Lefèvre d’Etaples, Jacques; Lefèvre d’Etaples, Jacques Faber Stapulensis, Jacobus (i.e. Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples)  (1455-1536)

Iacobi Fabri Stapulensis De Maria Magdalena, & triduo Christi, disceptatio, Concionatoribus verbi Divini adprime utils. 

Hagenoæ : ex Neocademia Anshelmiana : (typis ac formulis Thomæ Anshelmi Badensis 1518 Price Sold

Quarto  x  cm.    Signatures: aa – ff4gg6. This is a third edition, first printed in Paris in 1517 by Henri Estienne, who issued a second edition in 1518. 

[All early editions are rare on the market; the last copy of any edition to appear at auction was sold 37 years ago (Bloomsbury, Jun 28, 1984, lot 160)]  Bound in 19th-century pale glazed boards, expertly rebacked. 


§•Lefevre d’Etables’ “De Maria Magdalena et triduo Christi disceptatio” argues that Mary (sister of Lazarus), Mary Magdalene, and the penitent woman who anointed Christ’s feet were THREE DIFFERENT women. His claim provoked considerable debate – known as “the Quarrel of the Magdalens”  d’Etaples wrote four books on the subject 1517-1519 . It is interesting that  “Quarrel of the Magdalens” would find heated debate, nearly 500 years later,” in the backlash against Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” and his depiction therein of Mary Magdalene.

“The opinion [of Lefevre d’Etaples], new at the time, gave rise to a violent controversy; refutations by Noel Bedier, syndic of the University of Paris, and John Fisher, the martyr-bishop of Rochester, appeared; they were followed by the condemnation by the Sorbonne in 1521” (Catholic Encyclopedia). Lefèvre’s argument, undertaken with impeccable scholarly exegesis, effectively undermined the existence of one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages. Lefèvre also had his defenders. In response to Grandval’s apologia, Josse Clichtove published “Disceptationis de Magdalena, Defensio” in April 1519 in which he expanded Lefevre’s arguments. (SOURCE: Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe, “The Chapel of the Courtesan and the Quarrel of the Magdalens” in: The Art Bulletin, 2002).

Sheila Porrer has handled this complex subject  in her Book. The introduction analyzes many difficult Latin texts dealing with biblical exegesis, patristic and scholastic interpretations of the New Testament, and the polemic that pitted early-modern humanist scholars against traditionalist scholastic theologians.  It thus prepares the reader for the Latin texts and English translations of the four books published in 1517-19 by the evangelical humanist Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples (c. 1455-1536)—books that caused controversy throughout Europe during a watershed period in the intellectual and religious movements known as the Renaissance and Reformation in France.

The four treatises by Lefèvre deal with three principal topics: first, the centuries-old identification of St. Mary Magdalen with two other women in the New Testament named Mary; second, the length of time that Christ lay in the tomb before his resurrection; and, third, the pious legend holding that St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary, married three times and had children named Mary by each of her three husbands. Behind these seemingly innocuous issues lay a momentous question:  Scholastic theologians and other traditionalists, on the one hand, feared that questioning even a few beliefs held for centuries opened the door to questioning any or all beliefs, posing a danger to the faith and devotion of pious people and to the rites and traditions of the Church. Lefèvre and other humanists, on the other, believed that the real danger to faith and devotion lay in allowing ill-founded legends to corrupt authentic faith and piety and prevented the reform of belief and practice that was sorely needed in the Church.  Lefèvre’s critics, especially the Paris Faculty of Theology and its members such as Noël Beda and Pierre Cousturier (Sutor) are given a more balanced appraisal than they usually receive at the hands of historians. Some of Lefèvre’s supporters, like Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim, used Lefèvre’s works to promote reforms more radical than he ever dreamed of—confirming, in a way, the fears of the traditionalists.

REFERENCES: Sheila M. Porrer, “Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples and the Three Maries Debates” p. 491, nº. 3. See also pp. 33 et seq. 

VD 16 L-958. Bibliotheca Palatina ; E280 This edition is not in Adams. 

 Two US copies located:   U Penn & Huntington.

PROVENANCE: C. Inglis, M.D., i.e. Dr. Charles (Cornelius) Inglis (1824-1900), with his engraved calligraphic bookplate (posthumous sale at Sotheby’s London, 11 June 1900). Inglis was the son of the book collector John Bellingham Inglis (1780-1870). J.B. Inglis had the curious habit of cutting out (“vignetting”) pictorial or symbolic material from other old books or prints and mounting them in his books; the present volume may have been so adorned; at the foot of the inside cover are traces of a rectangular piece of paper, now removed. — Robert T. Aitchison (1887-1964) of Wichita, Kansas (with his erotic bookplate). Aitchison’s collecting interests were primarily in the works of the early printers, letterform history, fine bindings, early woodcuts, and fine maps. — Bill Jackson, friend of Aitchison and proprietor of the Four Ducks Press (letterpress bookplate). Of Aitchison’s original collection, about 600 volumes were purchased from the Mary Aitchison estate for $44,000, raised by Dr. Martin Bush from private benefactors, and is now in Special Collections at the Wichita State University library.

1517 Stephanus edn: