Antiquariat Jürgen Dinter

Presocratic philosophy - Stephanus, Henricus (Ed.)

ΠΟΙΗΣΙΣ ΦΙΛΟΣΟΦΟΣ. Poesis philosophica … Geneva 1573


ΠΟΙΗΣΙΣ ΦΙΛΟΣΟΦΟΣ. Poesis philosophica, vel saltem, reliquiae poesis philosophicae, Empedoclis, Parmenidis, Xenophanis, Cleanthis, Timonis, Epicharmi. Adiecta sunt Orphei illius carmina qui a suis appellatus fuit ὁ θεολόγος. Item, Heracliti et Democriti loci quidam, & eorum epistolae.. — Geneva, Henricus Stephanus, 1573.

Editio princeps of the fragments of the Pre-Socratic philosophers

8vo (169 x 112 mm). *8 a-n8 (with blank leaves *8, b1 [blank except signature], b8, f4, n8, included in the pagination except n8): 222 pp, (1) leaf.

Dutch overlapping vellum around 1600, edges sprinkled red. Paste-downs not pasted down. Light waterstaining to upper margin and lower outer corner of a couple of leaves. Old stamp, crossed out name, and Sum Joannis Forestij (see below) on title. Medieval vellum sewing strips. – Renouard p. 140, no. 8; Adams P-1682.

Provenance: old circular stamp Sociedad Anónima – Razon y Fé on title-page. This seems to be (or was) a Spanish publishing company. Small ticket with ciphers of a shelf-mark at the foot of spine and inside the upper cover. 

More important than this is the manuscript owner-ship entry on the title-page: Sum Joannis Forestij. This is the signature of Jan van Foreest (1586-1651), Dutch politician, humanist, poet and historian. Correspondent of Descartes, Huygens, Vossius, Daniel and Nicolaus Heinsius and many more. Studied classics in Leiden; teachers were Scaliger, Vulcanius and Daniel  Heinsius, wrote poems in Greek and Latin, published as Idyllia in 1605, historical works and political poetry against the Kingdom of Spain, which began war against the Nether-lands in 1621 – Merita principis Aurai-cae in Belgas sive crudelitas Hispana, quam Princeps ille a Foederatis Belgis avertit (1620) and Hispanus redux sive Exitus induciarum Belgicarum ad Foede-ratos Belgas (1622).

Amongst his unpublished manuscripts are commentaries to the Institutions of Justinianus, translations of Nonnus’ Dionysiaca into Latin, and of Musaios’ Hera and Leander into Dutch, and a supplement to the Aeneid of Virgil: Exequiae Turni sive liber XIII-XIV Aeneidos, the latter is the subject of a study by H.-L. Oertel: Die Aneissupplemente des Jan van Foreest … Hildesheim 2001. 

¶ The Foreest provenance matches very well to the volume, since Joseph Justus Scaliger – one of the teachers of Foreest – is involved in it with an appendix of four pages of his textual notes on Empedocles. Scaliger fled from St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre to Geneva, where he lived and lectured on Aristotle and Cicero in 1573/74; in 1593 he set out for Leiden, where he passed the remaining sixteen years of his life, and where both Scaliger and the young van Foreest may have met. 

„The first collection of quotations from Presocratic philosophers in the original Greek was published in 1573 in Geneva by the famous scholar-printer Henri II Estienne. However, the focus of the collection as introduced by its title and its dedicatory letter is not a certain period in the history of philosophy, but a literary genre, i. e. philosophical poetry. The legitimacy of this genre … was being attacked by adherents of Aristotle’ Poetics which had been printed at the beginning of the 16th century. The first part of Estienne’s collection makes accessible the first hand evidence for the poems which Aristotle’s verdict had been directed against, above all Empedocles’ On Nature. On the other hand, Estienne’s collection goes beyond philosophical poetry: The second part contains fragments of theological poems ascribed to Orpheus, Pythagoras, and others, the third part offers a substantial amount of prose quotations from Heraclitus and from the ethical writings of Democritus … Estienne’s Poiesis philosophos remained unchallenged for 230 years.“ (O. Primavesi (Ed.), The Presocratics from the Latin Middle-Ages to Hermann Diels. Stuttgart 2011, p. 156)

Scholars have qualified the edition as epoch-making in the history of Western thought – Hegel still quotes from it in his lectures on Heraclit and it is assumed, that this edition is one of the sources of Friedrich Hölderlin’s The Death of Empedocles. Fred Schreiber in his Estienne-catalogue writes: „it rightly belongs on the same shelf with the first editions of Plato and Aristotle“. 

Recently the edition has been the subject of studies by Patrizia Marzillo – the first on Heraclit, the second on Scaliger and the Poesis philosophica (published online in Pluralisierung und Autorität in der frühen Neuzeit. 17.-19. Jahrhundert. Mitteilungen 1/2009 u. 2/2010), and by Oliver Primavesi, see above.