Liber de Oculo Morali.

[Colophon:] Impressum Venetiis [Venice]: per Joannem Hertzog [Johannes Hamman], April 1496

Small 8vo, 64 unnumbered leaves. Printed in double columns, 35 lines, title-page with large woodcut. Near-contemporary wooden boards with remains of a bind-stamped morocco spine on upper cover, rebacked, new endpapers, clasp missing. A clean copy. Bookplate of M. Novati.

Probably the third edition (there were three editions published in Venice in 1496) of “the second earliest printed work on the eye, Grassus’s De oculis (1474) being the first” (Becker). This work is often attributed to John Peckham, or to Petrus de Lacepiera whose name appears in the colophon, but its author is now accepted to be Pierre de Limoges (Petrus Lemovicencis, d. 1306), a Parisian who helped to found the Sorbonne at the end of the thirteenth century. Written in the late 13th century, De Oculo Morali was produced for preachers in the hope of making homilies interesting and relevant by making morals parallels to the principal aspects of Perspectiva — the medieval study encompassing the eye, vision, and optics. It contains in the first four chapters a description of the eye, which at such an early date is of considerable interest. “The purpose of the De oculo morali is purely ethical but it contains a description of the eye, together with a brief account of eye diseases and their treatment” (Sarton II, p. 1029). On the title-page is a woodcut of a monk teaching, and pointing to his eye. Klebs p. 243 (reference only, under Peckham). DiLaura, Bibliotheca Opticoria, 6. Becker catalogue 222 (Italian edition, under Lacepiera). Wellcome I, 5029 (Italian edition).


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