Antiquariat Jürgen Dinter

Giorgio Veneto [Francesco Zorzi] / Le Fèvre de La Boderie / Pico dela Mirandola [sold]

L’Harmonie du monde … — Paris 1579

L’Harmonie du monde, divisée en trois cantiques … depuis traduict & illustré par Guy le Fèvres de la Boderie … Plus L’Heptaple de Iean Picus Comte de la Mirande translaté par Nicolas Le Fèvre de la Boderie. — Paris,  chez Jean Macé, 1579.

Folio (348 x 223 mm). a6 e6 i6 o8 a-z6 A-Z6 Aa-Zz6 AA-KK6 (KK6 blank): (26) leaves, 878 pp., (34) leaves. Little wormhole in Yii-Yv. Contemporary limp vellum, upper edge of its upper cover worn.

Provenance: Lebègue, his name and date of purchase (1598 20 novemb.) on title, on lower fly-leaf Lebegue 1598 Lutetiae 20 novemb. // Nota volunt sed fata negant, and on rear paste-down Lebegue // non est mortale quod opto [I seek nothing that is mortal. See Ovidius, Metamorphoses, book II: sors tua mortalis, non est mortale, quod optas]. Ex-libris of Le de Biencourt and Max Cointreau on fly-leaf. – ustc 7630.

It is somewhat surprising to see four editions of this voluminous folio published between 1578 and 1589. Whether this is due to the success of the book or whether the book was a flop and the publisher just changed the year on the title page, I do not know.

There is no difference in setting to the 1578 edition, and since the sequence of quires is the same in these four „editions“, one may also speak of three „issues“ after the 1578 edition. Since I could not consult any digital copies of the 1588 and 1589 issues, I leave this question to the experts.

The volume starts with two extensive introductions to Giorgio’s book, one by Guy Le Fèvre de La Boderie, A Monsieur Des Prez … Epistre en forme de Preface sur la version de l’Harmonie du Monde, one by his brother Nicolas, Les Coeurs לכ Leb, ou les 32. sentiers de sappience. Discours fort utile pour entendre et exposer les sainctes Escriptures. 

A Greek poem by the French humanist Nicolas Goulu (1530-1601), poems by Guy himself, by Claudio Ermodore Gozzi, and by Nicolas Filleul de la Chesnay follow the introductions. The prelims end with a  Hymne de Mercure Trismegiste prins de Pimandre, and Autre pseaume de David traduict de l’Hebreu.

On Le Fèvre de La Boderie: 

„Le Fèvre received his education in Caen, then in Paris, where he learned Hebrew, Arabic and Syriac. He became a disciple of Guillaume Postel … was invited by Arius Montanus to assist in the production of the Antwerp Polyglott … In 1572 he published L’Encyclie des secrets del’Eternité: a long poem or Roman Catholic apologetics, with references to Neoplatonism and Christian kabbalah. in 1572 he returned to France where he was appointed as secretary of the Duke of Alençon … Between 1578 and 1582 new translations followed: of three treatises by Ficino, of two by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, of one by Cicero and of one by Francesco Giorgi da Veneto. This latter translation was instrumental in spreading Giorgi’s book, one of the most important ones in Renaissancee esotericism … Le Fèvre compared himself to David and Orpheus, and considered himself a poet as well as a priest. His political, apologetical ant theological concepts are based upon a poetic theology with mystical ambitions.“ Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism, 686f.

„Throughout his work La Boderie appears as a representative, albeit a higly singular one, of a Platonic-Hermetic orientation of thought common to many Renaissance writers. Drawing on the supposed ancient wisdom of the prisca theologia for Catholic apologetic purposes of unification, he found also in the Neo-Platonic and Kabbalist traditions a store of imagery to which he attributed a symbolic value. By means of these symbols he interpreted the ‚veiled truth‘ of a divinely ordaines universal harmony. Like the Florentine Neo-Platonists, La Boderie revered the legendary Orpheus as a divinely inspired poet-priest-prophet whose musical ‚effetcs‘ were ethically influential. He attributed to himself, as a learned and virtuous poet, the role of the ’new Orpheus‘. Through his own work as well as through his exhortations to contemporary poets to adopt a new Cgristian lyricism, La Boderieendeavoured to being  moral and spiritual renewal to his compatriots. Thus La Boderie stands out among the writers in the Platonic-Hermetic traditiion both for his constant use of its themes and imagery and also for his conception of a new Christian poetic which he attempted to illustrate by reference to that tradition.

