De morte Christi & propria cogitanda libri tres. Eiusdem de studio divinae et humanae philosophiae libri duo.

Bologna: Benedictus Hectoris, 1497.

4to. Early limp vellum (around 1600-1650) with handwritten title to spine. A very fine and clean copy, internally as well as externally. Nice crisp, clean, and fresh pages, with only very light occasional minor brownspotting. A small tear to the last page, not repaired, and no loss. The colouring of the initials has gone through on some versos, but there is no obscuring of text. Handwritten ex libris to the first page (Collegii Parisiensis Societatis, 1688), an early handwritten note to pasted-down front end-paper, as well as a shelf mark, a printed late nineteenth-century Italian bookseller's description and the small book-label of William Le Queux. Handcoloured blue and red initials, and other capitals touched in yellow. 72 leaves. A lovely copy of a beautiful and charming book.

FROM THE LIBRARY OF WILLIAM LE QUEUX. "William Le Queux was a famous journalist, writer and celebrated novelist, a master of the spy genre, and a vociferous critic of Britain's weak military defences before the First World War, known at the time and for the next twenty years as "The Great War".
He is acknowledged as the principal precursor of that famous spy story author of the second half of the twentieth century, namely Ian Fleming."

Schill, "Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola und die Entdeckung Amerikas", 1929; Popkin: "The History of Scepticism. From Savonarola to Bayle", 2003; Schmitt: "Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola (1469-1533) and his critique of Aristotle", 1967; Copenhaver & Schmitt: "Renaissance Philosophy", 1992; Garin: Italian Humanism", 1965.

Exceedingly scarce first edition of the two highly important works "On Remembering the Death of Christ and Oneself", which is dedicated to Savonarola in the year before he was condemned and hanged, and "On the Study Divine and Human Philosophy", being Gianfranceso Pico's seminal first philosophical work, in which the foundation for his philosophical theories are laid and which foreshadows the scepticism of his "Examen", for which he became famous as the first modern Sceptic. The present publication is furthermore the first in which Gianfr. Pico refers to the discovery of America; the work was written merely a couple of years after Columbus' discovery became known - printed a mere three years after the Columbus Letter - and Pico's references in the present work constitute one of the first testimonies to the awareness of the meaning and importance of the discovery of the New World and is considered a highly important piece of 15th century Americana.

The present publication is of the utmost importance to Renaissance thought and the development of the modern world. It constitutes one of the earliest testimonies to the general influence of the discovery of America upon contemporary Europe as well as being the first serious attempt we have of reviving the Scepticism of Sextus Empiricus and utilizing it in modern thought, providing a seminal premonition of the exact way that scepticism was to be used ab. 70 years later. Pico also directly influenced the translators of the first printed edition of any of Sextus' writings (1560's).

Giovanni Francesco [Gianfranceso] Pico della Mirandola (1470-1533), not to be confused with his uncle Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) was a highly important Renaissance thinker and philosopher, who was strongly influenced by the Neoplatonic tradition, but even more so by the preaching of Girolamo Savonarola, whose thought he defended throughout his life.

The first of the two treatises printed here "De morte Christi & propria cogitanda" is the first work that Pico dedicates to Savonarola, the year before his condemnation, and it marks his lifelong devotion to the prophetic Renaissance preacher. As Schill points out, this important treatise was finished at the most three years after Columbus' discovery of America became known. It is the first treatise in which Pico mentions and treats the seminal discovery, an interest that he was to maintain throughout all of his later writings. Gianfr. Pico was very well connected, not least through the merits of his uncle, and he keeps appearing in close connection with the most important and famous early scholars, historians, publicizers and popularizers of the discovery of America. For instance, he was a close friend and correspondent of Matthaeus Ringmann, the man who gave to America its name. As such, Pico played an important role in the earliest history of the discovery of America, both due to his influential connections and due to his insightful reflections upon this discovery and the meaning it would have and had on man, his relationship to Christ, God, and the Universe.

The work deals with the discovery in the most interesting way, enrolling it in man's relation to the universe and to God. It is a religious-moral treatise on the duty of man to remember Christ's death and his own. Gianfr. Pico establishes an inner connection in man with the human nature of Christ and uses the discovery of this new part of the world to express the limitless inner connection of man with Christ.

