A generic portrait of Richardus de media villa, woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle

[Middleton], d. 1302/3

Commentum super quartem Sententarium..

Venice: Christophorus Arnoldus, [circa 1476-7] $22,000


Folio 12 1⁄4 9 1⁄4 inches. a-z10 [et]10 [cum]10 [per]10 A 10 B-D8 (D8v blank and aa1r blank) aa8 bb10 cc8 {320 leaves

DSC_0286Second edition. This copy is rubricated throughout with nicely complicated red initials. It is bound in an age appropriate binding of full calf over wooden boards with clasps and catches with quite impressive end bands.

DSC_0125“Middleton, Richard of [Richard de Mediavilla] Franciscan friar, theologian, and philosopher, was born about the middle of the thirteenth century in either England or France. He studied at Paris, where he formed part of the so-called neo-Augustinian movement, defending the philosophy and theology of Augustine against the inroads of Aristotelianism, during the years 1276–87. He probably studied under William of Ware and Matteo d’Acquasparta, usually viewed as principal figures in this movement.

Middleton’s Commentary on Peter Lombard’s ‘Sentences’ was probably begun in 1281 and was completed in 1284,

when he became regent master of the Franciscan school in Paris, a post he held until 1287. The chief characteristic of his Commentary is its sober assessment of many of the positions of Thomas. Aquinas. However, the tone of his eighty Quodlibet Questions, produced during his regency, is much more critical and on many issues shows a strong anti-Thomist reaction. In this they have more in common with his disputed questions, which were argued after the condemnations of 1277 but before his Sentences commentary. The latter commentary has been edited along with his Quodlibet Questions. A small number of his disputed questions have also been edited, as have six of his sermonDSC_0126s.

Furthermore;  nine questions (23 to 31) in this volume form a veritable treatise on demonology, a rare type in the thirteenth century. Mediavilla’s remark is singular: he is the only thinker who gives an autonomy of existence to the demon, in the framework of a rational description.
Mediavilla focuses on the present of the devil and its modes of action on men. He is the great thinker of the demonic turn of the 1290s.
This text offers one of the origins of a Western genre, the “novel of Satan”.

The questions of volume IV

23 . Did the first sin of the angel come from a good principle?
24. Can the angel at the moment of his creation sin?
25 . In the first sin of the angel, was the comparison of the creature anterior, according to the order of nature, to the distancing from God?
26. Was the first sin of the angel pride?
27 . Did the evil angel repent of his pride?
28 . In the evil angels, does sin follow another sin without end?
29. Does the sorrow of the evil angels leave her with a certain joy?
30 . Would the evil angels not be?
31 . Can bad angels play our sensations?

Middleton’s link to the neo-Augustinian movement is seen especially in his treatment of the will, even though he does not entirely follow his teachers, Ware and Acquasparta. For Middleton the will is much more noble than the intellect, since it is much more noble to love God than to understand him. Understanding without the corresponding love separates man from God. However, the key to the will’s nobility is its freedom. The intellect is forced by evidence when evidence is given; the will also is forced by its nature to seek the good, but it is free in choosing the means to its predetermined goal. Even if the intellect were prudent enough to show man the best means to his goal, he would not be forced to adopt them. ‘For although the intellect, like a servant with a lamp, points out the way, the will, like the master, makes the decisions and can go in any direction it pleases’ (Stegmüller, 722).

The superiority of the human will over the intellect further manifests itself in Middleton’s conception of the nature of theology. Certainly, the study of the scriptures attempts to clarify human knowledge of both creator and creatures; principally, however, it aims to stimulate man’s affections. Middleton believes that scripture prescribes laws, forbids, threatens, attracts man through promises, and shows him models of behaviour that he should follow or avoid. The study of scripture perfects the soul, moving it

toward the good through fear and love. It is more of a practical science than a speculative endeavour. A theology that is speculative is one that models itself on the theology of the metaphysician or philosopher and tends to reduce Christian faith to reason.

The influence of Aquinas is more in evidence in Middleton’s theory of knowledge.     Middleton rejects the illumination theory of Bonaventure and his more loyal followers. Man’s intellectual knowledge can be explained, he argues, by the abstraction performed by the agent intellect from the singulars experienced by the human senses. In short, human individuals know, and they know by means of their own intellectual efforts, not by some special divine illumination. Unlike those who endorse the illumination theory, Middleton contends that there is no direct knowledge of spiritual beings, including God. God is not the first thing known. He can be known only by starting with creatures and by. reasoning about their origins or final end. Middleton died in Rheims on 30 March 1302 or 1303.”   [Oxford DNB]


Goff M-424; BMC V 206.
(The ISTC shows two US copies…

St Louis Univ., Pius XII Memorial

Library (-)& YUL – i.e. both defective) add UCLA.


See also  Satan the Heretic: The Birth of Demonology in the Medieval West November 15, 2006by Alain Boureau (Author), Teresa Lavender Fagan (Translator)513wgqIFYkL._AC_US218_