4to, pp. 40; printer’s device on title, one large and several 5-line finely engraved initials, some criblé, some historiated, some grotesque; a very good copy in modern marbled boards, the manuscript ownership inscription of Cardinal Altemps (1561-1595) on the title-page.
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Iacobi Blanchoni ucessiensis adversus Ludovicum beneventanum abbatem selestensem defensionum liber.
First edition of a very rare work of sixteenth-century Lyonnese Neoplatonism, an elegantly-printed de Tournes edition. Ostensibly a simple series of remarks against the theses of the (presumably sternly Scholastic) abbot of Selestan, this is a tract of Renaissance moral philosophy. The theme of dignitas hominis concentrated the philosophical efforts of several Lyonnese men of letters inspired by Ficino and Pico della Mirandola. Like Charles de Bovelles and P. Boaistuau, Jacques Blanchon systematically harmonizes Aristotle’s philosophy and science with the hermetic thought associated with the writings of Hermes Trismegistus.
Anticipating Charron and Montaigne, Blanchon does not accept demonology and witchcraft, exposing the foolishness of popular beliefs largely on grounds of common sense rather than strict Scholastic rationalism. Further chapters address ideas and knowledge, nature, the soul, the impact of need on morality, human freedom from predestinations and from the stars, and some false etymologies. Blanchon was also the author of a tract ‘De summo hominis bono’ published in the same year.
Adams B2099. Rare: two locations in the UK (Cambridge and St. Andrews), one in the US (Newberry), one in France (BNF) and two in Switzerland (Basel and Bern).
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Histoire véritable publiée d’après un nouveau manuscrit avec une introduction et des notes par L. de Bordes de Fortage.
Second edition of Montesquieu’s philosophical, quasi-oriental tale, a prelude to his great work L’Esprit des lois. Written in the 1730s and again in 1754, and influenced by Lucian and the 18th-century vogue for oriental fiction, the Histoire véritable remained unpublished until 1892. This 1902 second edition is based on a manuscript written prior to that used for the first. The Histoire is a fabulous account of the numerous animal and human incarnations experienced by its narrator: as a little dog he is persecuted by his mistress, while as an ox he is worshipped by the Egyptians; as a human his soul occupies the bodies of a hangman, a cuckolded husband, an underfed poet, a courtier, a fop, a virtuous woman, a eunuch, an African chief, a king’s fool, among many others. ‘The different reincarnations are so many opportunities to expose human turpitude from the inside and to underscore, from the vantage point of a single conscience, retrospectively enlightened, the corruption and wickedness of men ... Montesquieu’s originality is to create, based on conventional processes of narrative fiction at the time, a philosophical tale inducing meditation about the conditions of virtue and happiness ... The Histoire véritable would also raise, in the story’s framework, questions to which L’Esprit des lois would try to respond: how to reconcile relativism and norms of universal justice, articulate uniformity and diversity, find constancy in change? To this degree, the work would be, as Alberto Postigliola put it, an “epistemological prelude” to its author’s major work’ (Carole Dornier in Dictionnaire Montesquieu).