Summum bonum, or An explication of the divine goodness, in the words of the most renowned Boetius. Translated by a lover of truth, and virtue

Oxford : Printed by H. Hall, for Ric. Davis, 1674.             $2,500

 Octavo: Signatures: A6, A-N8. [12], 207, [1] p. ( E5-6 are cancels.) It is bound in lovely early 20th century crushed green morocco with very nice gilt spine, the text is in very good  condition. 

This is a first edition of the translation, by Edmund Elys, of books 1-4 of: De consolatione philosophiae. With an imprimatur on verso of title. Rad. Bathurst Acad. Oxon. Vice-Can: March. 6. 1673./4.

Edward Gibbon  in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire  stated that  A consolation of Philosophy  is  “A golden volume not unworthy of the leisure of Plato or Tully.” And C. S. Lewis, in “The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature, 1964, rightly tells us “To acquire a taste for it is almost to become naturalised in the Middle Ages.”. The Consolation of Philosophy was the most copied and circulated secular text in the European middle ages, the influence of Boethius’s Consolatio Philosophiae should not be under-estimated — some four hundred copies survive in manuscript form, making it one of the most widely disseminated pieces of writing during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Even today, this would serve as a good starting point for someone unfamiliar with the history of philosophy, and wanted to take a first plunge in the company of a great mind from the past. 

The”Consolation of Philosophie” was written while Boethius was in prison and deprived of the use of his library, on false charges of treason against Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, then ruler of Rome. “Within a year he was a solitary prisoner at Pavia, stripped of honours, wealth, and friends, with death clip_image002.jpeghanging over him, and a terror worse than death, in the fear lest those dearest to him should be involved in the worst results of his downfall. It is in this situation that the opening of the ‘Consolation of Philosophy’ brings Boethius before us. He represents himself as seated in his prison distraught with grief, indignant at the injustice of his misfortunes, and seeking relief for his melancholy in writing verses descriptive of his condition. Suddenly there appears to him the Divine figure of Philosophy, in the guise of a woman of superhuman dignity and beauty, who by a succession of discourses convinces him of the vanity of regret for the lost gifts of fortune, raises his mind once more to the contemplation of the true good, and makes clear to him the mystery of the world’s moral government.”(H.R. JAMES, M.A.,

1897      CH. OXFORD 1897.)

In this prosimetrical apocalyptic dialogue, Boethius ,our narrator encounters Lady-Philosophy, who appears in his time of need, the muse of poetry has in short failed him.  Philosophy adresses  among great protest Boethius’ bad interpretations and misunderstandings of fate and free will. One thousand five hundred years later It is still fair to ask, the same questions which Boethius has asked.

And  Philosophy answers:

“The judgment of most people is based not on the merits of a case but on the fortune of its outcome; they think that only things which turn out happily are good.”

“You have merely discovered the two-faced nature of this blind goddess [Fortune] … For now she has deserted you, and no man can ever be secure until he has been deserted by Fortune.”

Wing; B3434; Madan,; 3004; Arber’s Term cat.,; I 184: ESTC (RLIN),; R007385

Copies – N.America   LinkColumbia University, Rare Book & Manuscript Library 
  LinkFolger Shakespeare 
  LinkHarvard University Houghton Library 
  LinkHenry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery 
  LinkUnion Theological Seminary 
  LinkUniversity of California, Los Angeles, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library 
  LinkUniversity of Chicago 
  LinkUniversity of Minnesota 
  LinkYale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library