LLULL, Ramón

Libro del ascenso, y descenso del entendimiento.


Mallorca: En la Oficina de la Viuda Frau. 1753.

First vernacular edition. 4to. 195x140mm. pp.[viii], [2] plates, 252. Folding table of contents and folding woodcut illustration preceding A1, woodcut vignettes to text. Title-page trimmed and extended at lower margin (probably to erase inscription), a couple of pages lightly browned. Contemporary Spanish limp vellum, title in ink to spine, lacking ties. Some internal cracking at the hinges and the usual warping. An excellent copy of a very rare book.

First vernacular edition. The Catalan philosopher and missionary Llull (c.1232–c.1316) is best known for his ‘great art’, a theory of logic which, he believed, united all strands of knowledge under one universal method. This elaborate, mystically inspired universal system of knowledge was intended to convert unbelievers. The present text is a prefiguration, written in 1304, of his grand theory elaborated a year later in the Ars magna. It proposes that there is a ‘ladder of understanding’ of eight entities and twelve questions, representing the hierarchy of Creation through which the intellect can arrive at knowledge of each entity. This process is illustrated and tabulated in the two plates preceding the text; the illustration exemplifies Llull’s use of the figure of the wheel, for which he became famous. First published in Valencia in 1512, the Liber de ascensu et descensu intellectus (as it was entitled in Latin) was republished in the city of Llull’s birth, Palma de Mallorca, in 1744. This Spanish translation followed soon afterwards.

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