[Opera, Greek] Απαντα τα του θειου … Βασιλειου … Divi Basilii Magni opera.

Basel, Hieronymus Froben and Nicolaus Episcopius, 1551.

Folio, pp. [8], 698, [2]; text in Greek, large woodcut printer’s device on title and on verso of final leaf, numerous woodcut initials and ornamental head-pieces; underlining and numerous annotations in at least two early hands; some very light marginal staining, two wormholes in outer margins towards end of volume, but a very good copy in late sixteenth-century French (possibly Paris) calf, gilt arabesque in centre of covers, spine gilt and with author lettered in gilt in Greek, edges gilt; rubbed, rebacked preserving central section of spine and nineteenth-century spine label, joints and edges much repaired.


US $4266€3778

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Editio princeps of St. Basil’s complete works in the original Greek. In 1532 Froben had published, under the editorship of Erasmus, an edition containing the De Spiritu Sancto, the Hexaemeron, the Homilies on the Psalms, twenty-nine further homilies, and some letters. The present edition was an attempt to provide all the known works of Basil in Greek within one volume and was prepared by the medical doctor Janus Cornarius (c. 1500–1558) who in 1540 had made a Latin translation based partly on Erasmus’s edition: ‘Although inclining to the Reformation, Cornarius never took up any theological stand on confessional matters and his translation of Basil is dedicated to the Archbishop of Mainz, Albrecht. Doing so, Cornarius was acutely aware that he was leaving himself open to accusations of meddling in theology, a realm of learning that he knew little about. However, his decision to translate Basil was quite deliberate and thought out. As he says in his preface to Albrecht, he disapproves of the separation of realms of knowledge and thinks that he is not the first among pagan and Christian physicians to intervene on theological terrain. Thus intervening he wants to show, firstly, that a medical doctor too can be a good Christian and, secondly, he hopes to pacify confessional quarrels of his own time by appealing to Basil’s time and the bishop of Caesarea’s stand in the church’s combat against heresies’ (Irena Backus, ‘The Church Fathers and the Humanities in the Renaissance and the Reformation’ in Re-envisioning Christian Humanism (ed. J. Zimmermann, 2017), p. 48).

Our copy bears the signs of study by three readers. The first, writing in Latin in an extremely neat and careful late sixteenth-century hand, has left a few notes only, one of which (p. 43) notes that two homilies are to be attributed not to Basil but to Gregory of Nyssa (Basil’s brother). On p. 676 the same hand has identified a total of eight words that should be deleted from the text. The second reader, possibly the Benedictine monk and writer of ascetic works Robert Morel (1653–1731), has concentrated his attentions on Basil’s homilies I–XXIII and on his homily on Psalm 23. The third reader is most likely the Jesuit Marie-Joseph-Isaac Chavignac (1734–c. 1805), whose ownership inscription appears on the title. He has annotated Basil’s De Spiritu Sancto (pp. 247-279), often singling out those passages concerning heretics, and the first two books of Against Eunomius (pp. 646–675).


1. Neat ownership inscription at head of title ‘R. Morel’ and, in another hand beside it, ‘Ex. Prov. Gall.’. This is possibly the popular Benedictine monk and committed Jansenist Robert Morel (1653–1731), who in 1680 became librarian of St Germain des Prés and subsequently spent much of his life at Saint-Denis.

2. ‘M. J. Chavignac’, with ownership inscription on title in an eighteenth-century hand. This is probably the Jesuit Marie-Joseph-Isaac Chavignac (born 1734 in Caudebec, died at Rouen circa 1805; see Sommervogel II 1106). Writing in the mid-nineteenth century, Alexandre Fromentin glowingly described Chavignac as ‘doué d’une modestie sans égale’ and ‘un des hommes les plus profonds du XVIIIe siècle. Il adressa au dernier maréchal d’Harcourt un compliment en huit langues’ (A. Fromentin, Essai historique sur Yvetot et coup d’oeil jeté sur ses environs Valmont, S.-Wandrille, Caudebec (1844), p. 272).

3. Nineteenth-century stamp on title ‘Societatis Jesu Seminar[ium] Valsens[is]’ (probably the Jesuit seminary of Vaals in the Netherlands).

Adams B331.

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