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An early fifteenth century manuscript Homiliary

281J           Early 15th century  Homiliary  

{Homiliarius doctorum qui omiliarius dici solet … Hieronymi Augustini, Ambrosii, Jo. Chrysostomi, Gregorii, Origenis, Bede et complures ..}?

IMG_0848 St Augustine (354- 430),  John Christomos  (349-407) St Benedict , Pope Leo  I(440-61) ( and others)

Spain,  15th century.                           $37,000

Large Folio.  12 ½ x 9 1/4  inches Leaf size, text block is 9 3/4 x 6 inches.

196 Leaves This manuscript begins at Leaf 141 and continues to CCCXXVIII, (141- 337 leaves). For a total of 196 manuscript leaves on vellum. There are catch words and original it had signatures in the beginning of each quire, but they are now unintelligible. There are IMG_0878thirty five  large decorated initials with nice neat pen work. This book has seen a lot of use. Some pages have been trimmed, sections have been scratched out and others corrected. many leaves have cuts and cracks some repaired earlier than later, by stitching .

This is a collection of Homilies. Who was the editor is  not certain, and while traditionally it is attributed to Paul  the Deacon  approximately 720-799 There is also supposition that it was collected by Alcuin or even Bede.                                      What we do know is that the production of IMG_0819Homiliary began in the 780s when Charlemagne (742/743–814) appointed  Paul the Deacon to compose a Homiliary. Charlemagne,” has been represented as the sponsor or even creator of medieval education, and the Carolingian renaissance has been represented as the renewal of Western culture. This renaissance, however, built on earlier episcopal and monastic developments, and, although Charlemagne did help to ensure the survival of scholarly traditions in a relatively bleak and rude age, there was nothing like the general advance in education that occurred later IMG_0833with the cultural awakening of the 11th and 12th centuries. Learning, IMG_0880nonetheless, had no more ardent friend than Charlemagne, who came to the Frankish throne in 768 distressed to find extremely poor education systems” [EB] “Charlemagne stands out as the personification of everything that is unselfish and noble, a conqueror who visualized himself as the champion of European unity with the purpose of saving Europe through imperial conquest—an evangelist with a sword. As it turns out, Charlemagne did see himself as the Conqueror of everything pagan and heterodox and the divinely destined builder of Augustine’s City of God—of “one God, one emperor, one pope, one city of God.”[2]  It was as if Charlemagne consciously sought to fulfill Plato’s vision of the ideal philosopher king. After all, Europe badly needed a conquering strong man like David of old, who could exercise wisdom and discernment in the sustainment of God’s new Jerusalem on earth.” [Gregory W. Hamilton ;http://nrla.com/charlemagne-and-the-vision-of-a-christian-empire/%5DIMG_0802

So, We do know that ” From a very early time the Homilies of the Fathers were in high esteem, and were read in connection with the recitation of the Divine Office. That the custom was as old as the sixth century we know since St. Gregory the Great refers to it, and St. Benedict mentions it in his rule (Pierre Batiffol, History of the Roman Breviary, 107). This was particularly true of the homilies of Pope St. Leo I, very terse and peculiarly suited to liturgical purposesDSC_0053This particular Homilarium Begins [folio cxli] with Ambrose (340-397) Homilies for the  Quadragesima  (forty days of Lent -Yes lent is longer than 40 days even though there are more 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. ( counting the days of Lent excluding its Sundays and the Sacred Triduum, which technically is a separate sacred time.) This takes up to folio cclxxiiii. Following St Ambrose who has iv sermons in this section  are sermons by Origen(IV) Bede( ) John Chrystosom ( ) Cyrill ( v), Augustine (  ) Peter Chrysologus  Archbishop of Ravenna, approximately 400-450 (1) Alcuin of York (  ). Folios 141-275

IMG_0851

After the Quadragesima series begins the Homilies for The Passion of Christ (Holy Week) On Palm Sunday, Jesus and his disciples spent the night in Bethany, a town about two miles east of Jerusalem. This is where Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, and his two sisters, Mary and Martha lived. They were close friends of Jesus, and probably hosted Him and His disciples during their final days in Jerusalem.

IMG_0842

Holy Week/Passione homilies occupy folios 246-312.

