PLATO. 427?-347 B.C. Timaeus [AND] Critias [from Ficini's 1484 Opera]. Marsilius Ficinus, translator and commentary. [Florence: Laurentius (Francisci) de Alopa, Venetus, for Francesco Berlinghieri and Philippus Valor, 1484].

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 1
PLATO. 427?-347 B.C.
Timaeus [AND] Critias [from Ficini's 1484 Opera]. Translated into Latin by Marsilius Ficinus, together with commentary. [Florence: Laurentius (Francisci) de Alopa, Venetus, for Francesco Berlinghieri and Philippus Valor, 1484].

US$ 80,000 - 120,000
£ 61,000 - 91,000
PLATO. 427?-347 B.C.
Timaeus [AND] Critias [from Ficini's 1484 Opera]. Translated into Latin by Marsilius Ficinus, together with commentary. [Florence: Laurentius (Francisci) de Alopa, Venetus, for Francesco Berlinghieri and Philippus Valor, 1484]. FIRST EDITION OF PLATO'S TIMAEUS.

Folio (185 x 212 mm). 42 CONSECUTIVE LEAVES, comprising the complete parts III & IV from the First Printing of Plato's Opera, as printed in discrete parts at San Jacopo de Ripoli (see Kristeller), Collation: et846 [et]10 [con]8 [rum]6. 46 lines and headlines, two printed and two manuscript diagrams, double column, initial spaces, neatly bound in stiff modern wrappers.

SAVING THE PHENOMENA, THE FIRST SCIENTIFIC COSMOLOGY, containing the first recorded scientific application of mathematics to the explanation of nature. Conceiving the cosmos to be a beautifully ordered mechanism operating according to natural law, the Timaeus is the first great statement of science. In positing geometry to be the ultimate explanatory instrument of natural order, Plato here effectively invents mathematical physics, and originates the challenge to early scientists to "save the phenomena."
Written almost 2500 years ago, the Timaeus provides the first explicit statement of the principle of physical causality: "all that becomes must needs become by the agency of some cause; for without a cause nothing can come to be" (Timaeus, 28a, 28c). Drawing on the mathematical perspective of the Pythagoreans for the purpose of theoretically explaining the empirical world, Plato here brilliantly "saves the phenomena" of the seemingly irregular motions of the heavens and the apparently erratic flux of the elements. In addition to these two grand themes, the Timaeus also pursues specific scientific inquiries ranging from geophysics, metallurgy, and hydraulics to botany, physiology, and pathology. More than in any other dialogue, the Timaeus evidences Plato the scientist and mathematician vigorously at work -- positing that counter-revolving circles drive the motions of the heavens; that elemental transmutation is the work of a geometric atomism (involving the decomposition and recomposition of the surfaces of the five Platonic solids); and that the soul of the universe is to be considered a harmonic composition of natural process. The Timaeus integrally links mechanics and technicality with the thinking of science, and with the Timaeus one begins to perceive nature assuming the algorithmic regularity of a clockwork universe.
In the Critias, the companion dialogue, Critias relates the story of Atlantis first synoptically transmitted in the Timaeus, now elaborated in its entirety for the first time. Atlantis, a fabulously rich culture, technologically advanced and populous, loses connection with virtue and divinity, filled with a lust for possessions and power. Seeking to enslave all of the Mediterranean as far as Egypt, they are stopped by the virtuous Athenians. A cautionary myth, Critias is also an allegorical rendering of the physical principles articulated in the Timaeus.

According to Paul Oskar Kristeller, Ficini's Opera of Plato was printed in parts beginning in February 1484 and finishing before September 1484 at the press of San Jacopo de Ripoli, significantly the first press known to employ women. The Timaeus and Critias were printed together as Part IV of Plato's Opera; and Ficino's own original statement on the Timaeus, Compendium in Timaeum as Part III. One can speculate that the discretely printed parts of the 1484 Opera may have been sold individually or collectively, as with Aldus's Aristotle of 1495-8, which might explain the high percentage of surviving copies which are defective.

The Timaeus is central to Plato's work and brings his philosophy into concrete focus: "the one place in Plato's work where all of the 'furniture' of Platonism – gods, souls, Ideas, space, properties, natural and artificial kinds – are seen related each to all within a single frame." (Mohr, pp xix-xx). The relationship of Plato's metaphysics to the changing sensible world is explicitly articulated to meaningful scientific purpose and effect, but it's ultimate concern is the human being and the relationship to the natural order -- a focus enabling us to think about human society and even the Republic in the most concrete and physical of ways. Although typically portrayed as a philosopher, Plato was in fact one of ancient Greece's most important patrons of mathematics: "Let no-one ignorant of geometry enter here" was the motto posted at the entrance to his Academy, and Euclid himself was said to have been his student.

A FOUNDATIONAL WORK IN THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE AND IDEAS, the Timaeus has had a profound influence on scientists from Aristotle to Kepler to Heisenberg, across thousands of years. In fact, Heisenberg's autobiography begins with him reading the Timaeus hiking in the alps, and the resulting intellectual awakening. "Our elementary particles can be compared with the regular solids of Plato's Timaeus. They are Archetypes of the Ideas of matter." The full complexity and power of the Timaeus, and its import in the history of science has yet to be fully or sufficiently understood. The 1484 Plato, in any form, is of the greatest rarity both at auction and in private hands.

References: BMC VI, 666; BSB-Ink. P-568; Goff P-771; GW M33912; HC 13062; PMM 27; See Bradie and Duncan, "Plato's Universe," Evolution of the Concepts of Space and Time, 1997; Cornford, Plato's Cosmology: The Timaeus of Plato, 1935; Hetherington, "Plato's place in the history of Greek astronomy: restoring both history and science to the history of science," Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, 1999; Hulsit, "A Short History of Causation," abridged from From Cause to Causation. A Peircean Perspective, 2002; Knorr, "Plato and Eudoxus on the Planetary Motions," J. Hist. Astronom. 21, 1990; Kristeller, "The First Printed Edition of Plato's Works and the Date of Its Publication (1484)," Studies in Renaissance Thought and Letters, Rome, 1993 pp 138 ff.; Mohr, God and Forms in Plato, 2005.
Contacts
PLATO. 427?-347 B.C. Timaeus [AND] Critias [from Ficini's 1484 Opera]. Marsilius Ficinus, translator and commentary. [Florence: Laurentius (Francisci) de Alopa, Venetus, for Francesco Berlinghieri and Philippus Valor, 1484].
PLATO. 427?-347 B.C. Timaeus [AND] Critias [from Ficini's 1484 Opera]. Marsilius Ficinus, translator and commentary. [Florence: Laurentius (Francisci) de Alopa, Venetus, for Francesco Berlinghieri and Philippus Valor, 1484].
PLATO. 427?-347 B.C. Timaeus [AND] Critias [from Ficini's 1484 Opera]. Marsilius Ficinus, translator and commentary. [Florence: Laurentius (Francisci) de Alopa, Venetus, for Francesco Berlinghieri and Philippus Valor, 1484].
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Arms & Armor, Coins and Medals, Motor Cars, Motorcycles, Wine & Whisky

27.5% on the first $3,000 of the hammer price;
25% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of $3,000 up to and including $400,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of $400,000 up to and including $4,000,000;
and 13.9% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of $4,000,000.

Payment Notices

Payment for purchases may be made in or by (a) cash, (b) cashier's check or money order, (c) personal check with approved credit drawn on a U.S. bank, (d) wire transfer or other immediate bank transfer, or (e) Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover credit, charge or debit card. Please note that the amount of cash notes and cash equivalents that can be accepted from a given purchaser may be limited.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.