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Quaestiones de Potentia Dei. Quaestiones de Malo - THOMAS AQUINAS, Saint - 1480. 
Manuscript on vellum, attributed to Venceslaus Crispus as copyist and Matteo Felice as illuminator. Italy, Naples, 30 December 1480. 378 x 260 mm., 2 paper leaves, 378 vellum leaves, one paper leaf, collation: I-V8, VI6, VII10, VIII-XLVII8, XLVIII2 (complete); vertical catchwords. Justification 243 x 160 mm., two vertical and 46 horizontal rules in pale brown ink, written in dark brown ink in a regular and very elegant rotunda, a round semi-humanistic script, by Venceslaus Crispus. Running titles and headings in red, colophon (fol. 376r) in red, paragraph marks alternately blue and red, opening words of each Quaestio in burnished gold capitals. Illumination: two opening leaves (fols. 1 and 177) illuminated each with a large thirteen-line initial extending into a full-length bar border with knots and leaves sprouting in the margins into elaborate sprays of leaves and flowers in blue, purple, and green, with burnished gold bezants on penwork stems and tendrils, the lower margin of the first leaf with the royal arms of the Kings of Aragon and Naples emblazoned in a wreath supported by two winged putti and surmounted by a crown; 179 very fine illuminated initials, seven to eight lines high, containing highly finished designs of variously colored flowers and leaves with delicate white penwork on burnished gold grounds, some with short extenders. Very occasional tiny chips to initials. Overall condition: vertical creases in ff. 2, 8, 26, 50 and 375, old crease mark to fol. 1, partial crease in fol. 38; fol. 1 slightly soiled and with small area of damp-stain at top near hinge affecting the uppermost portion of the illuminated border, chipping to the large initial on that page; some fading or rubbing to ink of the creased leaves and a few faded areas in fewer than 10 other pages; a few wormholes in first 10 leaves, one or two marginal wormholes in last few leaves; small stain to 84v; apart from these minor flaws in very fine, pristine condition. Bound in early 19th-century diced Russia leather over wooden boards, sides with blind roll-tooled borders, spine with olive morocco lettering-piece, edges gilt and gauffred at an earlier date. Worn, joints split; in a modern morocco-backed folding case. A magnificent royal manuscript of exquisite quality in material, calligraphy, and illumination, containing two key philosophical treatises of Thomas Aquinas, the most important Christian philosopher of the Middle Ages. Written for Ferdinand I of Aragon, King of Naples, one of the great art patrons and bibliophiles of the Italian Renaissance, as part of an extraordinary project to assemble a complete set with definitive text of the works of St. Thomas for the royal library of Naples, the manuscript is of well-documented provenance: it has passed through the libraries of three kings, three cardinals, a prince and an earl. PROVENANCE:1. Dated in colophon (30 December 1480, fol. 376v). Written and illuminated for Ferdinand I of Aragon, King of Naples (1456-85), with his royal arms on first leaf. 2. By descent to his son, Federico of Aragon (d. 1504), King of Naples (1496-1501), when he was forced to yield his kingdom to Louis XII of France. 3. Georges d'Amboise (1460-1510), Cardinal, Archbishop of Rouen, prime minister of the Kings of France, bibliophile and patron of the arts; this manuscript described in the inventory of his ChÃ¢teau de Gaillon in 1508, his library bequeathed to subsequent archbishops of Rouen. Destrez-Chenu 1953 list 22 manuscripts, and later two more were found but not listed in the inventory, making a total of 24.4. Cardinal Charles II de Bourbon-VendÃ´me (1550-90) and Cardinal Charles III de Bourbon-VendÃ´me (1562-94). The latter left part of the archiepiscopal library to the Jesuits of the CollÃ¨ge de Clermont, and the other part to his nephew, the king of France (cf. Delisle, pp. 259-60, and Guigard I, pp. 243-44).5. Henri IV, King of France (1589-1610), who took possession of the entire library, and transferred it to the Cabinet du Roi. Part of the Cabinet was housed in the then-abandoned CollÃ¨ge de Clermont; in 1604 the Jesuits reclaimed this building, which had originally been theirs, as well as their share of the books, including this manuscript.6. The Jesuit CollÃ¨ge de Clermont in Paris, with their 17th-century ownership inscription on