De fide et legibus.

[Augsburg, Günther Zainer, c. 1475-6].

Folio, ff. [140], with initial blank; capital spaces, a few initials supplied in red at beginning; some worming (mostly marginal but touching some letters, those towards end with old paper repairs), small loss to blank upper margin of [a6], a few marks, first and last page dusty; good in nineteenth-century yellow boards, paper labels to spine; slightly marked; a few marginal notes and manicules (longer note to Pars IX Ca. I, and to final blank).


US $6150€5832

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De fide et legibus.

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First and only incunable edition of this work covering reason, faith, love, error, idolatry, superstition, magic, and demonology. William of Auvergne (1180/90 – 1249), Bishop of Paris, was the most important of the pre-Scholastics. ‘He represents the first generation of Paris masters to make a wide use of Aristotelian, Islamic, and Jewish thought in the years immediately preceding the establishment of the friars’ schools. William was the first great master of the new age’ (David Knowles). He was familiar with al-Farabi, Avicenna (whom he criticized), Avicebron, Averroes, and Maimonides; and he was perhaps the first to display an intimate acquaintance with Hermes Trismegistus.

After the De universo, this is William’s most important book. The De legibus of the title means ‘Of religions’, according to the frequent medieval use of the word lex, and such is the breadth of William’s reading that it can be seen as a study in comparative religion. However critical or otherwise, there are chapters De his quae sunt absurda ... in lege Hebraeorum (VI, i); De festivitatibus Judaeorum (VI, x); Errores Mahometi (VII, ii); De diversis legibus Sarracenorum (VII, iv); and De errore Mercurii [i.e. Hermes Trismegistus] in statuis adorandis (IX, xi). For Lynn Thorndike (History of Experimental Science and Magic II, chapter LII), this work is the source for ‘an unexpectedly detailed picture of the magic and superstition of the time’.

BMC II 323; Bod-Inc G-297; Goff G711; ISTC ig00711000.

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