Farnese Ottavio (1598-1643). Quaestiones definitae ex triplici philosophia, rationali, naturali, morali, in Parmensi Academia publice triduum disputatae. Parma, Anteo Viotti, 1613.

Farnese Ottavio (1598-1643). Quaestiones definitae ex triplici philosophia, rationali, naturali, morali, in Parmensi Academia publice triduum disputatae. Parma, Anteo Viotti, 1613.

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Farnese Ottavio (1598-1643).

Quaestiones definitae ex triplici philosophia, rationali, naturali, morali, in Parmensi Academia publice triduum disputatae.

Parma, Anteo Viotti, 1613.

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“Extraordinary is a much abused adjective but it certainly describes... Quaestiones definitae ex triplici philosophia, rationali, naturali, morali”

– F. R. Goff and V. I. Eaton –

Farnese Ottavio (1598-1643).

Quaestiones definitae ex triplici philosophia, rationali, naturali, morali, in Parmensi Academia publice triduum disputatae. Parma, Anteo Viotti, 1613.

Folio (338x233 mm). Collation: +4, A-Y8, Z10, Aa4. [8], 374 [i.e. 372], [8] pages. Complete with the last blank leaf. Woodcut printer’s device at end. Fine engraved title-page by Francesco Villamena after Giovanni Battista Trotti, also known as Malosso da Cremona. One large engraved folding plate (596x448 mm). 348 woodcut calligraphic illustrations in text by Antonio Ferrari after Brondolus (both names appear on fol. A1). Contemporary light yellow limp vellum, traces of silk ties. Slightly worn in places. A very good, genuine copy. Some browning and foxing, tear repaired to the folding plate.

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First edition, in its original binding, of this monumental and lavishly illustrated work, dedicated to Pope Paul V, and rightly famous for its marvellous calligraphic allegorical vignettes.

The work is divided into three parts – devoted, respectively, to rational, natural and moral philosophy – and contains 2370 philosophical issues discussed by Ottavio Farnese, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Parma Ranuccio I. Only fifteen years old at the time, Ottavio also publicly debated these issues in the Cathedral of Parma between 16 and 17 June 1613, an academic marathon which garnered great acclaim in the city and throughout Italy.

Unfortunately, after the birth of his first legitimate and healthy son, Duke Ranuccio revoked the feudal titles previously granted to Ottavio; the latter then organized a plot against his father, after which he was arrested while attempting to escape, and subsequently imprisoned. Ottavio died in 1643 after having spent the last twenty years of his life in detention.

The volume is finely illustrated. Along with a fine engraved title-page after court artist Giovanni Battista Trotti (1555-1612), the work features a highly remarkable series of calligraphic allegorical vignettes which illustrate each chapter: the elaborate illustrations, placed as head- and tailpieces, are made of intertwined lines which combine to form human figures, animals, plants, musical instruments, amphorae, crowns, and various decorations. The vignettes were designed by a certain Brondulus, possibly one of Ottavio’s tutors.

The large folded table, which is not present in all copies, shows an arch with the pope’s coat of arms at the top, surrounded by statues celebrating the power (temporal and spiritual) and virtues of the dedicatee.

“Extraordinary is a much abused adjective but it certainly describes an early seventeenth-century book printed at Parma in 1613 entitled Quaestiones definitae ex triplici philosophia, rationali, naturali, morali...” (F. R. Goff - V. I. Eaton, Rare Books, p. 33).

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STC Italian 17th Century, p. 329; Libreria Vinciana, 2179; F. R. Goff - V. I. Eaton, “Rare Books”, Library of Congress. Quarterly Journal of Current Acquisitions, 8 (1951), pp. 31-38.