HERALD OF THE RENAISSANCE

Opera.

[Basel, Henricus Petri, 1567].

8vo, pp. [lvi], [4, blank], 1015, [1]; without the blanks a7-a8; printer’s device at end, woodcut initials; title-page repaired at gutter and lower margin, first four leaves with slightly frayed and browned margins, occasional light toning, but a very good copy in modern polished brown morocco, sides filleted in blind, panelled spine with contrasting lettering-piece; old ownership inscription to top of a2 (E. or C. Warlon), embossed stamps of Wigan Public Library on the title and the colophon.

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Rare first edition of Pomponazzi’s essay On fate, free will, and predestination (De fato… libri V), published posthumously in this collective edition prepared by his pupil Gulielmus Gratarol. Gratarol’s editions of Pomponazzi’s writings were instrumental in divulging the thought of one of the most influential philosophers of the Renaissance.

Before the author’s death, Pomponazzi’s works had been circulating clandestinely in manuscript since the condemnation, in 1516, of De immortalitate animae, which argued the impossibility of a philosophical demonstration of the immortality of the soul. The book was publicly burnt in Venice. De fato, here printed for the first time, is perhaps the most speculatively ambitious and compromising of all. It examines the relationship between free will and providence. Pomponazzi refutes centuries of theologians’ attempts to reconcile God’s foreknowledge and human freedom, and is in sympathy with the stoics’ position, observing in nature and history the evidence of a universal law of necessity, an iron law of determinism which reveals God as ‘the cruellest of all beings, the supreme hangman, most unjust’.

Like the burnt De Immortalitate, De fato takes its author and readers to a most uncomfortable yet necessary impasse between reason and faith. Its unorthodoxy is perhaps heightened in the first appearance here, joined with other writings where Pomponazzi addresses magic and the alchemic properties of natural elements.

Adams P 1826; Caillet III, 8818; Graesse VI, 47; Rosenthal 3020 (‘Tres rare et fort recherché’); Wellcome I, 5154.

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