… His unique presentation of multiple facets of esoteric traditions distinguishes him as an individual writer …

The most important of Boderie’s translations is undoubtedly that of the De harmonia mundi (1525) by Francisco Giorgio (1460-1540). Its pubication in 1578 together with Nicolas Le Fèvre de La Boderie’s translation of Pico’s Heptaplus is said to mark ‚the high-watershed of the intense intellectual activity associated with the French Academies … L’Harmonie du monde is in fact a compendium of themes from the prisca theologia, chiefly from the Kabbalah, adapted to Christian apologetics. This accumulation of diverse themes, the reconciliation of not the coherence of which was suggested in the context of musical harmony, demonstrated a purpose allied to La Boderie’s. He saw in it the primac of Mosaic ’secret revelation‘ and his own preoccupation with unity in diversity … La Boderie takes occasion, in his summary to L’Harmonie du monde, to adduce references to the Zohar and to the prisci theologi in confirmation of themes he developed in his own works.“ M. A. Cromie, A Study of the Work of Guy Le Fevre de La Boderie (1541-1598), 1971, pp. iiff., 169ff.

On Francesco Giorgio:

“c. 1460/6; d. 1540. Italian philosopher. Joined Franciscans before 1482. Perhaps studied at Padua in early years. Critical of Aristotelian-Averroistic doctrines. His De harmonia mundi combines Hermetic, Platonic and cabalistic ideas on astrology, musical theory, psychology and cosmology; depicts universe as a musical harmony governed by numerical laws. Familiar with the works of Ficino and Pico, although carefully avoided Ficino’s magical interests …” (p. 821). Cambridge Hist. of Renaissance Philos.

“… Therefore it’s not surprising that the main theme of the De Harmonia … is the generative process that from the unchanging ‘lone’ Monad leads to the multiplicity of things, and the reverse process which takes these things back to their unique eternal ‘root‘… F. Giorgio exalts divine creation that has moulded the world according to the ‘Vitruvian’ norms of the most perfect architecture and the sublimest music but he cannot and doesn’t want to ignore the fact that evil has always crept into the world … the worst of all evils, the greatest suffering that can afflict man is ‘impiety’ – i. e. an irremediable break in the divine bond between the soul and the Word, renouncing the celestial destiny which is the gift for those who free themselves from the perifidious toils of matter … These are the premises on which Zorzi begins to develop his own ‘wisdom’ theology, which does not hesitate to tackle the most crucial religious controversies of his time … Zorzi’s theological development is quite independent and is even, at times, at odds with the Scholastic teaching tradition and its leadings auctoritates. The themes are worked out with ‘spiritualist’ inspiration in ways and forms that were considered completely unacceptable by the censors, well aware of the risks for Counterreformation orthodoxy from such an esoteric interpretation of the fundamental themes of the scientia de divinis. 

Both Zorzi’s great works were placed on the Index. This condemnation signalled that the Roman auctoritas would no longer tolerate this vein of Hermetic, Neoplatonic, kabbalistic religiousness, which in fact had become rather widespread beyond confessional demarcations …” (C. Vasoli, Hermetism in Venice. From Francesco Giorgio Veneto to Agostino Steuco, in: Gilly/Heertum, Magic, alchemy and science 15th – 18th centuries. The influence of Hermes Trismegistus. Venice 2002, p. 50-67).

“… eine besonders emphatisch-pythagoreische Darstellung der Weltharmonie. In diesem Buch ist die Dynamik der Weltentstehung und der Drang des Lebens zum Werden das Entscheidende. De Harmonia Mundi ist ein Buch über die Schönheit der Welt in einer Ordnung, die als Diversifikation einer Einheit aufgefaßt ist, aus der Analogie der Zahlen und der himmlischen Hierarchie, die in der göttlichen Einheit ihren Grund haben. Sichtbar wird die Ordnung in der Schönheit der Sterne und ihren Qualitäten, in Metallen und Steinen. Der Kosmos ist ganz als spiritualisierter Raum gesehen, völlig durchgeistigt und durchwebt von Ordnungen, die in der Sichtbarkeit nur ihren blassen Abglanz haben. Die Ordnungen sind im Schöpfungsprozeß grundgelegt und haben ihr Ziel in der ewigen Seligkeit des Menschen …” (Schmidt-Biggemmann, Philosophia perennis, Ffm. 1998, 485f.)

“Giorgi’s De harmonia mundi was not the work of a fantastic eccentric. It belonged to the centre of Renaissance thought at its most productive … De harmonia was a dominant philosophy in the Elizabethan age, and so likely to have been passed on, perhaps by subterranean routes, to Robert Fludd and the Jacobean age.” (F. A. Yates, The occult philosophy in the Elizabethan age, London 1979, 29ff.)

On Giorgio and the history of architecture see: 

Foscari/Tafuri, L’armonia e i conflitti: la chiesa di San Francesco della Vigna nella Venezia, Turin 1983

M. T. Franco, San Francesco della Vigna e Francesco Giorgi, in: L. Puppi (ed.), Architettura e utopia nella Venezia del Cinquecento, Milan 1980, pp. 410f.

On his concept of music:

J. F. Maillard, L’harmonie universelle, de Georges de Venis à Marin Mersenne, in: Musique et philosophie, Dijon 1985, pp. 27-43.