[Philosophy - Plato and Neoplatonism] [Renaissance Humanism - Italy - Florence]
[Occult and Esoterica - Hermeticism, Astrology]

Marsilio Ficino

Opera, & quae hactenus extitêre, & quae in lucem nunc primùm prodiêre omnia
Una cum Gnomologia, hoc est sententiarum ex iisdem operibus collectarum farragine copiosissima

[bound with]

Adam Henricpetri

Sententiae pulcherrimae cum multarum rerum definitionibus: ex Marsilij Ficini florentini

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Printed in Basel by Heinrich Petri, March 1576.

Text mostly in Latin. Two large folio volumes; complete with the (often missing) Petri's appendix Gnomologia bound at the end of Vol.II.
Edited by Adam Henricpetri (1543-1586), Swiss humanist, jurist and historian, son of the printer Heinrich Petri.


"The first edition of [Ficino's] Opera omnia appeared in Basel in 1561, the second, and better, edition in 1576." (Michael J. B. Allen et al (eds.), Marsilio Ficino: His Theology, His Philosophy, His Legacy, p.xvi)

This monumental edition has been published by the renowned Basel scholar-printer Heinrich Petri (who printed the 2nd edition of Copernicus' De revolutionibus in 1566), and includes the Gnomologia (with a separate dated title-page "Sententiae pulcherrimae…") presenting an extensive collection of Ficino's sayings and thoughts compiled from his works by his son Adam Henricpetri.

Marsilio Ficino (1433 - 1499) one of the most influential humanist philosophers of the Italian Renaissance, was also a physician, and an astrologer. Ficino dedicated himself to the study of Plato and the neoplatonic philosophy. His translations of the complete extant works of Plato and Plotinus into Latin were key elements in the Renaissance rebirth of Platonic thought. His Florentine Academy, an attempt to revive Plato's Academy, had enormous influence on the direction and tenor of the intellectual life of Italian Renaissance and the development of European philosophy.

This massive 2-volume set in folio comprises all of Ficino's original works including his VISIONARY PHILOSOPHICAL MASTERPIECE Platonica theologia de immortalitate animorum ("The Platonic Theology: On the Immortality of the Soul"), as well as his De triplici vita ("Three Books on Life"), "A HIGHLY INFLUENTIAL COMPENDIUM OF MAGICAL MEDICINE" (M. Allen et al, (ed.) Marsilio Ficino, p.268), and arguably, the most popular of Ficino's original works, as well as his entire correspondence (Epistolae). Also present is the Latin version of his medical treatise on the plague (first printed in Italian as Contra alla peste).

While, naturally, excluding Ficino's voluminous translations of the entire Plato and Plotinus, this edition does include Ficino's important commentaries on Plato's individual dialogues - Symposium, Philebus, Phaedrus, Timaeus, Parmenides, Sophist, and Republic Book VIII - among which his celebrated commentary on Plato's Symposium, known as De amore ("On Love") is particular remarkable: "Eventually Ficino's commentary on the Symposium [...] became one of his most popular and influential treatments of Plato. In it he identified Plato's theory of love with Christian love, and argued that the proper love of another person is in fact preparation for the love of God. He invented the phrase Platonic love, and his interpretation was especially influential in the 16th century." (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Ficino's extensive and influential commentaries on Plotinus's Enneads are also included.

Vol.I also contains Ficino's extensive correspondence (Epistolae) with some of the best minds of his time. His rich epistolary heritage offers a fascinating window into the life, culture and ideas of 15th-century Italy, covering a vast range of topics, from love to economics, from astrology to ethics, from music to medicine and from banquets to demonology. With eloquence and sincerity the letters mix philosophy and humor, compassion and advice.

"The Letters occupy in fact a very important place in Ficino's work. As historical documents, they give us a vivid picture of his personal relations with his friends and pupils, and of his own literary and scholarly activities." (P. O. Kristeller )

"The Letters of Marsilio Ficino represent an essential core of his thought and influence as a chief architect of the Platonic and Hermetic revival, the philosophical and revelatory center of the new learning that was revamping religious vision and humanistic enquiry Italian Renaissance. […] The letters are masterpieces of spiritual direction in what we now would call, a "neoplatonic style" of spirituality. Ficino is wise, temperate, mystical, moderate, subtle, ascetic, stylish, practical, contemplative, and devoted to truth and morality. The letters show the human face of the philosopher as he struggles with this emerging spiritual vision. At the same time the letters reveal a life fully embroiled in the manifold machinations and controversies of his times. Anyone who has an interest in the Italian Renaissance, in neoplationism and the hermetic tradition, and especially in the practical application of spiritual truths to everyday life will find these [letters] a unique treasure trove insight and guidance as useful today as when penned over five centuries ago." (Shepheard-Walwyn)

