Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers

Presentation miniature for Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, showing Anthony Woodville presenting the book to Edward IV, who is accompanied by his wife Elizabeth, son Edward and brother Richard. Lambeth Palace, London.

Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers ("The Sayings of the Philosophers") is an incunabulum, or early printed book. The Middle English work is a translation, by Anthony Woodville, of an original book written in Arabic by the medieval Syrian scholar al-Mubashshir ibn Fatik', titled 'Mukhtār al-ḥikam wa-maḥāsin al-kalim' (مختار الحكم ومحاسن الكلم)[1] which had been translated into several languages. Woodville based his version on an earlier French translation, which he completed on November 18, 1477. His translation would come to be printed by William Caxton as either the first, or one of the earliest, books printed in the English language.[2]

Description

The manuscript of the French translation 'Dits Moraulx des Philosophes' describes itself as a compendium of the words of wisdom, or collected quotations, from biblical, classical, and legendary philosophers, written in prose form. Generally the chapters are introduced by some biographical notes on the philosopher, followed by passages of his attributed quotations, which vary in length from a few words to several pages.

Colophon of William Caxton, 1477