Cordiale quattuor novissimorum. [Cologne], Bartholomaeus de Unkel, [c. 1483]

VLIEDERHOVEN Gerardus de ([1483])

£6500.00 

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WITH LEAF OF EXCERPTS IN CONTEMPORARY HAND

4to (220 x 150mm). [67]ff (of 68, lacking first (blank) leaf), final blank i8 with extensive contemporary annotations. 19th century calf-backed marbled boards, spine lettered in gilt.

 

Rare Cologne printing of the Cordiale quattuor novissimorum (Of the Four Last Things), one of the most popular eschatological treatises of the late Middle Ages. The Latin original has been variously ascribed to Gerardus de Vliederhoven, Dionysius Cartusianus, Geert Groote, Henricus de Hassia and others. Its popularity can be seen in the 75 incunable editions and the various translations into German (three times), Dutch, French (twice), English, Spanish and Catalan. Of the present edition, ISTC records only 21 library locations for this edition, only the British Library and Liverpool UL in the UK and only the Huntington Library in the U.S.A.

What are the four last things? They are death, judgement, heaven and hell or in the order given in the text ‘mors, iudicium, iehenna & gloria’ (f.a1 line 19). The incipit is ‘Memorare nouissima tua [Greek ‘ta escata sou] et in eternum non peccabis’ (‘ [In all your works be mindful of your end [your last things] and you will never sin’) words taken from Ecclesiasticus or Sirach (vii, 36).  These four things are ‘ the four wheels of the soul’s chariot drawing it to eternal salvation’ (a1 lines 22-23).

The Cordiale quatuor novissimorum dates from early in the fifteenth century and was frequently copied and printed: between 1471 and 1500 there were 78 editions, mostly in Latin but including two in English, and several in Dutch, all printed in northern Europe, but there are three editions printed in Spanish at Zaragoza, and one in the Valencian dialect of Catalan (unique copy in Mallorca).  Authorship is attributed to both Dionysius the Carthusian and Gerard of Vliederhoven at Utrecht. The text would seem to have been connected with the Brethren of Common Life, and according to one source was read at the abbey of Windesheim, one of their houses.

The text is in large part a tissue of scriptural quotations and others from later writers, St. Gregory, St. Anselm, St. Bernard, John of Garland, Ambrose, Augustine, Seneca (De remediis), Hugh of St. Victor, and even (on b6verso, line 16) Gautier de Chateillon’s Alexandreis where 4 lines are given in prose form (O felix mortale genus si semper haberet… v, 5428-5431, printed in Migne PL 209). There is a lengthy exemplum on ff. e1verso-e2verso: ‘Unde legitur in exemplo. Duo fratres quorum unus erat fatuus et alter sapiens ibant partier eadem via…’

A closely written contemporary manuscript, in a neat Gothic hand with capital strokes in red ink, covers both sides of the final blank leaf containing verses from the Liber Floretus, and excerpts from Petrus Riga's Aurora, Gregory and Hugo of St. Victor.

On the recto these are all from the Floretus a work devoted to the avoidance of the seven deadly sins. The text copied here is about ‘Luxuria’. There are sections : Luxuriam fugias, castus sine crimine fias… (24 lines) ; Prudenter vigila ne fiat mors neque culpa (16 lines) ; Ut mala devites, benefac, simul otia vites’ Nunc age, nunc ora, nunc lege ne vana sit hora (4 lines).

 

The Floretus was included under the label of Auctores octo ( a schoolbook) of which there were 38 incunable editions. It was also printed on its own from 1474 (24 editions with Gerson’s commentary). See Orbán, Árpád Peter, ed.  Liber floretus: herausgegeben nach der Hs. Utrecht, U.B. 283. Kastellaun/Hunsrück: Henn, 1979.

On the verso is a collection of passages partly connected with the study of Scripture, followed by passages about wisdom. These begin with the following passage from Prosper of Aquitaine, a staunch Augustinian, who in his epigram no. 70 reworks a passage in Augustine’s Enarratio in Psalmum 140 (printed in  Migne PL 51 and Prosper Aquitanus, Liber epigrammatum, Berlin-New York 2016 (Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 100).

“Bonae sunt in scripturis sanctis mysteriorum profunditates, quae ob teguntur, ne vilescan ; ob hoc quaeruntur, ut exerceant; boc autem aperiuntur, ut pascant. Epygramma.

Quamvis in sacris libris, quos nosse laboras,

Plurima sint, Lector, clausa et opaca tibi;

Invigilare tamen studio ne desine sancto.

Exercent animum dona Morata tuum.

Gratior est fructus, quem spes productior edit.

Ultro objectorum vilius est pretium.

Oblectant adoperta etiam mysteria mentem:

Qui dedit ut quaeras, addet ut invenias.”

