Incunabula and the Keio University Library Collection


Johannes Duns Scotus, Quodlibeta (Venice: Johannes de Colonia and Johannes Manthen, 7 Oct. 1477)

Quodlibeta. Ed: Thomas Penketh

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Johannes Duns Scotus (1265/6–1308), nicknamed 'Doctor Subtilis' for his complex theology, is thought to have been born in Scotland. He became one of the most eminent scholars in 13th-century Europe, yet modern scholarship has been slow to provide a thorough examination of Scotus's works, and there are several questions, regarding both his biography and the authenticity of his works, that remain unanswered. Educated at Oxford, this great Franciscan scholar first lectured in England. He also taught at the University of Paris, and was appointed the regent master in theology there. He was then sent to Cologne, where he died. The Quodlibeta is a collection of disputations written and compiled by Scotus; it is derived from the exercises he introduced whilst teaching in Paris.

The quodlibetum is a style of medieval theological debate in which any attendee can freely raise a question and/or objection. It was introduced as a scholastic exercise by several European universities in the first half of the 13th century, though the first to do so was the University of Paris. Public debates were held in the universities twice a year. As a question on any subject (de quolibet) could be raised by anyone (a quolibet), the professor and the bachelors – i.e. the host of the debate and the debaters themselves – needed a deep and broad range of theological knowledge: they had to prepare themselves for questions on various topics and for impromptu rhetorical and logical repartee. Records of these public disputations were kept in reports or reportatio.

Scotus is said to have revised these reports afterwards, and used them to produce the Quodlibeta, which includes twenty-one scholastic questions. For each question he first introduces arguments 'pro' and 'con', derived from the theme, and develops them via disputation. The topics are chosen from a range of theological, philosophical and metaphysical issues, and also from more practical problems facing priests, e.g. the relationship between God and creatures, the nature of the omnipotence of God and the Holy Trinity, the question of 'free will (libertas voluntatis)', and the performance of the Mass. Scotus's revision of the twenty-first and final question is incomplete. Also, there are several variant manuscripts and prints which differ according to whether or not they include the original, concise description of the reportatio version of the question (Scotus, God and Creatures, p. xxxiii). The Keio copy includes the reportatio version immediately after the unfinished text of Scotus itself (sig. m2r).

The Keio copy is of the second edition, produced by two Venetian printers, Johannes de Colonia and Johannes Manthen, in 1477; the first edition appeared in 1474. They used an edition by Thomas Penketh (d. 1487), an English scholar. The printers worked together from about 1474 to 1480, and they are said to have enjoyed a considerable share of the Venetian market (BMC, V, xv). These two men also handled other Penketh editions of Scotus, and this international collaboration is of importance in the history of the reception of Scotus. After his death, Scotus's scholarship was to win high renown from the latter half of the 15th century onwards. An Augustinian who personally admired Scotus as his master, Penketh was also famed for his learning and was therefore asked to edit Scotus's works during his visit to Padua in 1474–77 (DNB).

The text of the Keio copy is divided into two columns, set in an elegant Gothic type. Each topic begins with either a red or blue handwritten initial, and paragraph marks and capital letters are also coloured by hand on all pages. In the final part of the book there is a concise list of all the questions. This is an excellent copy, maintained in good condition, and includes marginalia that were probably inscribed soon after publication, as well as other marginalia that were probably added by 17th- or 18th-century readers.

  Frank, William A. and Allan B. Wolter, Duns Sucotus, Metaphysician (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1995)
  Scotus, John Duns, Opera omnia, introd. by Tullio Gregory, 12 vols (Lyon: Luke Wadding, 1639; repr. Hildesheim: Olms, 1968–69)
---, God and Creatures: The Quodlibetal Questions, trans. and introd. by Fellix Alluntis and Allan B. Wolter (Washington, D.C., WA: Catholic University of America Press; repr. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975)
  上智大学中世思想研究所 編 『中世思想原典集成18 — 後期スコラ学』中世思想原典集成 (東京: 平凡社, 1998)



Duns Scotus, Johannes
Place of Publication
Johannes de Colonia and Johannes Manthen


Date of Publication

Modern ½ crushed morocco over cloth boards.

Bibliographical Notes

106 leaves; two large initial capitals in blue and red on a2r; paraph marks and initials in blue and red; occasional contemporary and 17th/18th-century scholarly marginalia (sig. k7r etc.).

Goff D393, HC 6434*, BMC V 228, GW 9068, IJL 129, IJL2 157
Acquisition Year

Walter Goldwater (bookplate).