Augustine,Gregory, Pope Leo, Chrystomos,

Palm Sunday Dominica in ramis palmarum  folios 313-337

Bernard,Pope Leo, Cyprian, Chrystomos,

 

 Ambrose: (c339-397)

IMG_0856

Homiletic commentaries on the Old Testament: the Hexaemeron (Six Days of Creation); De Helia et ieiunio (On Elijah and Fasting); De Iacob et vita beata (On Jacob and the Happy Life); De Abraham; De Cain et Abel; De Ioseph (Joseph); De Isaac vel anima (On Isaac, or The Soul); De Noe (Noah); De interpellatione Iob et David (On the Prayer of Job and David); De patriarchis (On the Patriarchs); De Tobia (Tobit); Explanatio psalmorum (Explanation of the Psalms); Explanatio symboli (Commentary on the Symbol).

Saint Augustine:

IMG_0858

Peter Chrysologus:

IMG_0861

(c. 380 – c. 450) Archbishop of Ravenna, approximately 400-450 , The earliest printed work by Chrysologus is 1575 Insigne et pervetvstvm opvs homiliarum.He is known as the “Doctor of Homilies” for the concise but theologically rich reflections he delivered during his time as the Bishop of Ravenna. His surviving works offer eloquent testimony to the Church’s traditional beliefs about Mary’s perpetual virginity, the penitential value of Lent, Christ’s Eucharistic presence, and the primacy of St. Peter and his successors in the Church. Few details of St. Peter Chrysologus’ biography are known. He was born in the Italian town of Imola in either the late fourth or early fifth century, but sources differ as to whether this occurred around 380 or as late as 406.

John Chrystosom

IMG_0859

Beyond Chrstostoms preaching, the other lasting legacy of John is his influence on Christian liturgy. Two of his writings are particularly notable. He harmonized the liturgical life of the Church by revising the prayers and rubrics of the Divine Liturgy, or celebration of the Holy Eucharist. To this day, Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches of the Byzantine Rite typically celebrate the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom as the normal Eucharistic liturgy, although his exact connection with it remains a matter of debate among experts.

Saint Cyrill. IMG_0857  Cyril’s jurisdiction over Jerusalem was expressly confirmed by the First Council of Constantinople (381), at which he was present. At that council he voted for acceptance of the term homoousios,(“consubstantial” this term was later also applied to the Holy Spirit in order to designate it as being “same in essence” with the Father and the Son. Those notions became cornerstones of theology in Nicene Christianity, and also represent one of the most important theological concepts within the Trinitarian doctrinal understanding of God) having been finally convinced that there was no better alternative. Cyril’s writings are filled with the loving and forgiving nature of God which was somewhat uncommon during his time period. Cyril fills his writings with great lines of the healing power of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit, like “The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden for God is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as the Spirit approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen and to console”. Cyril himself followed God’s message of forgiveness many times throughout his life. This is most clearly seen in his two major exiles where Cyril was disgraced and forced to leave his position and his people behind. He never wrote or showed any ill will towards those who wronged him. Cyril stressed the themes of healing and regeneration in his catechesis. the well-known Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, to explain them to the catechumens during the latter part of Lent

Holy God, you gather the whole universe
into your radiant presence and continually reveal your Son as our Savior.
Bring healing to all wounds,
make whole all that is broken,
speak truth to all illusion,
and shed light in every darkness,
that all creation will see your glory and know your Christ. Amen.

St. Gregory the Great (ca. 540-604).

IMG_0863

Alcuin of York : Flaccus Albinus Alcuinus; c. 735 – 19 May 804 AD)—also called Ealhwine, Alhwin or Alchoinwas an English scholar, clergyman, poet and teacher from York, Northumbria. He was born around 735 and became the student of Archbishop Ecgbert at York. At the invitation of Charlemagne, he was a leading scholar and teacher at the Carolingian court, where he remained a figure in the 780s and ’90s.

IMG_0881Alcuin wrote many theological and dogmatic treatises, as well as a few grammatical works and a number of poems. He was made Abbot of Tours in 796, where he remained until his death. “The most learned man anywhere to be found”, according to Einhard‘s Life of Charlemagne (ca. 817-833), he is considered among the most important architects of the Carolingian Renaissance. Among his pupils were many of the dominant intellectuals of the Carolingian era

.