fol. 1r, "Collegii Paris. societatis Jesu," and, in the inner margin, the later note "ParaphÃ© au dÃ©sir de l'arrest du 5 juillet 1763 / Mesnil"; the latter referring to the closing of the college following suppression of the order. The books were sold in Paris in 1764: Catalogus manuscriptorum codicorum collegii Claramontani, no. 539, purchased by:7. Gerard Meerman (1722-71), author of Origines typographicae, who bought a large portion of the Clermont manuscripts (but was forced to present a certain number of them to the royal library of Louis XV in order to obtain permission to export the remainder; his son Jean Meerman (1753-1815), for whom the book was rebound, their joint sale, part IV, 2 July 1824, lot 480.8. Bertram, Fourth Earl of Ashburnham (1797-1878), no. 88 in his Catalogue of the Manuscripts at Ashburnham Place, Appendix, . 9. Henry Yates Thompson (1839-1928), who bought the manuscripts of the Ashburnham Appendix en bloc in 1897, then sold a selection of them, including this one, under the Ashburnham name, at Sotheby's, 1 May 1899, lot 39, to Emich.10. Tammaro De Marinis (1878-1969), his sale, Hoepli, 30 November 1925, lot 355, illustrated. 11. An unidentified owner; apparently at this time two engraved bookplates were affixed to the front pastedown: that of the Prince de Soragna (1773-1865), and a large 18th-century engraved armorial bookplate.12. An anonymous consignor, Sotheby's London, 23 June 1998, lot 59 (according to the Sotheby's description the manuscript was "sold probably before the last War to a private collection in Lugano, whence it was bought directly by the [unnamed] present owner in the 1980s," sold to: H. P. Kraus (Cat. 220/251).CONTENTS:Part I:fols. 1r -174v: Incipit: De potentia questio prima, Questio est utrum in deo sit potentiaâ¦, ending on fol. 174v: Expliciunt quaestiones sancti Thome de potentia dei.fols. 174v-176r: Table of chapters fol. 176v: blank Part IIfols. 177r-376r: Incipit Questio prima de malo. Incipiunt questiones de malo sancti Thome de aquino ordinis predicatorumâ¦ ending on fol. 376r explicit Sicut patet in arreptitiis, and colophon: Questiones de malo beati Thome de Aquino ordinis predicatorum Expliciunt feliciter Anno a Jhesu Christi millesimo quadringentesimo et octagesimo die xxxÂ° Decembrisfols. 376v-378r: Table of chaptersfol. 378v: blank Although Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1225-74) earned his reputation teaching at the University of Paris, he was from a southern Italian family with close ties to Naples, the city where he studied before joining the still young Dominican Order in 1244. Two years before his death he founded a theology school in Naples. Called "Doctor Angelicus," Aquinas was the first theologian of the medieval period to adapt Aristotelianism to Christianity. The two treatises in the present volume, De Potentia (fol. 1) and De Malo (fol. 177) are written in the form of quaestiones or debating topics for classroom discussion. They treat a set of fundamental and interrelated philosophical, moral and theological questions centered around God's omnipotence, and the existence of evil, with wider implications for the philosophy of science. Both texts are among the rarest of the major works of Aquinas. The census of Aquinas manuscripts (Dondaine and Shooner 1967-85) so far only covers libraries from A to P, but among thousands of Aquinas manuscripts listed there it apparently records only 34 copies of the De Malo, including fragments, and even fewer of the De Potentia. Thirteen of these are in public libraries in France, seven in Italy, and five in England; there is only a single manuscript of either text in all of North America, an imperfect copy of the De Malo on paper (De Ricci, Census, p. 878, no. 75). The present manuscript was evidently part of an extraordinary program in the royal library of Naples to assemble a complete set of the works of Thomas Aquinas, whom they regarded as Neapolitan. More than that, the Aragonese library seems to have deliberately set out to create a single definitive text of his works, perhaps as exemplars. The manuscript at hand, though unsigned, is securely attributable to the hand of the prolific royal scribe Venceslaus Crispus. He was born in Bohemia and belongs to the period when the royal court of Naples was attracting scribes and scholars from all across Europe. At least sixteen manuscripts of the Aragonese set of Aquinas were copied between 1484 and 1493 