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566J  Robertus Holcot. (c. 1290 – 1349)

[Super sapientiam Salomonis] Opus preclarissimum eximij d[omi]ni magistri roperti holkot sacre theologie moralissimi at[que] doctissimi p[ro]fessoris ordinis fratru[m] p[rae]dicator[um] sup[er] sapie[n]tia[m] salomonis  qua[m] philo disertissimus collegit .. Jncipit feliciter.

Speier: Per me Petrum Drach ciuem Spiren[sem] impressu[m], 26 Feb. 1483.   { Anno incarnat[i]o[n]is dominice Millesimo quadringentesimooctogesimotercio.}

 Price $18,000

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Folio. 30 x 21 1/2 Mm.  Signatutres: [*10 **8] A10 B–Z a–c8 d6 e–q8 r s6 t8.   {Lacking  Blank *Blank and *9 and two text leaves Q 4+5(leaves 1, 19 and 350 blanks) This copy is bound in original red sheep over wooden boards with eight bosses and remains of clasps and catches. It is quite an impressive original binding. There is a woodcut printer’s device of Peter Drach (22 x 32 mm) on leaf t7v: “an early variation of Schöffer’s double shield suspended on a branch. Obviously, the dragon on the left shield is a play on the printer’s name. The meaning of the tree standing on a triple mound, with two stars, is unknown.”–M. Harman, Printer’s and publisher’s devices in incunabula in the University of Illinois Library, no. 40.

This is a work on the Proverbs of Solomon which claims to be by Robert Holcot or Thomas Waleys is most likely spurious.  The attribute English Dominican Robert Holkot (or Holcot, c.1290-1349) philosopher and biblical exegete, professor of theology at Oxford and a follower of William of Ockham s scholasticism. There are many works certainly authored by Holcot which have similar enough subject and treatment of those subject to make the inclusion of this work into Holcot’ds authentic works understandable. Holcot stands out among his contemporaries who were among the first generation to have developed their philosophical/theological positions after the influence of William Ockham. Because of this Holcot is often understood and considered in relation to a few categories of thinkers including -Agnosticism, Skepticism (in the Ockhamian sense) and Convenantism.

Where might be the source of wisdom? A heretical question almost.

Holcot’s commentary on the book of Wisdom is filled with spiritual “elevations” in the form of sermons. The Supra sapientiam Salomonis consists of over 100 lectiones which situationalizes the concept of Wisdom itself as a specific theological loci imposing Scholastic method informed by Ocham’s scepticism. What is interesting is that this treatment of Solomon’s proverbs throw a different light on Holcot’s understanding of the relation of and reason than the traditional charge of scepticism . These included the Meaning of wisdom, its acquisition (source) as well as why princes and magistrates should study to achieve it through piety and philosophy. It is this peculiar emphasis which sets Holcot’s work apart from his contemporaries.

This commentary on the Book of Wisdom (Lectiones super librum Sapientiae), has been identified as a prime literary source for Chaucer’s Nun’s Priest’s Tale.

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Holkot made original use of his biblical, patristic and classical sources including Seneca and Lucan. He used anecdotes and fables on Greek gods and mythological figures drawn, for instance, from Ovid s Metamorphoses .

What reason cannot do
Ockham had argued for stringent limits on the ability of reason to establish the existence of God. While an argument for the existence of God as “first conserver” of things could be made, Ockham had argued against the ability of natural reason to prove there was only one divine being. Holkot developed such strictures, arguing that unaided human reason could not prove through a strict demonstration that any incorporeal being like an angel or God existed. The consequence for Holkot was that any reference to such incorporeal beings found in the texts of ancient philosophers must have come down to them from their predecessors passing on a vestige of knowledge about God acquired ultimately from Adam and Eve. Holkot also contended that some pagans, who lacked the law of Moses, still received faith and grace from God outside the Mosaic Law because they did their best to live according to the principles of natural law. Holkot’s sanguine view of pagan philosophers like Hermes Trismegistus and Aristotle rested not on their ability to use natural reason to discern theological truths, but on his confidence that God had accorded a measure of revelation to more than those who had the texts of scripture (Slotemaker and Witt 2015, 71–73).

Robert Holcot, John T. Slotemaker and Jeffrey C. Witt. 2016
Print ISBN-13: 9780199391240

The work is cited as authentic in: Bede Jarrett, O.P., Social Theories of the Middle Ages, 1200-1500 (London: Frank Cass and Company Ltd., 1926; reprint, N.V. Grafische Industrie Haarlem, 1968). NB: see page 77 of the 1968 edition. See Quétif-Échard, pp. 630-31. There is no mention of this work in T. Kaeppeli.

Goff H289; BM 15th cent.,; II, 493 (IB. 8537); ISTC (CD-ROM, 1997 ed.),; ih00289000; Walsh, J.E. 15th cent. printed books,; 848;  Hain-Copinger,; 8757*; Proctor,; 2352;

See also :

Facientibus quod in se est Deus non denegat Gratiam: Robert Holcot, O.P. and the Beginnings of Luther’s Theology : Heiko A. Oberman ;The Harvard Theological Review. Vol. 55, No. 4 (Oct., 1962), pp. 317-342 

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