Paris: Gilles Gorbin, 1582.
1st Edition. Soft cover. 8vo - over 7¾ - 9¾" tall. Very Good. Item #003233
Two parts in one volume. 8vo (165 x 100 mm). , , 80 leaves. Signatures: *4 a8 e8 i8 o8 u4 a-k8, u4 blank. Woodcut initials and headpieces, drop title for second part, 12 astrological woodcut diagrams and 19 smaller vignettes of the planets and the Zodiac. Bound in its original limp vellum of the time, yapp edges, spine lettered in manuscript, fore-margin with pained title and decorative ornaments (possibly the coat-of-arms of former owner), boards with traces of missing ties (vellum browned, stained and soiled). Text little browned throughout, insignificant smaller dampstains at outer margins, mainly of first part, a few text markings. Provenance: Don Juan Velasquez (old ownership inscription to title), libraire A. Aubry (old sticker on front pastedown), further ink notes about an old auction sale on front pastedown. A very good and unsophisticated copy. ----
EXCEPTIONALLY RARE FIRST EDITION OF BOTH PARTS OF GIORDANO BRUNO'S FIRST PUBLISHED WORK. Giordano Bruno entered the order of the great Dominican convent in Naples at the age of fifteen. Here he acquired a grounding in Scholastic philosophy and also became proficient in the art of memory, for which the Dominicans were noted. When Bruno left Naples in 1576 to avoid prosecution for heresy, beginning a life of wanderings through France, England and Germany, he was able to use his mnemonic skills to his advantage: "an ex-friar who was willing to impart the artificial memory of the friars would arouse interest, particularly if it was the art in its Renaissance or occult form..." (Yates, p. 200).
From about 1579 to 1581 Bruno was in Toulouse, where he lectured at the university on, among other things, the sphere of Sacrobosco. In the summer of 1581 Bruno went to Paris where his interest in memory techniques attracted attention from intellectuals at the court of Henri III. It is from this first sojourn in Paris that Bruno's earliest surviving works dates. The De umbris, which he dedicated to king Henri III of France, "is an example of his transformation of the art of memory into a deeply magical art, and its title is taken from that of a magical book mentioned in the necromantic commentary on the Sphere of Sacrobosco by Cecco d'Ascoli, an author whom Bruno greatly admired. Bruno thus came before the world in his first Parisian period as a magician teaching some extremely abstruse art of memory that apparently gained the interest and approval of the king of France, who gave him letters of recommendation to the French ambassador in England. This is the first indication of some mysterious political, or politicoreligious, undercurrent in Bruno's activities and movements." (DSB, p.540). In the first part of De umbris Bruno reworks Lullian and other material on the art of memory, on the basis of a platonic link between the physical and ideal world. In the second and third sections dealing with practical applications of the art of memory, he touches particularly on how certain astrological and hermetic elements are embedded in this. In the Cantus circaeus, which is cast in the form of two dialogues between Circe and a disciple Moeris, he presents a concrete application of the art he has already expounded in De umbris. The text also contains allusions to the magic arts of Aesclepius and a list of 150 magic images of the stars. Contemporary readers would have recognized the work "as belonging to certain contemporary trends, here was a book on memory presented as a Hermetic secret and obviously full of magic. Seized with dread or disapproval, some readers would have discarded the book..." (Yates, p. 207).
"The magical animism that permeates Bruno's philosophy of nature, his vision of the living earth moving round the sun, of an infinite universe of innumerable worlds moving like great animals in space, is inseparably connected with his pseudo-Egyptian religion. It is universal animism which makes possible the activities of the magus and justifies the techniques by which he attempts to operate on nature. Bruno aspired to become such a magus, using the techniques described in the De occulta philosophia of Henry Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, a work that was itself the product of the Hermetic core within Renaissance Neoplatonism." (DSB, p.540).
"Even the strangest and most formidably obscure of Bruno's works, those on his magic arts of memory, can be seen to presage, on the Hermetic plane, seventeenth-century strivings after method. Bruno aimed at arranging magically activated images of the stars in memory in such a way as to draw magical powers into the psyche. These systems were of an incredible complexity, involving combinations of memory images with the revolving wheels of Lull to form ways of grasping everything in the universe at once and in all possible combinations. Bruno’s Hermetic computers, if one may be permitted to call them such, were almost certainly known to Leibniz, who was also familiar with the art of memory and with Lullism. When introducing his universal calculus, Leibniz uses language that is remarkably similar to that in which Bruno introduced his art of memory to the doctors of Oxford. The many curious connections between Bruno and Leibniz may, when fully explored, form one of the best means of watching the transitions from Renaissance occultism to seventeenth-century science." (DSB, p.543).
Bruno was denounced to the Inquisition. He was tortured and perished at the stake on February 16, 1600 on the Campo del Fiori, in Rome.
Literature: Adams B-2952; Brunet I:1299; Salvestrini 17; F. A. Yates, The Art of Memory, 1972, pp. 200-249; Giordano Bruno 1548-1600, Mostra storico documentaria, Roma, Biblioteca Casatanense 2000, Florence, Olschki, 2000, no. 124; Haywood 1, 124; R.M. Sturlese, Bibliografia censimento e storia delle antiche stampe di Giordano Bruno, 1987; F. A. Yates, Giordano Bruno, In :DSB II, pp. 539-44.
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