THOMAS AQUINAS. Tertia pars summe sancti Thome de aquino cum concordantiis marginalibus. [Venice, Pincio, 24 April 1512 (colophon).]
Folio, I: ff. , 200 [recte 198]; printed in double columns, with numerous six- and four-line woodcut initials throughout, printed shoulder notes, running titles, manuscript rubrication; printer’s device on the last leaf; a very clean, appealing copy; II: ff. 220, ; printed in double columns, with numerous six- and four-line woodcut initials and numerous manuscript red initials throughout, printed shoulder notes, running titles, manuscript rubrication; a little browning and some light marginal waterstaining to the last few leaves, but also a clean and appealing copy; bound in contemporary blind-stamped calf over wooden boards, panelled spine with a vellum lettering-piece lettered in ink, panelled sides with a central asterisk fillet motif providing arrangement for numerous circular stamps featuring ‘m’, ‘s’, rosettes, lilies and eagles, and rectangular stamps featuring fleur-de-lys; catches and clasps partly preserved, joints cracked but holding, spine extremities chipped, some surface scratching and rubbing; ink off-setting from early paste-downs, no longer present, on the verso of the boards; a very attractive volume.
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Secunda secunde sancti Thome de Aq[ui]no ordinis predicato[rum] novissime recognita, q[uam]pluribusq[ue] utilissimis appostillis in margine appositis insignita.
Two very rare post-incunables: early Venetian editions, gathered together in their first binding, of the Secunda Secundae and the Tertia parts of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae, arguably the most pervasively influential philosophico-theological work of the Middle Ages.
The work of Aquinas in ‘baptising’ secular philosophy into the Christian faith and so reconciling reason with revelation was of incalculable value. ‘Aquinas held that knowledge came from two sources: the truths of Christian faith and the truths of human reason. … Reason is the source of natural truth, which the heathen philosophers Plato and Aristotle (especially the latter) have systematized, and which if correctly analysed can be seen manifest in the appearing world’ (Printing and the Mind of Man). The Summa offered an encyclopaedia of all of man’s knowledge, from God to the universe and nature to man: his nature, and his faculties of intellect, will and passions. Its Aristotelian logical rigor and far-reaching organic remits ensured the Summa’s towering presence remained in the Western canon for centuries. As Schumpeter remarked, ‘Summa Theologica is in the history of thought what the south-western spire of the Cathedral of Chartres is in the history of architecture’.
The Summa is divided into three parts, first published at different dates by different publishers. No collected edition was published until 1485. The first part treats of the nature, attributes, and relations of God, including the physical universe; the third part, which was completed according to Aquinas’s plan after his death, deals with Christ (the rare edition bound in this volume contains - as customary - only the text completed by Aquinas himself).
Pars Secunda was devoted to man in society, and to the study of ethics; while the first sub-part (Prima Secundae) dealt with the principles and the final end of human actions, the second sub-part (Secunda Secundae) treated morality more practically, and, as a useful ‘manual of ethics’ covering most kinds of human interaction, from an early stage was copied then printed separately and frequently.
It is the Secunda Secundae which attracts interest on the part of historians of economics: as much of late-medieval economic knowledge, theory and discussion was drawn around the Summa, and as many disputes as late as the 1600s still quoted its chapters, Thomas Aquinas’s text stands as an unfailing reference. In particular, Aquinas’s pronouncements on the legitimate nature of private property (II, 2, quaest. lxvi art. 2), on the nature of just price (II, 2, quaest. lxxvii art. 1), and on the much-discussed issue of interest (II, 2, quaest. lxxviii). Aquinas’s examination of economic relations includes the formulation of a theory of value that, according to Schumpeter, ‘lacked nothing but the marginal apparatus’, touching upon – albeit in a scattered fashion - all essential aspects, including production and labour, demand, trade, the notion of scarcity and the economic functions of the State. After Schumpeter, leading historians of economics have illuminated aspects of Scholastic economic thought starting from Aquinas: among others, Emil Kauder, Raymond de Roover, Bernard Dempsey, Murray Rothbard, Alejandro Chafuen, Jesús Huerta de Soto, and Bertram Schefold.
I: Not in Adams or Panzer. OCLC finds only four copies worldwide, of which one in US and none in the UK (Illinois, Radboud, Barcelona, Lyon), ICC adds three copies in Italy. II: EDIT 16 34933; Adams A1426; USTC 859425 (six copies in Italy, one in Spain, one in UK at Cambridge, none in US).
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