Some of Ficino's letters are, in fact, essays or short treatises in their own right, such as, e.g. De divino furore ("Divine Frenzy") written as a letter to Peregrino Agli, which explains how the soul, having recovered its wings, is separated from the body and flies upwards to the heavens: a process realized via four types (or stages) of the divine frenzy. Another example is an essay titled 'Concordia Mosis et Platonis' written as a letter to Braccio Martelli, with its (typical of Ficino) focus on the unity of philosophy and theology; here Ficino argues that ancient philosophy was nothing but "docta religio" (i.e. learned religion). In this letter Ficino (quoting Clement of Alexandria) calls Plato 'another Moses who spoke Greek', and "claims all Presocratic philosophy to be part of the Mosaic theology of Creation." (W. Schmidt-Biggemann, Philosophia Perennis, p.34)

Vol.II contains virtually the entire corpus of his influential translations from Greek of neoplatonic and hermetic authors, including, notably, the TWO FOUNDATIONAL HERMETIC TEXTS: Poemandres and Asclepius (i.e. the Corpus hermeticum), as well as Iamblichus' famous "On the Mysteries of the Egyptians", along with numerous other of Neoplatonic and Hermetic writings, many dealing with demonology, magic, astrology and other occult topics, such as "De Operatione Daemonum," by an 11th-century Byzantine monk Michael Psellus, a discourse on the nature and classification of demons (which he divided into Fiery, Aerial, Subterranean, Lucifugous, Aqueous, and Terrestrial). The collection includes works of such authors as Proclus, Porphyry, Pythagoras, Xenocrates, Alcinous, et al.

Of particular importance is Ficino's influential Platonica theologia de immortalitate animorum ("The Platonic Theology"), written between 1469 and 1474 but not published until 1482. The monumental work (comprising 18 books) is a far-reaching, encyclopedic defense of the immortality of the soul, and was largely responsible for elevating this question to a position of philosophical importance in the Renaissance. For Ficino, this question is at the heart of human self-interest and well-being. In the first chapter, he argues that if human beings were merely mortal, then there would be "no animal more miserable than man."

In "The Platonic Theology" Ficino sought to push back against Aristotelian philosophy (which had dominated Scholastic intellectual circles for centuries) as well as reconcile Platonism and Christianity. In addition to defending immortality, Ficino in The Platonic Theology also articulates those ideas and positions that are most distinctive of his thought. He lays down the basic principles of a vitalistic natural philosophy, according to which a World Soul suffuses all of nature, imparting life, motion, and order to it.

Ficino argues that the soul rests in the middle of a great chain of being: "The order of Being consists of the intelligible sphere in God, as the highest extreme, followed by Angel, Soul and then downwards to the material sphere, Quality and Body. In this order, the central position of the soul is the most striking part of Ficino's transformation of Platonic and especially Plotinian cosmology. In some famous and often quoted words from the Theologia Platonica, he emphasizes the middle position of the soul in the Universe. He calls the soul 'quoddam vinculum utrorumque' and 'centrum naturae, universorum medium, mundi series, vultus omnium nodusque et copula mundi'." (J. Lauster, Marsilio Ficino as a christian thinker, in M. Allen et al (eds.) 'Marsilio Ficino: His Theology, his Philosophy, his Legacy', p.48)

Also fundamental to Ficino's heritage is his De Christiana Religione, written between 1473 and 1474, which "Edelheit refers to as the 'manifesto' for the new humanist theology […] In this text Ficino returns to the Greek text of the New Testament and sets it along side of the texts of the 'prisca theologia', that is the religious texts of ancient theologians such as Hermes Trismegistus, the Orphean Hymns, the Chaldean and Sybelline Oracles, and Plato himself. Ficino drew from the religious texts of the ancient pagans in order to give evidence for his assertion that the immortality of the soul is and always has been a doctrine that is fundamental to human society and that this doctrine, as it is found in prisca theologia, finds its culmination in Christ, since he is the true and complete 'realization of the notion of divinity in human beings'." (Eric Parker, The Humanist Theology of Marsilio Ficino, from 'The Calvinist International' website)

The 'christian Ficino' is further represented by his commentary on the Pauline Epistles, and his sermons (Praedicationes).

