One of the first works on symbolic logic and the combinatorial art
Ars generalis ultima [incipit]. Deus cum summa perfectione. Edited by Joannes Cordubensis.
Venice: Filippo di Pietro, for Johannes Cordubensis, 1480.
1st Edition. Soft cover. 4to - over 9¾ - 12" tall. Very Good. Item #003719
13 Nov. 1480. 4to (203 x 150 mm). 216 (of 224) unnumbered leaves. 35 lines, Gothic letter, 2- to 8-line initial spaces. Bound without first blank leaf a1 and final blank leaf y4 as well as the 6 leaves of final gathering 2a of the Logica brevis nova. Signatures: a-v8 A-E8 F6 x8 y4 (-a1, -y4). Bound in 17th century Italian carta rustica, spine titled in manuscript, authors name added in ink on front cover, original endpapers (spine water-stained and damaged by worming, minor chipping at foot, ties gone, dust-soiling of covers). Several leaves preserved uncut at lower and fore-edge; a few short contemporary annotations in faint ink at beginning, foliation added in manuscript throughout. Internally quite crisp and clean throughout, with very minor browning of text (4 leaves of gathering k more heavy); fol. k7 with clean tear at upper corner (no loss); leaves of gathering p with staining (possibly from pressed plants); fol. v8 soiled on verso; paper flaw in fol. o8 with small hole outside print area, small wormholes in blank margin of first 2 leaves, worming at gutter and fore-margin of final 3 leaves affecting two letters of text, these leaves also reinforced at gutter. A very good, tall copy in untouched Italian binding. ----
EXCEPTIONALLY RARE FIRST EDITION of Llull's most important work dedicated to mnemonics. It contains combinatory tables of the symbolic letters BCDEFGHIKT which are the forerunner of modern computer science. In later editions these letters were represented in simpler fashion by diagrams with volvelles. Lull invented an 'art of finding truth' which inspired Leibniz's dream of a universal algebra four centuries later. "The most distinctive characteristic of [his] Art is clearly its combinatory nature, which led to both the use of complex semi-mechanical techniques that sometimes required figures with separately revolving concentric wheels - 'volvelles', in bibliographical parlance - and to the symbolic notation of its alphabet. These features justify its classification among the forerunners of both modern symbolic logic and computer science, with its systematically exhaustive consideration of all possible combinations of the material under examination, reduced to a symbolic coding. The Art's function as a means of unifying all knowledge into a single system remained viable throughout the Renaissance and well into the seventeenth century" (DSB).
The Ars generalis ultima is the earliest recorded printing of any of Lull's writings apart from the extremely rare first edition of the Ars brevis by Gabriele di Pietro in c. 1475. The work can be regarded as a restatement of the Ars magna praedicationis, Llull's famous system of predictive thinking, first formulated in 1304 and intended to solve all possible questions in theology, metaphysics, morals and even natural science. According to a note at the end of the book, the Ars generalis ultima was begun at Lyons, on the Rhone, in November 1305. It is probable however that Llull, having lost everything in a shipwreck, had to recommence it from memory in the monastery of St. Dominic, near Pisa, some two and a half years later. The original text, now lost, is believed to have been in Catalan. The Ars brevis, a resumé of the work, was completed in January 1308 and enjoyed four centuries of popularity.
In the present copy, as almost always (including the British Library copy), the last gathering of six leaves with the Logica brevis nova (not the Ars brevis as stated by BMC and IGI) is missing. It was published separately by Christophorus Arnoldus in c. 1476 and can be treated as an independent publication. The text of the Ars generalis ultima in our copy is complete and includes the colophon and register. We were unable to trace any copy recorded at auction that included the leaves of the Logica brevis nova.
References: DSB VIII, p. 549; Klebs 628.1; Hain/Copinger 10320; BMC V, 222 (IA. 20185, without the "Logica brevis"); Goff L 388 (Morgan and Indiana Univ.); Palau 143690 (counting 218 leaves); Sarton II, 900 ff.; Peers, Lull p. 334.
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