Opera et tractatus.

Nuremberg, Caspar Hochfeder, 27 March 1491.

Folio, ff. 182, text in double column, gothic letter, 45 lines to a page; outer margins at the beginning chipped or weakened, clean tear in f. 74, a little worming, but a very good copy in contemporary quarter pigskin over oak boards; some wear to the edges of the upper board, clasp wanting; some interesting contemporary ink marginalia.


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Opera et tractatus.

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FIRST EDITION of the works of St. Anselm, Bishop of Canterbury: the first appearance in print, among other works, of his Proslogion, containing the first enunciation of the ontological proofs of the existence of God; this was also the first book printed by Hochfeder.

St. Anselm was a celebrated divine and founder of scholastic theology. He studied under Lanfranc at Bec where he assumed the monastic habit (1060). He succeeded Lanfranc as Abbot (1078), and as Archbishop of Canterbury (1093).

‘One of the most fascinating arguments for the existence of an all-perfect God is the ontological argument. While there are several different versions of the argument, all purport to show that it is self-contradictory to deny that there exists a greatest possible being. Thus, on this general line of argument, it is a necessary truth that such a being exists… St. Anselm, Archbishop of Cantebury (1033-1109), is the originator of the ontological argument, which he describes in the Proslogium as follows:

‘[Even a] fool, when he hears of … a being than which nothing greater can be conceived … understands what he hears, and what he understands is in his understanding.… And assuredly that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist in the understanding alone. For suppose it exists in the understanding alone: then it can be conceived to exist in reality; which is greater.… Therefore, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists in the understanding alone, the very being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one, than which a greater can be conceived. But obviously this is impossible. Hence, there is no doubt that there exists a being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality.

‘The argument in this difficult passage can accurately be summarized in standard form:
1. It is a conceptual truth (or, so to speak, true by definition) that God is a being than which none greater can be imagined (that is, the greatest possible being that can be imagined).
2. God exists as an idea in the mind.
3. A being that exists as an idea in the mind and in reality is, other things being equal, greater than a being that exists only as an idea in the mind.
4. Thus, if God exists only as an idea in the mind, then we can imagine something that is greater than God (that is, a greatest possible being that does exist).
5. But we cannot imagine something that is greater than God (for it is a contradiction to suppose that we can imagine a being greater than the greatest possible being that can be imagined.)
6. Therefore, God exists.

‘Intuitively, one can think of the argument as being powered by two ideas. The first, expressed by Premise 2, is that we have a coherent idea of a being that instantiates all of the perfections. Otherwise put, Premise 2 asserts that we have a coherent idea of a being that instantiates every property that makes a being greater, other things being equal, than it would have been without that property (such properties are also known as “great-making” properties). Premise 3 asserts that existence is a perfection or great-making property’ (IEP).

The content of this first edition is as follows:
Cur deus homo; De incarnatione verbi epistola; De conceptu virginali et originali peccato; Proslogion; Monologion; De processione Spiritus Sancti; De casu diaboli; Liber apologeticus adversus Gaunilonem Pro insipiente; Meditatio ad concitandum timorem; De sacramentis ecclesiae epistola; De sacrificio azimi et fermentati epistola; De concordia praescientiae at praedestinationis et gratiae Dei cum libero arbitrio; De libero arbitrio. De veritate; Meditatio redemptionis humanae; Epistolae 101, 112, 416, 121, 168, 258, 231, 37, 65, 160, 161, 188, 281, 285; Vita S. Anselmi; Declaratio cuiusdam de Anselm de conceptu virginali et originali peccato. Gaunilo: Pro insipiente. (Pseudo-) Anselmus: Expositio membrorum et actuum Dei; De voluntate Dei. (Pseudo-) Anselmus [Eadmerus Cantuariensis]: De sancti Anselmi similitudinibus, cap. 1-185. (Pseudo-) Anselmus: De mensuratione crucis. (Pseudo-) Aurelius Augustinus: Meditationes ('Domine Deus meus da cordi meo' I, cap. 1-9). (Pseudo-) Anselmus: Dialogus Anselmi et Beatae Mariae Virginis de passione Jesu Christi. (Pseudo-) Anselmus [Ecbertus Schonaugiensis]: Stimulus amoris. (Pseudo-) Anselmus [Radulphus Cantuariensis]: Homilia in Lucam (10, 38) 'Intravit Jesus in quoddam castellum'. Honorius Augustodunensis: De imagine mundi [lib. I-II]. Anselmus: Orationes ad sanctam Mariam; Forma et mores beatae Mariae [extract]. With additions by Petrus Danhauser and Johannes Löffelholz.

H *1134; BMC II,473 (IB. 8153); GW 2032; BSB-Ink. A-554; Bod-inc. A-303; Goff A-759.

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