Our shops are open and we are processing online, telephone and email orders as normal


Policraticus de nugis curialium et vestigijs philosophorum continens libros octo.

Lyon: Constantin Fradin, 1513 Stock Code: 101888
Reserve Ask us a question

The first medieval treatise on political thought

Second edition, first published in Brussels c. 1480, of John of Salisbury's Policraticus. Subtitled De nugis curialium et vestigiis philosophorum (Concerning the Frivolities of Courtiers and the Traditions of the Philosophers), it has been called "the first medieval treatise on political thought" (David Knowles in The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy). The work "enunciates two political doctrines - the distinction of the legitimate prince from the tyrant and the subordination of the imperial to priestly authority. The prince is not absolved from obedience to law; his position is that of 'a minister of the public welfare and a servant of equity', since the state exists to promote equity. From the church the prince receives the whole authority he wields" (ESS). The fifth and sixth books are based upon a letter written by Plutarch to Trajan, "from which he draws a lengthy comparison of the state with the human body: the head is the prince, the soul the priesthood" (ibid). The judges and administrators are the eyes, ears and tongue; knights who protect society are the hands. He also touches on hunting, gaming, dreams, astrology and witchcraft and includes a variety of anecdotes and personal experiences making in all, "a pleasing and readable miscellanous compilation" (Catholic Encyclopaedia).

John of Salisbury was one of the most cultured scholars of his day. He studied under Abelard, and served as secretary to Thomas à Becket before becoming Bishop of Chartres. "Notwithstanding the engrossing cares of his diplomatic career, his great learning and indefatigable industry enabled him to carry on an extensive and lifelong correspondence on literary, educational, and ecclesiastical topics with the leading scholars of Europe. His collected letters (over 300 in number) no less than his other works, form an invaluable source for the history of thought and activity in the twelfth century" (ibid.)

Confused? Read our glossary


Octavo (168 x 100 mm). Contemporary calf, covers with elaborate blindstamped rule border with inner decorative panel gilt, all edges gilt, rebacked preserving the original spine, ruled and lettered gilt, new front endpaper.


Title and running headlines of first 6 leaves printed in red and black, woodcut initials.


Corners restored, final blank leaf pasted onto rear board. First gathering sometime repaired in the gutter with tape, now professionally restored with some residual staining in the gutter, title page a little soiled, occasional spotting and the odd stain; nevertheless a very good copy.


With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200.

View Full Delivery Details



Established in 1969, Peter Harrington is one of the leading rare book firms in the world. It is a proud member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – along with ILAB, the PBFA and Lapada – and from shops in Mayfair and Chelsea, London, sells rare books, prints and ephemera to customers across the world.

Email: mail@peterharrington.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 0220

ABA Antiquarian Bookseller Association ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers LAPADA The Association of Art and Anatique Dealers PBFA Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association

Our Guarantee Page

Ask us a question


Contact us with details of the book you are interested in or selling and we will contact you

Sell Old Books Help me find a book