 

This is followed by two quotations from the Aurora of  Petrus de Riga  (d. ca 1209,  canon of Notre Dame at Rheims, later at S. Denis) the first beginning ‘Fons et puteus sacra pagina grata sapore’ (v. 627-638) and the second ‘Si penetrare nequis  celi secreta profunda, Simpliciter vivas; mens et caro sit tibi munda/ Ne mersus pereas velut Ycarus in maris unda… His Aurora is a versification of Old Testament themes, of which F.J. Raby writes ‘Misplaced ingenuity could go no farther’(A History of Christian Latin Poetry, 1927, p. 303).

 

There is a short quotation from St. Gregory Moralia in Job on the power of Scripture: ‘divinus etenim sermo sicut mysteriis prudentes exercet, sic plerumque superficis simplices refovet. Habet in publico unde parvulos nutria; servat in secreto unde mentes sublimium in admiratione suspendat. Quasi quippe est fluvius, ut ita dixerim, planus et altus in quo et agnus ambulet et elephas natet’ (PL 24, 1474).

 

There follow a number of passages taken from Hugh of St. Victor’s Didascalicon:

III. 8. ingenium invenit et memoria custodit sapientiam. [771C] ingenium est vis quaedam naturaliter animo insita per se valens. ingenium a natura proficiscitur, usu iuvatur, immoderato labore retunditur, et temperato acuitur exercitio. unde satis eleganter a quodam dictum est: Volo tandem tibi parcas, labor est in chartis, curre per aera.

iii. 12. Sapiens quidam cum de modo et forma discendi interrogaretur: Mens, inquit, humilis, studium quaerendi, vita quieta, scrutinium tacitum, paupertas, terra aliena, haec reserare solent multis obscura legendi. 

V. 7  Christiano philosopho lectio exhortatio debet esse, non occupatio, et bona desideria pascere, non necare.  v. 7 Considerandum [praeterea est] quod lectio duobus modis animo fastidium ingerere solet et affligere spiritum; et qualitate videlicet, si obscurior fuerit, et quantitate, si prolixior exstiterit.

V. 9. De quattuor gradibus. Quattuor sunt in quibus nunc exercetur vita iustorum et, quasi per quosdam gradus ad futuram perfectionem sublevatur, videlicet lectio sive doctrina, meditatio, oratio, et operatio. quinta deinde sequitur, contemplatio, in qua, quasi quodam praecedentium fructu, in hac vita etiam quae sit boni operis merces futura praegustatur. [797B] unde Psalmista, cum de iudiciis Dei loqueretur, commendans ea statim subiunxit: In custodiendis illis retributio est multa. de his quinque gradibus primus gradus, id est, lectio, incipientium est, supremus, id est, contemplatio, perfectorum. et de mediis quidem quanto plures quis ascenderit, tanto perfectior erit.

 

The text at the bottom of the page headed ‘Ex apologeticis Cirilli’ is taken from the Speculum sapientiae alias quadripartitus apologeticus attributed to Cyril but today accepted as by Bonjohannes de Messana, a Dominican of the fourteenth century. The passages quoted are from chapter 3 headed ‘Prudentia vera est quae simplicitatis Innocentia decorator. De corvo, vulpe et simia, etc.’

 

Unde semper oportet addiscere et in extremis horis fundum sapientiae desiderabilius indagare. Finis enim prudentis sapientia est et ob hoc quanto huic fini viciniores sumus, tanto majori impetu ad amplectendum eum avidiores, cum natura curramus. virtutis enim motus quasi (qualis) naturalis fortior est. Sed cum visus senio ingrossatur, aspectus ex parte rationis acuitur. Dignum quippe est, ut quanto plus viget mentis judicium, disciplinae plus operam impendamus.

 

Sapientia quidem est illa mentis veritas , qua summum bonum. quod est Deus, recta fide conspicitur et casta dilectione tenetur. Hac enim qui dotatus est, jam mundi dominus ac possessor est suus. Quibus diligenter notatis in propria gaudens illa reversa est.

 

Prudentia vero est ars praeclarissima recte vivendi cum simplicitate quae est nescia quemquam laedendi.

Providentia quid est? Si verbum dignum habeo est hoc, arte vigilis rationis in hac vita 30 transitoria talia congregare et congregata inviolabiliter conservare, e quibus semper vivas in aeterna et gloriosa quiete.

[Nam] crapula gravat, sobrietas elevat, ebrietas tollit mentem magisque ut [te] arguam obfuscat prudentiam fraus furibunda. For this text see: Die beiden ältesten lateinischen Fabelbücher des Mittelalters,  ed. J.G. Th. Grässe. Stuttgart, 1880 (pp. 6-10).

Provenance: Hanns Theo Schmitz-Otto (1908-92) of Cologne, with his book labels.

ISTC ic00891000. GW 07482. HC 5703. BMC I 242. Goff, C891.

Stock Code: 243652

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