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Posts Tagged ‘Incunabula’

Early printed works of St Anselm on display at New College Library

Inc 27New on display in the Funk Reading Room is the Works of St Anselm,  Opuscula beati Anselmi archiepiscopi Ca[n]tuarie[n]sis ordinis Sancti Benedicti, printed in 1497.

April 21 is the Feast Day of St Anselm (1033-1109). A Benedictine monk who lived during the reigns of William the Conqueror and William Rufus, he became the abbot of the monastery at Bec in  Normandy, France. Named as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093  by William Rufus, under the rule of Henry I Anselm faced the challenges of preserving the secular and spiritual rights of the Church in the face of the authority of the King. Despite these political difficulties, Anselm held two great ecclesiastical councils at Lambeth and York  where many decrees for church reform were made.

Anselm’s prayers and meditations (accessible online to University of Edinburgh users in the Patrologia Latina)  had a lasting influence through the middle ages, but his writings also made a significant contribution to theological debate into the twentieth century and beyond.

New College Library holds two copies of Anselm’s works in the Incunabula Collection, which was recently catalogued online as part of the Funk Cataloguing Projects.

Sources

D.H. Farmer, ‘Anselm (1033-1109)’, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press, 2011; online edn 2012 [http://www.oxfordreference.com, accessed 17 April 2013]

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The medieval monk who gave his name to Ockham’s Razor

De Sacramento Altaris

Tractatus venerabilis Inceptoris Guilgelmi Ocka[m] de sacramento altaris. William, of Ockham. Paris, [1495].

New College Library holds this copy of William of Ockham’s  De Sacramento Altaris,  a treatise on the Eucharist, in the Incunabula collection.

William of Ockham was born at Ockham, near Guildford in Surrey in 1287 and he died on the night of April 9 1347 in Munich. The future theologian and  philosopher entered the Franciscan order before the age of fourteen. He was educated at the Franciscan convent in London, and developed an academic career as a  lecturer and theological writer in Oxford and London. His unconventional views attracted attention within the Church and in1324 Ockham was apparently summoned to Avignon to have his writings examined for heresy, but in the end no formal condemnation took place. However his life came to a crisis after he challenged the doctrine of  Pope John XXII, saying that Jesus and the apostles owned no property but,  like the Franciscans,  lived by begging and the generosity of others. Along with other Franciscans he fled to Munich where he ended his days.

The methodological principle known as “Ockham’s Razor” states that among competing hypotheses, the one that makes the fewest assumptions should be selected. It is described as a razor because it distinguishes between hypotheses by “shaving away” unnecessary assumptions.

Sources:

(1) Spade, Paul Vincent and Panaccio, Claude, “William of Ockham”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2011/entries/ockham/>.

(2) W. J. Courtenay, ‘Ockham, William (c.1287–1347)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2010 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/20493, accessed 8 April 2013]

Historic Papal politics : Platina’s Lives of the Popes

Platine historici liber de vita Christi ac pontificum omniu : qui hactenus ducenti et vigintiduo fuere. New College Library, Inc. 66

Platine historici liber de vita Christi ac pontificum omniu : qui hactenus ducenti et vigintiduo fuere, 1481. New College Library, Inc. 66

Bartolomeo Platina, (1421-1481) was a writer and member of the College of Abbreviators in Rome, a body of writers in the papal chancery who prepared the Pope’s bulls, briefs and decrees before they were formally written out by scribes. Deprived of his office and imprisoned by Pope Paul II, he left a lasting vengeance for his enemy in his Vitæ Pontificum Platinæ historici liber de vita Christi (1479). As well as being a polemic against his enemy, Platina’s Lives of the Popes was an invaluable early handbook of papal history which had an enduring influence on historical opinions.

New College Library holds this 1481 edition of Platina’s Vitæ Pontificum in the Incunabula Collection, catalogued online as part of the Funk Cataloguing Projects. A manuscript note records the original owner as F. Sargent, the donor of other rare and valuable items to New College Library.