Dr. Richard Mead’s Copy of Arguments Against Eternity

Philoponus, John. Ioannes Grammaticus Philoponus Alexandrinus In procli diadochi duodeviginti argumenta De mundi aeternitate Opus varia multiplicíque Philosophiæ cognitione refertum. Ioanne Mahotio argentenaeo interprete.

Lugduni [Lyon]: excudebat Nicolaus Edoardus, campanus, quinto idus Ianuarias, 1557. 338 x 229 cm (13 x 8 ¾ in). Folio. [16], 295, [1] pp. In Latin.

Bound in full polished calf, gilt ruling; gilt tooled spine and spine title label. Gilt tooled turn-ins and marbled endpapers. Old shelf marks on front endpapers. Ink inscription in the same hand: Olim Richardi Mead M.D. nunc Jacobi Harnisii Sarisberiensis 1754.” Green silk ribbon bookmark. Housed in a cloth covered slipcase.

Spine extremities and outer corners rubbed, but overall very good. Bottom two inches of cover starting to separate from spine. 

A bridge between ancient and medieval philosophy. First edition of Johannes Mahotius’s translation of John Philoponus’s rebuttal of Proclus’s arguments for the eternity of the world. Against Proclus represents a bridge between ancient philosophical traditions, represented by Proclus (412–485), a Neoplatonist, and an emerging school of Christian philosophers, Philoponus (490–570) among them, engaged with pagan” antecedents. In his opening dedicatory letter, Mahotius refers to Proclus as an adversary” of Christians while admiring Philoponus’s erudition.

An important source for proclus. Philoponus’s critique opens by stating verbatim Proclus’s arguments in favor of the eternity of the universe, of which there are eighteen. Each argument then receives a series of detailed rebuttals. No Proclus manuscript presents all arguments in a single place, making Philoponus an important source for Proclus. Against Proclus survived as a Greek manuscript but the first argument is incomplete. This is represented in the current edition by hiatuses where text is missing. The first argument only survived through the modern day through Arabic translations.

Together with Against Aristotle, Philoponus’s Against Proclus attacked the idea that the universe is eternal. In doing so, Philoponus was also attacking what was then one of the main arguments brought against Christianity and its conception of creationism. Philoponus developed a theory of impetus, in which objects move with the limited force imparted on them by the mover, consonant with his disbelief of Aristotle’s claim that the universe is eternal and moves with uninterrupted motion. This anticipated later concepts in classical mechanics, like inertia, and Galileo’s own theory of impetus.

A significantly improved book design compared to earlier translations. Mohatius is the second translator of Philoponus from Greek to Latin, the first being Gaspare Marcello’s translation from 1551. Mohatius’s edition differs in language slightly but is superior in its design. Each of Proclus’s arguments are clearly presented and followed by a numbered list of Philoponus’s points. These numbers are then referenced in the main body of the rebuttal making the text more readable compared to the Gaspare translation.

Extensive preliminaries include a hendecasyllabic poem from Nicholas Eduoard, the printer, praising Henri de Gabiano, a member of a family of printers who held the privilege to produce this text and were associated with Compagnie des Libraires of Lyon. This privilege is excerpted after the colophon. Philibert Bugnyon, a French lawyer and poet, also writes a poem for Ianum Angelum Papium.

Famous dr. richard mead’s copy. This volume is from the library of Richard Mead (1673–1754) famous for his many works on poisons and transmissible diseases. He was physician to Queen Anne, George II, and Isaac Newton; a Fellow of the Royal Society and Royal College of Physicians; a benefactor of the Foundling Hospital; and a collector of art, medals, and books. At the time of his death, his library numbered around 10,000 volumes which were auctioned by Samuel Baker over the course of 56 days (this being lot 154, sold for 15 shillings on the fifth day of the sale). It was possibly purchased by James Harris of Salisbury (1709–1780) whose inscription notes this provenance. Books from Richard Mead’s personal library are very difficult to acquire either in the trade or at auction. 

A thoughtfully designed translation that expanded 16th century Europeans’ access to a crucial moment in intellectual history and whose reception stimulated advances in physics.

Six copies reported in u.s. libraries per oclc WorldCat. No copies in the trade at the time of cataloguing. 

USTC 152287


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Stock Code: 1143B16 Collections: , Catalogue:


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