Origen :IMG_0860

The homilies (homiliai, homiliae, tractatus) were familiar discourses on texts of Scripture, often extemporary and recorded as well as possible by stenographers. The list is long and undoubtedly must have been longer if it be true that Origen, as St. Pamphilus declares in his “Apology” preached almost every day. There remain in Greek twenty-one (twenty on Jeremias and the celebrated homily on the witch of Endor); in Latin, one hundred and eighteen translated by Rufinus, seventy-eight translated by St. Jerome and some others of more of less doubtful authenticity, preserved in this collection of homilies

An early fifteenth century manuscript Homiliary

281J           Early 15th century  Homiliary  

{Homiliarius doctorum qui omiliarius dici solet … Hieronymi Augustini, Ambrosii, Jo. Chrysostomi, Gregorii, Origenis, Bede et complures ..}?

IMG_0848 St Augustine (354- 430),  John Christomos  (349-407) St Benedict , Pope Leo  I(440-61) ( and others)

Spain,  15th century.                           $37,000

Large Folio.  12 ½ x 9 1/4  inches Leaf size, text block is 9 3/4 x 6 inches.

196 Leaves This manuscript begins at Leaf 141 and continues to CCCXXVIII, (141- 337 leaves). For a total of 196 manuscript leaves on vellum. There are catch words and original it had signatures in the beginning of each quire, but they are now unintelligible. There are IMG_0878thirty five  large decorated initials with nice neat pen work. This book has seen a lot of use. Some pages have been trimmed, sections have been scratched out and others corrected. many leaves have cuts and cracks some repaired earlier than later, by stitching .

This is a collection of Homilies. Who was the editor is  not certain, and while traditionally it is attributed to Paul  the Deacon  approximately 720-799 There is also supposition that it was collected by Alcuin or even Bede.                                      What we do know is that the production of IMG_0819Homiliary began in the 780s when Charlemagne (742/743–814) appointed  Paul the Deacon to compose a Homiliary. Charlemagne,” has been represented as the sponsor or even creator of medieval education, and the Carolingian renaissance has been represented as the renewal of Western culture. This renaissance, however, built on earlier episcopal and monastic developments, and, although Charlemagne did help to ensure the survival of scholarly traditions in a relatively bleak and rude age, there was nothing like the general advance in education that occurred later IMG_0833with the cultural awakening of the 11th and 12th centuries. Learning, IMG_0880nonetheless, had no more ardent friend than Charlemagne, who came to the Frankish throne in 768 distressed to find extremely poor education systems” [EB] “Charlemagne stands out as the personification of everything that is unselfish and noble, a conqueror who visualized himself as the champion of European unity with the purpose of saving Europe through imperial conquest—an evangelist with a sword. As it turns out, Charlemagne did see himself as the Conqueror of everything pagan and heterodox and the divinely destined builder of Augustine’s City of God—of “one God, one emperor, one pope, one city of God.”[2]  It was as if Charlemagne consciously sought to fulfill Plato’s vision of the ideal philosopher king. After all, Europe badly needed a conquering strong man like David of old, who could exercise wisdom and discernment in the sustainment of God’s new Jerusalem on earth.” [Gregory W. Hamilton ;http://nrla.com/charlemagne-and-the-vision-of-a-christian-empire/%5DIMG_0802

So, We do know that ” From a very early time the Homilies of the Fathers were in high esteem, and were read in connection with the recitation of the Divine Office. That the custom was as old as the sixth century we know since St. Gregory the Great refers to it, and St. Benedict mentions it in his rule (Pierre Batiffol, History of the Roman Breviary, 107). This was particularly true of the homilies of Pope St. Leo I, very terse and peculiarly suited to liturgical purposesDSC_0053This particular Homilarium Begins [folio cxli] with Ambrose (340-397) Homilies for the  Quadragesima  (forty days of Lent -Yes lent is longer than 40 days even though there are more 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. ( counting the days of Lent excluding its Sundays and the Sacred Triduum, which technically is a separate sacred time.) This takes up to folio cclxxiiii. Following St Ambrose who has iv sermons in this section  are sermons by Origen(IV) Bede( ) John Chrystosom ( ) Cyrill ( v), Augustine (  ) Peter Chrysologus  Archbishop of Ravenna, approximately 400-450 (1) Alcuin of York (  ). Folios 141-275

IMG_0851

After the Quadragesima series begins the Homilies for The Passion of Christ (Holy Week) On Palm Sunday, Jesus and his disciples spent the night in Bethany, a town about two miles east of Jerusalem. This is where Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, and his two sisters, Mary and Martha lived. They were close friends of Jesus, and probably hosted Him and His disciples during their final days in Jerusalem.