The effect that the Columbus Letter (1493) had upon the people of the Renaissance - the wondrous astonishment that this discovery affected, although at the time it was merely thought to be a discovery of a continent that had been known since Antiquity, namely Asia - can only properly be understood when reading the earliest sources of this discovery. Pico was among the very first to describe what this discovery meant to man, and his work is an invaluable source to the early history of the discovery of America. He inscribed Columbus' discovery in Christianity and in man's inner relation to Christ. He explains how, through unceasing pious contemplation and a true, inner, heartfelt urge, it will be possible for man to obtain an inner connection with Christ. "And it does not even require great effort. It is not about reaching India; not to explore the erithrean shores […] On the contrary, we are drawn to him by a natural force." (De morte Christi). "And thus, the younger Pico here appears from the very beginning as a diverse and stimulating character, who does not refrain from weaving in to his pious or learned discussions experiences of daily life and contemporary history as examples and comparisons, and which due to this very fact also becomes an unerring mirror for the true, inner participation of the intellectual upper class of Europe in such events that concern us here." (Own translation from the German of Schill, p. 20).

Shill provides many further examples of Pico mentioning and using Columbus' discovery in this his first work and the importance the work thus comes to have on our knowledge of the earliest understanding of the consequences of the discovery. "Even where he doesn't directly mention the discoveries, suddenly allusions to them appear woven into a biblical or otherwise spiritual quotation, be it involuntary, or be it intentionally, providing a special emotional momentum." (Own translation from the German of Schill, p. 22).

Just like his uncle, Gianfr. Pico devoted his life to philosophy, but being a follower of Savonarola and having a Christian mission, he made it subject to the Bible. He even depreciated the authority of the philosophers, above all of Aristotle.

"His [i.e. Gianfrancesco Pico] uncle and his uncle's circle of Florentine friends were important influences on the younger Pico, who also continued the older philosopher's devotion to Savonarola, even after Florence tired of him in 1498. Gianfrancesco lived longer than his uncle, from 1469 to 1533, but he spent much of his time fighting his relatives to keep the little princedom that he bought from Giovanni in 1491, so his published output of more than thirty works, about a third of them philosophical, is remarkable. Savonarola taught him to exclude reason from religion and to distrust philosophers as infidels, and Gianfrancesco modified the friar's views mainly by reinforcing them with his greater learning. As early as 1496 [written in 1496, printed in 1497], in one of his first works, "On the Study of Divine and Human Philosophy", he distinguished divine philosophy, rooted in scripture, from human philosophy based on reason; he denied that Christians need human wisdom, which is as likely to hinder as to help the quest for salvation." (Copenhaver & Schmitt, p. 245).

This seminal treatise, one of his very first productions, and the earliest philosophical one that he wrote, sharply differentiated human philosophy, based on reason, from divine philosophy, based on scripture, and dismissed human and rational philosophy as useless, and perhaps even harmful. It is to those means that Gianfr. Pico, as the first thinker since Antiquity, uses the teachings of Sextus Empiricus. Even the violent condemnation, hanging, and burning of Savonarola in the main square of Florence in 1498 did not prevent Pico from spreading his radical views.

"At the very beginning of the 16th century [recte end of the 15th], Gian Francesco Pico, the nephew of Pico della Mirandola, had predicted the final failure of all attempts at reconciliation of the different philosophical movements. Gian Francesco Pico was a thinker of very considerable stature and a follower of Savonarola. There was a touch of tragedy about his personality. For his life was suspended, as it were, between the scaffold of Savonarola and incessant family feuds - in the course of one of which he was finally killed. No wonder that he borrowed from the scepticism of Sextus Empiricus in order to destroy philosophy to make more room for religion." (Garin, p. 133).

Gianfr. Pico, a learned scholar and apt reader of classical texts, was the first Renaissance thinker that we know to have seriously studied and used the works of Sextus Empiricus, which were not printed until the 1560'ies, causing a revolution in Renaissance thinking. "The printing of Sextus in the 1560s opened a new era in the history of scepticism, which had begun in the late fourth century BCE with the teachings of Pyrrho of Elis. [...] Before the Estienne and Hervet editions, Sextus seems to have had only two serious students, Gianfrancesco Pico at the turn of the century and Francesco Robortello about fifty years later." (Copenhaver & Schmitt, pp. 240-41).

"No significant use of Pyrrhonian ideas prior to the printing of Sextus' "Hypotyposes" has turned up, except for that of Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola [...] His writings may seem isolated from the main development of modern skepticism that began with the publication of the Latin translations and modernized formulation of ancient scepticism offered by Michel de Montaigne. However, they represent a most curious use of skepticism that reappears in the early seventeenth century with Joseph Mede and John Dury and the followers of Jacob Boehme and in the early eighteenth century in the writings of the Chevalier Ramsay, the first patron of David Hume, to fortify or justify prophetic knowledge." (Popkin, p. 20).

