De vanitate mundi, deq; solida hominis foelicitate. Explicatio Ecclesiastes Salomonis.Florence: ex bibliotheca Sermartelliana, 1580 (ex off. Sermartelliana, 1579).

MANSUS Victorinus (1580-1579))


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Title within a woodcut frame, woodcut initials large and small.

4to (220 x 150mm). [8]ff. 195pp. Contemporary limp vellum, lacking ties.


Florence: ex bibliotheca Sermartelliana, 1580 (ex off. Sermartelliana, 1579)

Extremely rare first edition with an interesting contemporary provenance; only the Folger copy found in US libraries, and no copies in the UK.

The work is a commentary on Ecclesiastes, called in Hebrew “Qoheleth”, one of the Books of Wisdom in the Old Testament, and much read in the sixteenth century. The text is commented on sentence by sentence, the lemmata being printed in italic type and the commentary in Roman.

The dedication to Cardinal Antonio Carafa (1538-91) relates how Cardinal Hosius (Stanislaw Hozjusz 1505-79) whilst staying at Subiaco for the summer, was instrumental in urging Manso to publish this commentary. This interesting copy, which clearly found its way quickly into Germany (see below), where the text was reprinted in 1580 in 12mo in Cologne (VD16 M662), has some annotations and, throughout the volume, underlining in red ink.

Throughout the text there are frequent citations of Scripture, generally indicated in the margin, and occasional mentions of ancient authors;  referenced here are Horace on p. 54 and Bias of Priene on p. 55, in connection with the well known saying, known to Aristotle, Cicero, and mediated probably through Erasmus (Adagia 1072) ‘Ama tanquam osurus, oderis tanquam amaturus’.

A most interesting passage (p. 74) is the commentary on verses 15 and 16 of Ecclesiastes. Here Manso draws attention to the fact that ridding oneself of the state of an evil generally brings another ill to follow, citing the assassination of Caesar and the triumvirate which followed it, with all the ills which befell Rome. The point is further covered in a passage from Aristotle, where Manso draws attention to a fable of Aesop told by Aristotle (Rhetorica) about the Samians. Aesop, defending before the Samians a popular leader who was being tried for his life, told this story: “A fox, while crossing a river, was driven into a ravine. Being unable to get out, she was for a long time in sore distress, and a number of dog fleas clung to her skin. A hedgehog, wandering about, saw her, and, moved by compassion, asked her if he should remove the fleas. The fox refused, and when the hedgehog asked the reason, she replied: ‘they are already full of me and draw little blood; but if you take these away, others will come that are hungry (‘famescentes’) and will drink up all the blood what remains to me’. So, men of Samos, said Aesop, my client will do you no further harm. But if you put him to death, others will come along who are not rich, and their peculations will empty your treasury completely”. The fable is no. 427 in Perry, Aesopica, 1 p. 490.

The author, Manso, was a Benedictine from Aversa near Naples (hence Victorinus ab Aversa in the title) where he died in 1611. The title to this work describes him as provost of an abbey at Florence where the book was published, but later (1588-92) he was abbot of La Trinità della Cava dei Tirreni, near Salerno. Subsequently abbot of S. Severino at Naples, where his Harmonia theologica (1593) was published, he became in 1599 Bishop of Castellammare, and in 1603 of Ariano. In 1595 his Praeclara institutio modi procedendi in causis regularium was published, revised (according to the title) by Timotheus, a monk of S. Severino.


Provenance: Johann Gross preacher (concionator) of Orn[bau?] in Bavaria, the gift of Friedrich Staphylus the younger, counsellor to the Bishop of Eichstätt, and his brother Andreas, dated 1 December, 1580. They were the sons of the theologian Friedrich Staphylus (1512-64), whose disputes with fellow reformers including Osiander led to his conversion to Catholicism in 1552; Staphylus had inherited a large library from his father-in-law, the reformer Johannes Hess (1490-1547). The inscription on the first fly-leaf is by Gross and that at the end of the text by the Staphylus brothers, whose engraved ‘bookplate’ is also pasted in.

CNCE 33698. OCLC (US: Folger only, no UK copies located). Ref: E. Christianson, Ecclesiastes through the Centuries (2007). 

Stock Code: 230970

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