IMG_0842

Holy Week/Passione homilies occupy folios 246-312.

Augustine,Gregory, Pope Leo, Chrystomos,

Palm Sunday Dominica in ramis palmarum  folios 313-337

Bernard,Pope Leo, Cyprian, Chrystomos,

 

 Ambrose: (c339-397)

IMG_0856

Homiletic commentaries on the Old Testament: the Hexaemeron (Six Days of Creation); De Helia et ieiunio (On Elijah and Fasting); De Iacob et vita beata (On Jacob and the Happy Life); De Abraham; De Cain et Abel; De Ioseph (Joseph); De Isaac vel anima (On Isaac, or The Soul); De Noe (Noah); De interpellatione Iob et David (On the Prayer of Job and David); De patriarchis (On the Patriarchs); De Tobia (Tobit); Explanatio psalmorum (Explanation of the Psalms); Explanatio symboli (Commentary on the Symbol).

Saint Augustine:

IMG_0858

Peter Chrysologus:

IMG_0861

(c. 380 – c. 450) Archbishop of Ravenna, approximately 400-450 , The earliest printed work by Chrysologus is 1575 Insigne et pervetvstvm opvs homiliarum.He is known as the “Doctor of Homilies” for the concise but theologically rich reflections he delivered during his time as the Bishop of Ravenna. His surviving works offer eloquent testimony to the Church’s traditional beliefs about Mary’s perpetual virginity, the penitential value of Lent, Christ’s Eucharistic presence, and the primacy of St. Peter and his successors in the Church. Few details of St. Peter Chrysologus’ biography are known. He was born in the Italian town of Imola in either the late fourth or early fifth century, but sources differ as to whether this occurred around 380 or as late as 406.

John Chrystosom

IMG_0859

Beyond Chrstostoms preaching, the other lasting legacy of John is his influence on Christian liturgy. Two of his writings are particularly notable. He harmonized the liturgical life of the Church by revising the prayers and rubrics of the Divine Liturgy, or celebration of the Holy Eucharist. To this day, Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches of the Byzantine Rite typically celebrate the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom as the normal Eucharistic liturgy, although his exact connection with it remains a matter of debate among experts.

Saint Cyrill. IMG_0857  Cyril’s jurisdiction over Jerusalem was expressly confirmed by the First Council of Constantinople (381), at which he was present. At that council he voted for acceptance of the term homoousios,(“consubstantial” this term was later also applied to the Holy Spirit in order to designate it as being “same in essence” with the Father and the Son. Those notions became cornerstones of theology in Nicene Christianity, and also represent one of the most important theological concepts within the Trinitarian doctrinal understanding of God) having been finally convinced that there was no better alternative. Cyril’s writings are filled with the loving and forgiving nature of God which was somewhat uncommon during his time period. Cyril fills his writings with great lines of the healing power of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit, like “The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden for God is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as the Spirit approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen and to console”. Cyril himself followed God’s message of forgiveness many times throughout his life. This is most clearly seen in his two major exiles where Cyril was disgraced and forced to leave his position and his people behind. He never wrote or showed any ill will towards those who wronged him. Cyril stressed the themes of healing and regeneration in his catechesis. the well-known Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, to explain them to the catechumens during the latter part of Lent

Holy God, you gather the whole universe
into your radiant presence and continually reveal your Son as our Savior.
Bring healing to all wounds,
make whole all that is broken,
speak truth to all illusion,
and shed light in every darkness,
that all creation will see your glory and know your Christ. Amen.

St. Gregory the Great (ca. 540-604).

IMG_0863

Alcuin of York : Flaccus Albinus Alcuinus; c. 735 – 19 May 804 AD)—also called Ealhwine, Alhwin or Alchoinwas an English scholar, clergyman, poet and teacher from York, Northumbria. He was born around 735 and became the student of Archbishop Ecgbert at York. At the invitation of Charlemagne, he was a leading scholar and teacher at the Carolingian court, where he remained a figure in the 780s and ’90s.

IMG_0881Alcuin wrote many theological and dogmatic treatises, as well as a few grammatical works and a number of poems. He was made Abbot of Tours in 796, where he remained until his death. “The most learned man anywhere to be found”, according to Einhard‘s Life of Charlemagne (ca. 817-833), he is considered among the most important architects of the Carolingian Renaissance. Among his pupils were many of the dominant intellectuals of the Carolingian era

.

