ALBERT of Saxony. Sophismata [signed and dated 8th of November 1398, written by Johan of Cologne for Nicolay de Sens], manuscript on paper
Lot 112
ALBERT of Saxony. Sophismata [signed and dated 8th of November 1398, written by Johan of Cologne for Nicolay de Sens], manuscript on paper
Sold for £ 17,500 (US$ 23,184) inc. premium

Lot Details
ALBERT of Saxony. Sophismata [signed and dated 8th of November 1398, written by Johan of Cologne for Nicolay de Sens], manuscript on paper ALBERT of Saxony. Sophismata [signed and dated 8th of November 1398, written by Johan of Cologne for Nicolay de Sens], manuscript on paper
ALBERT of Saxony
Sophismata [signed and dated 8th of November 1398, written by Johan of Cologne for Nicolay de Sens], manuscript on paper, 144 leaves, quires of 10, except the last of 4 (modern pencil foliation includes the flyleaves, whereas the older foliation in brown ink from fol. 5 is correct), in Latin, ruled in black ink for two columns of 34-37 lines to the page, justification 153-155 x 95mm., written in light brown ink in a single, very small and regular, experienced hand, a cursive libraria from the German speaking regions, paragraph marks in red and blue, headlines written in a distinctive two-line textualis, each headed by a two-line initial in red or blue, often with penwork decoration (from quire VIII red initials and paragraph marks without penwork, the decoration entirely omitted from fol. 107v), all catchwords preserved, one elaborate four-line initial with faded penwork decoration on fol. 1, a very small dragon-initial in red and blue on fol. 16, margins slightly trimmed but all catchwords preserved and affecting hardly any of the contemporary marginal comments, first leaves thumbed, stained and with a few holes up to fol. 5, the paper thereafter in generally fine condition, with minor waterstaining in lower margins of fols. 7-23, a few wormholes in the last quires of the book (only one through from end to fol. 36), older parchment strips added to a few quires to strengthen folds, twentieth century calf over boards, ruled and titled in blind, rubbed, 204 x 142mm., [Italy, Padua, 1398]


  • A COMPLETE MEDIEVAL ITALIAN PHILOSOPHICAL MANUSCRIPT, commissioned from a named scribe for the Augustinian friar Nicolay de Sens in Padua.

    Albert of Saxony (c.1320 - 8 July 1390), German scholastic philosopher in logic and physics, was also bishop of Halberstadt from 1366. Born near Helmstedt, he was sent to university in Prague and in Paris, where he became master of arts, and subsequently rector. In 1362 he went to the court of Pope Urban V in Avignon as an envoy of Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria, in order to negotiate the founding of the University of Vienna. The negotiations were successful, and he became the first rector of this University in 1365.

    Although Albert was thought to have been a pupil of Jean Buridan, he was equally (if not more so) influenced by some of the ideas and methods imported from England by the likes of Ockham, William Heytesbury and Thomas Bradwardine. He played a significant part in the spread of Parisian natural philosophy throughout Italy and central Europe, and his teachings on logic and metaphysics were particularly influential.

    The Sophismata were composed in about 1359. In the tradition of medieval philosophical literature, they comprise ambiguous or puzzling sentences, 254 in this case, that raise diffciulties of interpretation. As this was not as widely read as some of his other works (the Perutilis Logica, for example), it is safe to assume that not many manuscripts of this text have survived, let alone appeared on the market. The present text, dating from shortly after the author's death, demonstrates how rapidly Albert's philosophy spread within Italy, especially among Augustinian scholars. The manuscript was clearly thought to be worthy of study by scholars at the library in Padua, since shortly after its completion, a meticulous table of contents was added (on fol. 114r), and an astrological figure illustrating the course of the sun (on fol. 113v). The text was first printed in 1495.

    The scribe, Johannes de Colonia, who signed the manuscript in the colophon, has not yet been identified, but he must have been trained in a monastery north of the Alps, probably in Germany, as both the style of his script and his name imply.


    1. According to the colophon on fol. 113v the manuscript was made in 1398 as a commission for Nicolay de Sens, a member of the Augustinian order in Padua, by the scribe Johannes de Colonia, who stayed at the convent in Padua as a student: "Completa sunt Sopta alberti anno domini 1398°, 8° die mensis novembris per me frater Johannes de Colonia studentem pad. ad petitionem generosi et honesta frater Nycolay de Senis ordris fratres sancti augusti student(ibus?) Padue (wt?)". The very faint coat of arms in red ink on fol. 1 could perhaps be identified as Nicolay's.
    2. Two partially erased ownership inscriptions on fol. 114v ("Iste liber est .... studentis padue") suggest that the manuscript must have been part of the Augustinian students' library in Padua in 1422. There is a fifteenth century title on the first page. The Latin comments in the margins of the text seem to date from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, which again implies that the manuscript remained in a student library until then.
    3. Theodore Craig, London, with late nineteenth century bookplate.
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  1. Luke Batterham
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