Another remarkable work is Ficino's De vita libri tres, also known as De triplici vita, which is a KEY BOOK FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN THE RENAISSANCE ASTROLOGICAL MAGIC and the hermetic and neoplatonic revival in the 15th century Florence. The book is a curious amalgam of philosophy, medicine, natural magic and astrology, and is possibly the first book ever written focusing primarily on the health of an intellectual and its peculiar concerns.

"On several levels, De vita represents a CULTURAL MILESTONE. It was the first treatise on the health of the intellectual - indeed, says Andrea Corsini, the first on the occupational hazards of any profession. Although it is one of the 'strangest and most complex' works to come from Ficino's pen, it was immensely popular in the Renaissance." (Carol Kaske and John Clark, Introduction to the Critical Edition of De vita in English, p.3)

"Of the three books of Ficino's De Triplici Vita the first deals with preserving the health of scholars, the second with prolonging their life, and the third with astral influences on them. Through all three, Ficino's attention is devoted not so much to man's soul or body as to his spiritus. The De Triplici Vita is presented as a medical treatise, and the practices recommended in it might be taken as somewhat odd medical remedies and regimes - odd only because of the large place given to talismans and music; for there is, of course, nothing odd in a Renaissance medical treatise dealing with spirits and astrology. [...] It is clear that Ficino is strongly attracted by this kind of magic or theurgy, that he considers valuable, and also it is clear that he is aware that it is dangerous. His conclusion seems to be that its dangers might be avoided if it remained within a learned, philosophical circle, and were kept secret from the ignorant vulgus, who would distort it into idolatry and superstition." (D.P. Walker, Spiritual And Demonic Magic From Ficino To Campanella, pp. 30, 51)

Bibliographic references:

Adams F-413; BL STC German 302.

Physical description:

Two volumes in Folio; leaves measure 29½ x 20 cm. Bound in early 19th-century blind-paneled calf over wooden boards (in 16th-century style), each volume with a pair of brass clasps (gone on vol. I, but preserved on vol.II); all covers decorated in blind with rolls of leafy and floral motifs, and with an armorial centerpiece (see Provenance). Spines with raised bands and gilt-lettered titles. All edges sprinkled red.

Vol.I: [8], 1012 pp.;
Vol. II: [8], 1013-1979 (i.e. 1991), [1]; [40 ('Sententiae')]; [22 (Index)] pp.
Collated and COMPLETE (without the final blank at the end of Index, but with the internal blank )(4 at the end of the preliminaries in Vol.II present).

Woodcut printer's device on title pages to both volumes, and on verso of the final leaf of Vol.II. Several woodcut diagrams and one astrological diagram (horoscope) in text. Numerous woodcut decorative and historiated initials of different styles and sizes.

Text printed in single columns, in roman types; Sententiae in 2 columns, and Index in 4 columns.

Preliminaries to each volume contain a dedicatory epistle by the editor, Adam Henricpetri, and a list of works included.
Colophon on recto of the final leaf in Vol. II (Ppp8r), with printer's device on verso. After the colophon is bound Petri's Sententiae pulcherrimae, which is followed (at the end of Vol.II) by the Index (in other copies the Index is sometimes bound with the preliminaries) to Vol.I.


Bindings of both volumes with a blind-stamped armorial of the Dukes of Arenberg, one of the wealthiest and most influential noble families of the Habsburg Netherlands.

Both titles with an old ink-stamp of the Capuchin Church of Enghien (a Walloon municipality in Belgium) with a strong Arenberg connection: the church's altar has a 17th-century ebony and ivory altarpiece framing an Adoration of the Magi with 51 figures of Arenberg family members, and some rooms of the convent are hosting the Arenberg Household Museum.

A 17th-century presentation inscription at top of both titles (partly shaved off), apparently indicating that the books were a gift to the Capuchins from the Arenberg family.


Very Good antiquarian condition. Complete. Bindings slightly rubbed with some scuffs and some wear to extremities. Corners a bit bumped; top of spine of Vol.I repaired; joints somewhat worn, but solid, boards firmly attached and bindings tight. Clasps are gone from Vol.I (only catches present), but are preserved and functional on Vol.II. Some leaves with light, unobtrusive (mostly marginal) damp-staining to top inner corner. Both title pages with light soiling and old ink-stamps. Title and colophon leaf in Vol.II with a small hole, not affecting legibility. Leaf AA8 in Vol. II with a repaired closed tear to inner margin (without loss). Occasional minor soiling. In all, an attractive, solid, clean set of this rare and desirable edition.

Please click on thumbnails below to see larger images.