Origen :IMG_0860

The homilies (homiliai, homiliae, tractatus) were familiar discourses on texts of Scripture, often extemporary and recorded as well as possible by stenographers. The list is long and undoubtedly must have been longer if it be true that Origen, as St. Pamphilus declares in his “Apology” preached almost every day. There remain in Greek twenty-one (twenty on Jeremias and the celebrated homily on the witch of Endor); in Latin, one hundred and eighteen translated by Rufinus, seventy-eight translated by St. Jerome and some others of more of less doubtful authenticity, preserved in this collection of homilies

A most satisfying book: Boethius ,a Consolation of Philosophy

Boethius 1501
Boethius 1501

Boetius de philosophico consolatu, siue, De consolatio[n]e philosophi[a]e

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 middlDSC_0084e 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 Copy I currently have Was Printed in Straßburg Per Iohannem Grüninger, 1501

DSC_0103

This Wonderful copy is bound in its original full calf covered wooden boards, it was blind stamped and had clasps to hold it safely closed, these are now  long gone but their presence can be  traced by the indentations carved in the boards and the remaining brass brads.

Rear Cover
Rear Cover
Front board
Front board

This Edition is illustrated with woodcuts,many of which were colored at the time of printing, making this a visual treat on every page. The type faces and the layout of the pages themselves are exotic to the modern eye and transport us back to a tradition of textual exegesis whix=ch is all but forgotten.DSC_0096 (1)

 

667G Anicius Manlius Torquatus Severinus Boethius  a.d.480-525

Boetius de Philosophico consolatu siue de consolatio[n]e philosophi[a]e: cu[m] figur ornatissimis nouit expoli

Straßbourg: J. Gruninger, 8 September 1501.                         $Sold

Small folio 11 ¼ x 7 inches. [ ]6, A4, B-X6,Y8. First illustrated edition. In this copy many of the seventy eight woodcuts  have very nice original color, it is bound in full blind stamped calf over wooden boards. It is also rubicated throughout. There are two library stamps and a release Endorsement ‘Dupl. ” Wiener K.K. Theres. It is a large and lovely copy of an important and beautiful book.DSC_0089 (1)

“Boethius is known as author of the Consolation of Philosophy and of several theological treatises. From them no theory of knowledge emerges clearly, for the concern is not primarily there with knowing, although distinctions and differentiations relevant to it are frequent.  The Consolation of Philosophy is committed (by way of Proclus’ commentary on the Timaeus, it has been suggested) to a platonic doctrine of ideas and of reminiscence: the soul is of divine elements on which its knowledge depends; it is in need only of the quickening power of sense perception to arouse it to a knowledge of ideas at rest within it. The developments of that notion bring echoes, one after the other, of pythagoreanism, neoplatonism, stoicism, and augustinism. Yet, as if these came too near to a dereliction from aristotelian principles, Boethius expounds the Trinity, in the work which shows most clearly the augustinian influence, by applying the ten categories to the persons and their relations. At the bottom of these diversified philosophic affiliations is the conviction, often explicit, that there was a single philosophy of the Greeks, to be grasped best in the reconciliation of Plato and Aristotle. That, however, was a lesson Boethius had learned from pagan roman philosophers; even before the coming of Christianity a change in the attitude toward philosophy had instituted a metaphysical conservatism. The distinctions by which the greeks thought to have divided themselves into opposed schools are needless subtleties when abstract thought is to be invoked (as it is in the very title of four works of Seneca and one work of Boethius) for refuge, or salvation, or relief, or consolation” (quoted from Selections from Medieval Philosophers I, by Richard McKeon, page 68-69).

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 hanging 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.,

  1. 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  dresses  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 asks..DSC_0100

 

 

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.”

“I [Fortune] spin my wheel and find pleasure in raising the low to a high place and lowering those who were on top. Go up, if you like, but only on condition that you will not feel abused when my sport requires your fall.”DSC_0092 (1)

 

Proctor 9886; Schmidt vol. I, 57; Chrisman C1.1.4,2; Adams B-2283; VD16 B6404; Hind, History of the Woodcut II,339-340; Redgrave Bibliographica II, 53; Not in OCLC. See also Chadwick: ‘Boethius’ 1981 Oxford, and Pelikan, The Reformation of the Bible 1996, p 88, I.8.

