PETER AURIOL (c.1280-1322). Commentary on the second book of the Sentences of Peter Lombard, in Latin; ARISTOTLE (384-322 B.C.). Metaphysics Books 1-14.3, in the Latin translation of WILLIAM OF MOERBEKE (c.1215-c.1286), DECORATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Switzerland, ?St Johann im Thurtal, second quarter 14th century and late 13th century]
205 x 155mm. 126 leaves: 1-312, 46, 52, 616, 74, 810, 912, 1016, 11-1212, catchwords on final versos at ff.60, 74 and 114; ff.1-44: 38 lines written in two columns in a small gothic bookhand in black ink between four verticals and 39 horizontals, ruled in brown, justification: 153 x 51-9-51mm, paragraph marks in red or blue, three-line initials in blue flourished with red or red flourished with light blue, one large initial with staves of red and blue reserving beast forms, extensively flourished in red and light blue; ff.45-126: 29-32 lines written in a second small gothic bookhand in black ink between two verticals and 30-33 horizontals, ruled in grey, vertical prickings on many leaves, justification: 141 x 92mm, some headings in red, paragraph marks and large initials in red, large initials not supplied from f.116, numerous marginal annotations with maniculi and sketches of clerics, ff.64-72 with extensive gloss (slightly trimmed by binder at vertical edge, other marginalia faded or erased, edges of many leaves worn and slightly stained, tears into margins on some leaves). Late 14th-century tawed skin over bevel-edged wooden boards, sewn onto three thongs, two pins for securing strap at centre edge and chain staple hole at top of upper cover, marks of pasted-on title and pin for fastening clasp at centre of lower cover, front pastedown of vellum leaf written in a 14th-century hand (worn, joints split, sections of back-strip lacking).
AN INTRIGUING PAIRING OF TEXTS BY A CRITIC AND A COLLABORATOR OF THOMAS AQUINAS.
1. Probably the Benedictine Abbey of St Johann im Thurtal, Alt St Johann, in the diocese of Constance: the front pastedown is a legal record with the dates 1373 and 1374 concerning Abbot Henry of St Johann im Thurtal (Heinrich Vorster, abbot 1369-1380/1), the count of Reichenbach, Margaret, widow of Conrad von Zehender and Conrad Burg. The late 14th-century binding, originally with chain, of which this pastedown is an integral part, must have been executed for a communal library. It unites two texts, one of which, the Peter Auriol, has decoration typical of the Lake Constance area in the second quarter of the 14th century, and the other, the Aristotle, late 13th century, has annotations and marginalia showing that it was in a monastic collection before it was trimmed to be bound with the later manuscript. This monastic collection can reasonably be identified as St Johann im Thurtal, founded in 1152, although little is known of its history in the 13th and 14th centuries and even less of its library. Indeed, it has been stated that, of all the Swiss monastic libraries, least is now known about St Johann (P. Ochsenbein in Das Kloster St Johann im Thurtal, exh. cat. St Gallen, 1985). This is largely because pressure from the Calvinists, who purged the monastic church in 1528, led to the abbey's amalgamation with St Gall in 1555. When refounded in 1626, a library was begun with volumes supplied by St Gall, to be dispersed in the revolutionary period; among the manuscripts subsequently re-assembled at St Gall are only two that may have belonged to St Johann before 1555, both dating from the 14th century and inscribed Liber sancti Johannis: St Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Mss 472 and 1157 (Verzeichnis der Handschriften der Stiftsbibliothek von St Gallen), although Ochsenbein considers Ms 472 the only known manuscript with this possible provenance. The presence of these two texts in St Johann, apparently very soon after their respective dates of composition, and the copious annotations constitute significant new evidence for the intellectual life of the community.
2. Frank J. Seidensticker, Paxbury Mass.: visiting card formerly pasted onto front pastedown, now loose inside lower cover. The Seidensticker family was established in the United States when Georg Friedrich was exiled from Germany in 1845 for his part in the Göttingen uprising of 1831. The eldest of his five children, who all joined him in Philadelphia, was Oswald Seidensticker (1825-94), the distinguished historian of the German contribution to American life and culture.
Peter Auriol: Commentary on the second book of the Sentences of Peter Lombard ff.1-44; Aristotle: Metaphysics Books I-XIV.3, in the Latin translation of William of Moerbeke ff.45-126.
Peter Auriol (c.1280-1322) was born near Cahors; little beyond his membership of the Francsiscan order is known of him until 1312, when he was a lector in Bologna; two years later he was at the Franciscan convent in Toulouse. He may have lectured on the Sentences of Peter the Lombard (the accepted compilation of theological doctrine) at one or both of these institutions, and the first draft of his massive commentary on the first book was probably prepared before 1316. He studied the Sentences in Paris from 1316 until 1318, when he was appointed Franciscan regent master of theology. Auriol was celebrated for his treatises in defence of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, but his most significant work is his commentaries on the Sentences: the Scriptum super primum Sententiarum, published in Rome in 1596, considers only the first book; but reportationes of his lectures on all four books have survived in a number of different versions, in some instances clearly reworked by Auriol himself, as appears to be the case here. A version of the commentary on Books II-IV was published in Rome (1605); the present text differs materially from the 1605 edition, but its early date -- within 25 years of the death of the author -- gives it some weight in the complex history of this text. Auriol's theology criticises Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas's theory of knowledge in favour of empiricism supported by a doctrine of universals, an approach which in part anticipates Ockham.
The Flemish Dominican William of Moerbeke (c.1215-c.1286) was one of the key figures in the school of thought that Auriol opposed himself to. He studied in Paris and, presumably with Albertus Magnus, at Cologne; he was Archbishop of Corinth from 1278 until his death. He is thought to have encountered Aquinas in Viterbo and Orvieto; according to tradition, Aquinas had little or no Greek, and it was at his urging that William undertook in 1260 his translations into Latin of Aristotle, beginning with On the Heavens and Meteorology (an annotation to the end-leaf of the present manuscript reports the tradition that the translation was made 'ad instantiam f[rat]ris thome'); during the following two decades he either translated afresh or revised existing translations of virtually the entire available corpus of Aristotelian writings. His carefully literal renderings were not only specifically the versions commissioned and used by Aquinas in achieving the synthesis of Aristotelianism and scholastic theology in his later works, but more generally the standard means of access to the philosopher for the medieval Latin world.
Aristotle's Metaphysica is a collection of treatises or lecture-notes from different periods, and in fourteen books considers the nature of matter, form, substance and essence and lays the basis of ontological study, as well as postulating the existence of a 'prime mover' and the primacy of pure thought as a human activity. Aristotle's works were scarcely known in the early medieval West until familiarity with his philosophy was gradually recovered through contact with Jewish and Islamic scholars in Spain from the 12th Century. It was the acceptance of Aristotle by Albertus Magnus and Aquinas as the basis of their work that initiated the 13th-century heyday of Latin scholastic theology. The present manuscript dating from the late 13th century forms part of the earliest diffusion of this text and, in its profusion of maniculi, admiring monkish figures, annotations, marginalia and glosses, bears witness to the close reading of the philosopher in an early 14th-century monastic context.