by Venceslaus Crispus. The effort and time he expended in writing these vast books is astonishing. The present book alone has more than 16,000 lines of text in a beautiful, elegant, rounded semi-humanistic hand, "almost flawless in its perfection" (De Hamel, Sotheby's, 23 June 1998, lot 59). De Hamel noting further that "30 December in 1480 fell on a Saturday; evidently the scribe was working against time, perhaps to complete the vast project in time for the king's New Year celebration."ILLUMINATION: The 179 illuminated initials and border illustrations are securely attributed to the artist Matteo Felice (fl. 1467-93), who worked for the royal library in Naples. "The slender putti and the handsome foliated initialsâ¦are closely related to those of other manuscripts illuminated by Matteo in Naples around 1480 (cf. De Marinis 1952-1957, I, pp. 157-58, pls. 37, 40-43 and 45, and Alexander 1994, no. 12, p. 68). We know for certain that he collaborated with Venceslaus Crispus between 1489 and 1493 in the production of four other manuscripts of Aquinas, for payments to him are recorded in the royal accounts (cf. De Marinis 1952-1957, II, docs. 763, 847 and 876, and IV, pls. 236-38). The present book must have been one of the earliest on which they collaborated. The style of the illumination adopts Paduan and Ferrarese motifs. The full-length illuminated border recalls the elegant and delicate decoration of the margins in the Breviaries and Missals produced in Ferrara for the dukes of Este and Gonzaga. Matteo Felice was "one of the finest interpreters of these new decorative influences in Naples" (De Hamel, loc. cit.). Of the 24 recorded manuscripts from the Aquinas project, twenty codices are now known to survive, another indication of the extreme value attached to these books throughout the ages (15 of which are published on the database: Europea Regia). The series include - along with the present codex: 's-Heerenberg, Castle Huis Bergh, ms. 14, Grenoble, BM, ms. 344, Louviers, Bibliotheque de la Ville, mss. 5, 7, 8; Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale, ms. VII B 4, Paris, BN ms. lat. 495, 674, and 6525, Smith-Lesouef ms. lat. 14; Valencia, Bibl. Univ., mss. 47, 53, 380, 395, 764, 840, 847, 1377, 1718, 2296 and 2301; Vatican, Rossiano ms. 292; and one other manuscript in private hands (sold at Drouot, 19 May 1976, lot 48). The interesting chain of provenance of this manuscript, which left Italy for France so soon after its production, is owed largely to the bibliophilic zeal of the Cardinal d'Amboise. Historians have been able to study his collecting activities in detail thanks to the survival of the account books for the construction of his chateau, the extravagant ChÃ¢teau de Gaillon, near Rouen, published by Deville 1850, containing the names of nearly 70 artists and artisans, and of two inventories of the chateau's contents in 1508. This manuscript was one of 38 manuscripts from the Royal Library of Naples that were purchased by d'Amboise.LITERATURE:L. Delisle, Le Cabinet des Manuscrits de la Bibliotheque Imperiale (1868), I, 228, 245 .Jean Destrez and Marie-Dominique Chenu, "Une collection manuscrite des oeuvres complÃ¨tes de S. Thomas d'Aquin par le roi Aragonais de Naples 1480-1493," In: Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum, 23 (1953), pp. 309-326.G. Mazzatinti, La biblioteca dei re d'Aragona in Napoli (1897), p. 183, no. 617 (see online: http://archive.org/details/labibliotecadei00mazzgoog).Tammaro De Marinis, La Biblioteca Napoletana dei Re d'Aragona (1952-1957), II: 160.J.J.G. Alexander, The Painted Page: Italian Renaissance Book Illumination, 1450-1550 (1994), p. 68.Christopher de Hamel, Sotheby's 1998, lot 59.On Aquinas manuscripts: H. F. Dondaine and H. V. Shooner, Codices Manuscripti Operum Thomae de Aquino, I-III (1967-85).For a recently discovered companion volume, see: Anne S. Korteweg, Catalogue of medieval manuscripts and incunabula at Huis Bergh Castle in 's-Heerenberg, 's-Heerenberg 2013, no. 27 (ms. 14, inv. no. 266): Thomas Aquinas, Quaestiones de Duodecim Quodlibeta (without attribution to scribe or illuminator).On Cardinal d'Amboise: L. Deville, Comptes de dÃ©penses de la construction du ChÃ¢teau de Gaillon, Paris 1850.On Wenceslaus Crispus:http://www.diamm.ac.uk/jsp/Descriptions?op=SOURCE&sourceKey=1190http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8446957x.
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