Incunabula and the Keio University Library Collection


Boethius, De consolatione philosophiae (Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 23 June 1486)

De consolatione philosophiae. (With commentary ascribed in the text to Thomas Aquinas)

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Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (c. 480-524 CE) came from a noble Roman family, the House of Anicius, and became a politician and philosopher (see also IKUL 028). Boethius is sometimes called the first Scholastic because of his efforts to unite religion and reason. Plato was his ideal, and so he sought to translate and interpret Aristotle's works. In 522, when he himself had risen to the position of 'magister officiorum' (the prime minister), his two sons were simultaneously appointed as consuls. However, his incorruptibility eventually led to his downfall. Around 523, he spoke in defence of a senator, Arbinus, who had been accused of treason, and this resulted in the accusations being brought against him; in 524, he was arrested on charges of the use of magic to further his career; he was imprisoned for somewhere between six and nine months, tried in his absence, and finally executed.

During his long imprisonment, he wrote De consolatione philosophiae ( The Consolation of Philosophy) in five books, in which he discusses questions such as the nature of true happiness and the relationship between God and the world. It is written in the form of a dialogue between a distinguished lady (the personification of 'philosophy'), who visits the prison, and Boethius, the prisoner. This work remained popular up until the end of the Middle Ages, and had a great influence on European philosophy and literature. It has been translated into many languages, including English and Japanese.

Anton Koberger (the 1440s-1513) was a renowned printer in Nuremberg; he came from a wealthy merchant family and was godfather to Dürer, the artist. In 1470 he established his printing shop, which is often referred to as the largest one in Europe at this time, and he had printed almost two hundred and forty editions by the time of his retirement in 1504. He produced his first edition of De consolatione philosophiae in 1473, followed by a more compact edition in 1483. The Keio volume is from the 1486 reprint of this 1483 edition.

In addition to the main text by Boethius, this edition has a commentary ascribed to the medieval Scholastic, Thomas Aquinas (1225?-74). The main text is surrounded by the commentary, which appears in smaller Gothic type. The table of contents occupies the first quire. A running title is printed on each recto page (right-hand page of the opening) in larger Gothic type, and only contains the book number.

The main text is printed in alternate sections of prose and verse. Although guide-letters are printed within the spaces reserved for initials in most of the commentaries (i.e. on sig. c1r and c6v, and in and after quire d), no guide-letter is used in the main text. The signature consists of a letter of the alphabet and accompanying numeral (Roman numerals are used in quires a to c, but Arabic numerals are used from quire d onwards); sig. 'i3' has no printed signature. The principle watermark is an image of a bull's head with a flower.

The Keio copy lacks three blank leaves (fols 1, 73, and 74), but the text is complete. A red stroke and a red underline have been added to each running title by hand; paragraph marks (¶) have been painted in red in both the main text and the commentary. In the main text, each initial is painted in blue; if there is more than one initial on the same page, the second is painted in red. The same colours are used in reverse order in the commentary. All of the initials are decorated in a simple style, except for the initial 'C' at the beginning of the main text, which is painted in blue with red pen-work. In the margins, a number of symbols depicting a pointing hand have been added to attract attention.

  ボエティウス『哲学の慰め』畠中尚志 訳 (東京: 岩波書店, 1938)
  ボエティウス『哲学の慰め』渡辺義雄 訳 (東京: 筑摩書房, 1969)
  『世界古典文学全集26: アウグスティヌス・ボエティウス』渡辺義雄 訳 (東京: 筑摩書房, 1983)
  Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, trans. by W. V. Cooper (London: J. M. Dent, 1902) <> [accessed 19 February 2007]



Boethius, Anicius Manlius Torquatus Severinus
Place of Publication
Anton Koberger


Date of Publication

Modern antique style blind-stamped calf binding.

Bibliographical Notes

71 leaves (of 74), wanting three blank folios 1, 73, and 74; elaborately rubricated initial capital on a1r, initial capitals filled in blue and red, sometimes tails extending to the margin; paragraph marks in red; some annotations of nota mark.

Goff B781, HC 3378*, BMC II 430, GW 4537, IJL 083, IJL2 099, PP43
Acquisition Year

1. Johann Conrad Feuerlein, Nürnberg. 2. Arthur Gordon Rippey, Denver.