[History of Science] [Philosophy] [Occultism - Magic]


De sensu rerum et magia , libri quatuor, pars mirabilis occultae philosophiae, ubi demonstratur, mundum esse Dei vivam statuam, beneque cognoscentem.

Frankfurt: Egenolph Emmel for Gottfried Tampach, 1620.

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RARE FIRST EDITION of one of Campanella's most important works, written while he was imprisoned by the Inquisition. Edited by Tobias Adam. "Très rare [...]. Un des plus curieux livres de magie." (Caillet)

In De sensu rerum et magia Tommaso Campanella (1568 - 1639), a prominent Italian Renaissance philosopher, theologian, astrologer, poet and political thinker, expounds his vision of the natural world as a sentient organism whose individual parts are invested with life and sensitivity. On this basis he discusses natural divination, natural magic and occult marvels.

This fascinating and influential book "describes a kind of cosmology or speculative physics, in course of which he tries to prove that everything is possessed of feeling. He discusses the senses, the intellect, the soul, immortality, physiognomy, anima mundi, the external world, sympathy and antipathy, magic." (Ferguson).

In this work Campanella "sharply criticizes Aristotle, repeats views of Telesio, and further brings to mind Giordano Bruno's De rerum principiis and De magia of the previous century" (Thorndike). In discussing Campanella, Thorndike devotes most of his attention to this work with an extended analysis of its contents (see Thorndike VII, pp. 291-301).

In Book IV of the De sensu rerum, Campanella reinterprets the tradition of natural magic in the light of the doctrine of the sense of things and of the spiritus. The magician is he who understands the sense inherent in each being and is capable of inducing certain alterations and passions into the spiritus. He knows how to activate the vital forces by suggesting appropriate foods, beverages, climates, sounds, and herbal and animal remedies; he understands the secrets of procreation and of illnesses, and can explain natural divinations, the prophecies of dreams, etc.

Accused of magic, atheism and treason (charged with plotting a revolt in Calabria) the author was imprisoned in Naples from 1599 to 1626, during which time this work was published, edited by Tobias Adam. Later editions were expurgated, but not this 1st Edition.

"Like Galileo, Campanella held that natural truth was not revealed in Scripture, but in the physical world. Thus the study of natural phenomena was seen as an important step toward theological understanding [...] While Galileo was essentially satisfied with an understanding of natural, physical reality, Campanella endeavoured to go beyond this and to find the ultimate metaphysical truth of things." (Charles B. Schmitt, DSB 15:69b).

The splendid engraved title border incorporates a bell, referring to Campanella's name (Latin Campana, bell) was used again by Tampach two years later in Campanella's Apologia pro Galileo.

Physical description:

Quarto, leaves measure 211 x 161 mm. Recased (?) in 19th- or early 20th-century sheep, with early blind ruled calf covers (presumably from the original binding) laid down (somewhat clumsily) on both boards; spine with raised bands and gilt-lettered black morocco label.

Pagination: [16], 371, [1 blank].
Signatures: *4 **4 A-Z4 Aa-Zz4 Aaa2.

Title-page border (*1r) within fine engraved border; a few woodcut headpieces and initials.

Preliminaries include Dedicatory Preface by the editor, Tobias Adam (*2r-4r), and table of contents (*4v-**4r).


This copy belonged first to Edward Synge, (1614 - 1678), Church of Ireland bishop of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross, with his signature on the title-page. Synge was associated with the second Earl of Cork, Robert Boyle's brother. The book is listed in the catalogue of the library of Synge's grandson, Edward Synge junior (1691 - 1762), Anglican bishop in the Church of Ireland, who inherited the library from his father, archbishop Edward Synge (1659-1741), an Anglican clergyman who served in the Church of Ireland as Chancellor of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin (1705 - 1714), Bishop of Raphoe (1714 - 1716), and Archbishop of Tuam (1716 - 1741). and, appropriately enough, is know to have had an interest in the science of perception.


Good antiquarian condition. Titlepage worn, slightly shaved and frayed at fore-edge, slightly affecting the outer edge of the engraved border (but with no essential loss); further preliminary leaves also with outer margin somewhat softened and slightly frayed at fore-edge (mainly corners), First 4 leaves (quire *4) including title, with minor marginal worming to inner top corner (text not affected). Light, harmless creasing to top outer corner of several leaves at the end of the volume. 17th-century ownership inscription to title. Binding slightly rubbed; some scuffing to edges and spine. Rear pastedown removed. Binding slightly rubbed; some scuffing to edges and spine. Else, a rather clean, tight, complete example of this rare and important work.

Bibliographic references:

Krivatsy 2088; Wellcome 1236; Graesse, Trésor, VII, pp.150-151; Thorndike, VII, 291; Caillet, I, 1984; cf. Ferguson I, 138 (citing 1636 edition only).

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