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HERMES TRISMEGISTUS (ascribed to). De Potestate et Sapientia Dei. Translation from the Greek by Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499). Treviso: Gerardus de Lisa, de Flandria, 18 December 1471.
HERMES TRISMEGISTUS (ascribed to). De Potestate et Sapientia Dei. Translation from the Greek by Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499). Treviso: Gerardus de Lisa, de Flandria, 18 December 1471.
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HERMES TRISMEGISTUS (ascribed to). De Potestate et Sapientia Dei. Translation from the Greek by Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499). Treviso: Gerardus de Lisa, de Flandria, 18 December 1471.

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HERMES TRISMEGISTUS (ascribed to). De Potestate et Sapientia Dei. Translation from the Greek by Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499). Treviso: Gerardus de Lisa, de Flandria, 18 December 1471. Rare first edition of a foundational text of the Renaissance; a copiously annotated copy preserving early foliation, quiring and catchwords. So important were the works of Hermes Trismegistus to the Renaissance that when a manuscript of Pimander was found in Macedonia by Lionardo of Pistoia and brought to Cosimo de Medici at Florence (a 14th-century manuscript that survives at the Laurentiana), Cosimo ordered Marsilio Ficino to interrupt his work translating Plato in order first to translate Hermes. Ficino's translation of Pimander was completed in April 1463, and it is thus Ficino's first book. It circulated in numerous manuscript copies before being printed at Treviso in 1471. Ficino makes clear the primacy of Hermes in his preface: he was the ‘fons et origo of a wisdom tradition which led in an unbroken chain to Plato’ (Yates, p.15). As the first philosopher to contemplate things divine, Hermes was the founder of theology, and in his writing Christianity was foreseen. Hermetic philosophy informed a wide spectrum of Renaissance humanism, from Pico's Oration on the Dignity of Man to the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, to the Christian study of the cabala, and, owing to the alchemical hermetic works, magic and spirituality. Pimander was printed in more than 20 editions before 1641, and hermetic influence has been traced in works as disparate as Newton's physics and the writings of Shakespeare, Sidney and Spenser. It was not until the 17th century that the Corpus Hermeticum was shown by Isaac Casaubon to have been written in the 2nd-3rd centuries CE in Egypt, probably by Egyptians with a Greek education, and not by a single priscus theologus. Thus, having exercised tremendous influence on western thought as ancient wisdom texts emanating from the Egyptian god Thoth (Hermes in Greek), they have continued significance for our understanding of gnosticism and neoplatonism, as well as remaining a key to Renaissance philosophy. A professor of grammar and cantor at the cathedral, Gerardus de Lisa may have issued his books principally at the behest of the humanist Francisco Rolandello, Count Jacopo Porcia and others. They were probably printed 'in a very small number of copies for a restricted circle of patrons' (BMC). Only two other copies have sold at auction (ABPC/RBH). GW 12310; BMC VI 883, XII 64; Bod-inc H-049; ISTC ih00077000; Goff H-77. Not in BSB-ink. Octavo (204 x 132mm). 56 leaves. Opening initials in red and blue with penwork in purple and red (outer edge trimmed just shaving a few letters off marginalia, a few repairs to margins and corners, somewhat washed, first and last leaves strengthened, slight dampstaining in upper corners). Modern binding reusing old vellum and preserving old endpapers (the entire block resewn with modern marbling to edges, light staining). Provenance: early ownership cancelled on second leaf – ?Italy, 15th- and 16th-century marginalia in Latin and Italian.
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