepler’s “Dioptrice”

Saint Augustine (354-430 AD): Two English Translations)

394G Saint Augustine   (354-430 AD) :    translator . John Floyd 1572 – 1649

The meditations, soliloquia, and manual of the glorious doctor St. Augustine. Translated into English.

394G St. Augustine

London : printed for Matthew Turner at the Lamb in High-Holbourn, 1686.       $1,100
Octavo A-T12 5 3/4 X 3 1/4 inches. This is the second edition of the Floyd translation. This DSC_0165copy is bound full original calf beautifully rebacked.


John Floyd was an English Jesuit, known as a controversialist. He was known both as a preacher and teacher, and was frequently arrested in England. He was born in Cambridgeshire in 1572. After studying in the school of the English Jesuits at Eu, Normandy, he was admitted on 17 March 1588 to the English College, Reims, where he studied humanities and philosophy. Next he went to the English College, Rome, admitted there 9 October 1590, and joined the Society of Jesus on 1 November 1592. On 18 August 1593 Floyd received minor orders at Reims or Douai, and on the 22nd of the same month he was sent back to the English College at Rome with nine companions, where he taught philosophy and theology, and became known as a preacher. In 1609 he became a professed father of the Jesuit order. He worked for a long time on the English mission. Having visited Edward Olscorne in Worcester gaol in 1606, he was detained, and he was unable either by entreaties or bribes to escape Sir John Popham. After a year’s imprisonment he was sent into exile with forty-six other priests, and he went to St. Omer where he composing controversial works. Then he returned to England, where he was often captured, and frequently contrived to pay off the pursuivants.

This selection of extracts from Saint Augustine’s Meditations and his Manual, the two together are considered a single work. It is a hand-sized devotional work, meant for pious reflection and inspiration. “A dialogic monologue, the Soliloquia are usually read as representing Augustine’s personal testimony, a more intimate witness than the dialogues to his state of mind between conversion and baptism. That they are a personal witness is patent, but the first book in particular should also be read as programmatic, reflecting Augustine’s mind at the beginning of his country retreat, as he set out not only to analyze his spiritual and intellectual aspirations but to begin to fulfill them. Recalling the one constant of the last decade, during which all had been in flux except the desire for intellectual integrity, Soliloquia sets the agenda for the dialogues but does not anticipate their conclusions.
Wing A4212A
See also Allison & Rogers #306; Clancy 43; deBacker-Sommervogel III col 814 no 8



886 G     Augustine, Saint, Bishop of Hippo (354-430 AD); translator  William  Watts (1590?-1649),


London: printed by Iohn Norton, for Iohn Partridge: and are to be sold at the signe of the Sunne in Pauls Church-yard, 1631

Duodecimo: 14 x 8.1 cm. [12], 1012, [8] p., [1] With an added engraved title page. Collation: A B-2V 2X


A fine copy bound in contemporary vellum, soiled, and with minor faults. Complete with the engraved frontispiece depicting Augustine in his garden in Milan at the moment of his conversion. A small bird is shown uttering the fateful words, “Tolle, Lege” (“take up and read”). The text is complete and has only a little minor staining. The first leaf is soiled and a little loose. There is a natural paper flaw in leaf D6 and a clean tear in leaf Ff3. A nice copy of a book rarely found in its contemporary binding.

First edition of William Watts’ translation, written in part as a response to the “popish” translation of Sir Tobie Matthew (1577-1655) printed at the English College press of St. Omer in 1620. Watts began his translation as a Lenten devotion, but, he tells us, “I quickly found it to exercise more than my devotion: it exercised my skill (all I had): it exercised my patience, it exercised my friends too, for ‘tis incomparably the hardest taske that ever I undertooke.” The book is dedicated to Lord Keeper Thomas Coventry’s daughter Elizabeth, Lady Hare of Stow, Norfolk.”The ‘Confessions’ were something quite new to literary composition. Their frank description of both emotional and intellectual problems, their acute psychological observations and analysis of complex sentiments, and at the same time their obvious sincerity and humility, account for their immediate and lasting influence.”The ‘Confessions’ is the first great autobiography in which personal confession and revelations are linked with the spirit of Christian piety and devotion. It was written soon after Augustine became Bishop of Hippo in 397, and none of his other writings, apart from ‘The City of God’, has been more universally read or admired. Its strength of though and confession of weakness have been a constant support to Christians ever since.” (Printing and the Mind of Man)”Augustine is remarkable for what he did and extraordinary for what he wrote. If none of his written works had survived, he would still have been a figure to be reckoned with. However, more than five million words of his writings survive, virtually all displaying the strength and sharpness of his mind and some possessing the rare power to attract and hold the attention of readers in both his day and ours. His distinctive theological style shaped Latin Christianity in a way surpassed only by scripture itself.”(Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition)”Augustine’s complicated personal journey has enriched his thought with a large number of themes and starting points, which may not have found a definitive systematic placement but precisely for this reason exercise all the greater a fascination upon those periods that, like the present, shun naively integral constructions. A schoolteacher, he was brought up on texts of the classical period, and from these he got to know the best products of Greek and Latin culture. A Manichean, he came into contact with the thought of a sect that was one of the liveliest and most stimulating of the period, a sect whose importance in ancient thought is an object of careful analysis and revaluation today. A Neoplatonist, he learned deeply the lesson of the one who is for him the greatest philosopher of antiquity, Plato, and at the same time he took part in the philosophical developments of the latest current of pagan thought. In the “De Civitate Dei” he reappraises the role of Rome and her empire, yet he does not hesitate to request, in letters of impressive harshness, the aid of the state in repressing the Donatist schism. Profoundly tied to classical culture, he does not hesitate to question it in the “De Doctrina Christiana”. A sophisticated intellectual, he chose to wrestle with the most complex problems, which for some time had agitated the toughest thinkers, and he also focused on new questions, ones no less anxious and difficult than the earlier ones. A man of the Church, he considered it his duty to reach the weakest and least educated of his flock, and he strove to write for all, not only for an elite of scholars. The greatest intelligences of all times have struggled with Augustine, but it is not easy to find one who has been able to interpret and to comprehend his vital difficulty without somehow diminishing it.” (Gian Biagio Conte).

STC 912

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