Boethius, De consolatione philosophiae
BOETHIUS, DE CONSOLATIONE PHILOSOPHIAE
The Roman statesman, man of letters and philosopher Boethius (c. 480 - c. 524) served under the Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great. One day he fell into disgrace and was imprisoned. During his imprisonment he wrote De consolatione philosophiae (‘Consolation of Philosophy’), a work in prose and verse, in which the personification of Philosophy (Lady Philosophia) offers comfort to the wrongfully accused author who is awaiting the execution of his death sentence. ‘She points out to him’, as it is said at one point, ‘that fate is by definition unpredictable and that therefore he cannot expect that evil men are always unlucky and wise men always lucky, for fate is a lower form of the manifestation of Providence, which blends with the highest good, God.’
Later on this philosophical work was read with a strong Christian bias and it ranks among the texts of the Middle Ages most frequently commented on.
In 1485 the Latin text, accompanied by a Dutch translation and an extensive Dutch commentary, was printed by Arend de Keysere in Ghent. The name of the translator and author of the commentary is not known, but given the dialect style of the language used he was probably from the neighbourhood of Ghent.
The printing of this bulky book, one of the two most voluminous works published in the Netherlands before 1501, must have been a great effort for De Keysere. The Ghent printer must have worked hastily too, because the text contains all kinds of errors. Financially it was not a success. When De Keysere died in 1490, 100 copies remained unsold out of a print run of 400.
The Consolation consists of five books. At the beginning of each book three-quarters of the page space has been left blank for a miniature. These miniatures have not been supplied in all copies, but they are in this one. At the beginning of the third book we see Lady Philosophia conversing with Boethius in prison.