 

How Blest Is He

How blest is he who could discern

The bright source of the good,

How blest, for he could slip the chains

Of earth, which weigh men down!

 

— Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy (3:12)

 

It is not that often that a book of medieval philosophy has so much direct connection to contemporary situations, yet remains so strange, alas there is a golden chain of being (scala naturae) to be found in this most satisfying book.

 

A most satisfying book: Boethius ,a Consolation of Philosophy

Boethius 1501
Boethius 1501

Boetius de philosophico consolatu, siue, De consolatio[n]e philosophi[a]e

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 middlDSC_0084e 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 Copy I currently have Was Printed in Straßburg Per Iohannem Grüninger, 1501

DSC_0103

This Wonderful copy is bound in its original full calf covered wooden boards, it was blind stamped and had clasps to hold it safely closed, these are now  long gone but their presence can be  traced by the indentations carved in the boards and the remaining brass brads.

Rear Cover
Rear Cover
Front board
Front board

This Edition is illustrated with woodcuts,many of which were colored at the time of printing, making this a visual treat on every page. The type faces and the layout of the pages themselves are exotic to the modern eye and transport us back to a tradition of textual exegesis whix=ch is all but forgotten.DSC_0096 (1)

 

667G Anicius Manlius Torquatus Severinus Boethius  a.d.480-525

Boetius de Philosophico consolatu siue de consolatio[n]e philosophi[a]e: cu[m] figur ornatissimis nouit expoli

Straßbourg: J. Gruninger, 8 September 1501.                         $Sold

Small folio 11 ¼ x 7 inches. [ ]6, A4, B-X6,Y8. First illustrated edition. In this copy many of the seventy eight woodcuts  have very nice original color, it is bound in full blind stamped calf over wooden boards. It is also rubicated throughout. There are two library stamps and a release Endorsement ‘Dupl. ” Wiener K.K. Theres. It is a large and lovely copy of an important and beautiful book.DSC_0089 (1)

“Boethius is known as author of the Consolation of Philosophy and of several theological treatises. From them no theory of knowledge emerges clearly, for the concern is not primarily there with knowing, although distinctions and differentiations relevant to it are frequent.  The Consolation of Philosophy is committed (by way of Proclus’ commentary on the Timaeus, it has been suggested) to a platonic doctrine of ideas and of reminiscence: the soul is of divine elements on which its knowledge depends; it is in need only of the quickening power of sense perception to arouse it to a knowledge of ideas at rest within it. The developments of that notion bring echoes, one after the other, of pythagoreanism, neoplatonism, stoicism, and augustinism. Yet, as if these came too near to a dereliction from aristotelian principles, Boethius expounds the Trinity, in the work which shows most clearly the augustinian influence, by applying the ten categories to the persons and their relations. At the bottom of these diversified philosophic affiliations is the conviction, often explicit, that there was a single philosophy of the Greeks, to be grasped best in the reconciliation of Plato and Aristotle. That, however, was a lesson Boethius had learned from pagan roman philosophers; even before the coming of Christianity a change in the attitude toward philosophy had instituted a metaphysical conservatism. The distinctions by which the greeks thought to have divided themselves into opposed schools are needless subtleties when abstract thought is to be invoked (as it is in the very title of four works of Seneca and one work of Boethius) for refuge, or salvation, or relief, or consolation” (quoted from Selections from Medieval Philosophers I, by Richard McKeon, page 68-69).

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 hanging 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.,

  1. 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  dresses  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 asks..DSC_0100

 

 

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.”

“I [Fortune] spin my wheel and find pleasure in raising the low to a high place and lowering those who were on top. Go up, if you like, but only on condition that you will not feel abused when my sport requires your fall.”DSC_0092 (1)

 

Proctor 9886; Schmidt vol. I, 57; Chrisman C1.1.4,2; Adams B-2283; VD16 B6404; Hind, History of the Woodcut II,339-340; Redgrave Bibliographica II, 53; Not in OCLC. See also Chadwick: ‘Boethius’ 1981 Oxford, and Pelikan, The Reformation of the Bible 1996, p 88, I.8.

 

How Blest Is He

How blest is he who could discern

The bright source of the good,

How blest, for he could slip the chains

Of earth, which weigh men down!

 

— Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy (3:12)

 

It is not that often that a book of medieval philosophy has so much direct connection to contemporary situations, yet remains so strange, alas there is a golden chain of being (scala naturae) to be found in this most satisfying book.

 

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