Gianfr. Pico develops his sceptical arguments to their fullest extent in his "Examen" (1520), which is considered his main work. However, the foundation of all these ideas are laid in the present work, which must be considered, not only his first philosophical treatise and the beginning of all of his philosophy, but also one of, if not the, earliest printed testimonies to the use of scepticism and a premonition of the role that skepticism came to play in Renaissance thought, primarily after the first printings of Sextus in the 1560'ies.

"No discovery of the Renaissance remains livelier in modern philosophy than scepticism". (Copenhaver & Schmitt, p. 338). "The revived skepticism of Sextus Empiricus was the strongest single agent of disbelief". (ibid., p. 346).

In the writings of his last years (1492-94) Giovanni Pico, Gianfr. Pico's famous uncle, known as the "Phoenix of his age", had moved closer to the views of Savonarola and became a follower of Savonarola's religious reform movement just before his death. Gianfr. Pico was heavily influenced both by his uncle and by Savonarola, with whom he became involved in 1492, being attracted to his ideas and probably also by the anti-intellectual tendencies of the movement. Thus, in the middle of the 1490'ies, at the very beginning of his career, Gianfr. was clearly resolved to discredit all of the philosophical tradition of pagan antiquity. "Gianfrancesco Pico's first writing on philosophy [i.e. De Studio Divinae & Humanae], completed during Savonarola's period as spiritual leader of Florentine democracy, sought to delineate the difference between (true) Christian knowledge and pagan and non-Christian opinions.[...] Pico's later attitudes apparently held the seeds of the antiphilosophy developed by his nephew." (Popkin, pp. 20-21). "Pico was visited by Johannes Reuchlin in 1490 and showed him his kabbalistic materials. His nephew, Gianfrancesco Pico, already a disciple of Savonarola, was making the views of Sextus Empiricus available in Latin and also became involved with Reuchlin." (Popkin, 25).

"As the only Greek Pyrrhonian sceptic whose works survived, he [Sextus Empiricus] came to have a dramatic role in the formation of modern thought. The historical accident of the rediscovery of his works at precisely the moment when the sceptical problem of the criterion had been raised gave the ideas of Sextus a sudden and greater prominence than they had ever before or were ever to have again. Thus, Sextus, a recently discovered oddity, metamorphosed into "le divin Sexte", who, by the end of the seventeenth century, was regarded as the father of modern philosophy. Moreover, in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the effect of his thoughts upon the problem of the criterion stimulated a quest for certainty that gave rise to the new rationalism of René Descartes and the "constructive skepticism" of Pierre Gassendi and Martin Mersenne." (Popkin, p. 18).

"The revival of ancient philosophy was particularly dramatic in the case of scepticism. This critical and anti-dogmatic way of thinking was quite important in Antiquity, but in the Middle Ages its influence faded [...] when the works of Sextus and Diogenes were recovered and read alongside texts as familiar as Cicero's "Academia", a new energy stirred in philosophy; by Montaigne's time, scepticism was powerful enough to become a major force in the Renaissance heritage prepared for Descartes and his successors." (Copenhaver & Schmitt, pp. 17-18).

But not only in being the first serious attempt that we have of reviving the Scepticism of Sextus Empiricus, was Gianfr. Pico's work on divine and human philosophy of great importance to the development of Renaissance thought. The entire foundation upon which the work is based - a sharp differentiation between human philosophy (reason) and divine philosophy (scripture) - comes to play a dominant role in the development of 16th century Renaissance thought.

The work, "dedicated to Alberto Pio of Carpi, shows certain indications of Savonarola's influence and gives us the first glimpse of Pico's unfavourable attitude toward secular philosophy, a viewpoint which will be developed in greater detail in his "Examen Vanitatis", published in 1520. (Schmitt, p. 50).

"Throughout the early modern period, from Ficino and Pico to Newton and Leibniz, such convictions [of the unity of truth) supported a pattern of historiography that could never have emerged without the humanists, even though it did not preserve their fame for modern times. Other myths of classicism and Christianity outlived the fable of ancient theology because they conflicted less flagrantly with the findings of history
The purpose of the ancient theology was to sanctify learning by connecting it with a still more ancient source of gentile wisdom that reinforces sacred revelation. Rather than baptize the heathens as Ficono or the older Pico wished, some early modern critics damned them, and one of the most aggressive thinkers of this school was the younger Pico. He saw an impassable gulf between Christian and pagan belief where his uncle had tried to build bridges." (Copenhaver & Schmitt, p. 337).

BMC VI:843; Goff: P644;

Order-nr.: 47163

DKK 175.000,00