Platonis Philosophi Quae Extant Graece

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by Plato

Platonis Philosophi

Title page from Platonis Philosophi, volume one, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Plato
Editor Friedrich Christian Exter and Johann Valentin Embser
Translator Rodolphus Agricola (the "Axiochus") and Sebastiano Corradi (dialogues, volume eleven)
Published Biponti (Zweibrücken): Ex typographia Societatis
Date 1781-1787
Edition {{{edition}}}
Language Ancient Greek
Volumes 11 volume set
Pages {{{pages}}}
Desc. 8vo (22 cm.)
Location Shelf I-3
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

Little is known of Greek philosopher Plato's (429 – 347 B.C.E.) early years, but he was interested in politics in his youth, and studied rhetoric under Dionysius.[1] He became a disciple of Socrates, and most of Plato's works are in the form of a dialogue, many of which feature Socrates questioning various philosophical doctrines.[2] Plato introduced the Western conception of philosophy as a method of thought that probes the boundaries of human senses and understanding of the world.[3]

Armorial bookplate of Mathew Wilson, front pastedown, volume one.

Plato's philosophy centered on the doctrine that there are eternal forms that exist, such as "beauty" or "good," which human senses cannot fully understand but strive to attain.[4] His works do not present a comprehensive system of thought, but instead stimulate discussion and present starting points on how one may question the world.[5] Plato believed that a philosopher should probe why he perceives the world the way he does, and should apply overarching contemplative ideas (his eternal "forms") in the moral actions of man.[6]

Plato developed this moral theory throughout his works. For example, in the Republic he explored how to attain happiness by living virtuously.[7] He continuously criticizes social values and political institutions in works including Protagoras, Gorgias, Euthydemus, proving his work is grounded in the practical sphere of human life as well as concerned with the soul.[8]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Plato. Gr. Lat. 12.v 8vo." and given by Thomas Jefferson to his grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph. The Brown Bibliography[9] lists the 1781-1787 edition of Platonis Philosophi based on the existence of that title and edition in Jefferson's library.[10] George Wythe's Library[11] on LibraryThing concurs that Platonis Philosophi was the "probable" title in Wythe's Library, but no specific edition is listed. One possible problem with the identification of the 1781-1787 edition Platonis Philosophi as the title in Jefferson's inventory is the fact that Jefferson lists "12.v." and this edition only has 11 volumes. However, many copies of this edition, including Jefferson's at the Library of Congress, appear to have been accompanied by Dialogorum Platonis Argumenta Exposita et Illustrata, a Diet (Tiedemann: Biponti, 1786) bound as volume 12. The Wolf Law Library followed Brown and purchased a copy of the 1781-1787 edition.

Armorial bookplate of Frances Mary Richardson Currer, front free endpaper, volume one.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in mottled calf with gilt lining on boards and gilt decoration to spines. Title labels inset on black morocco and copper engraved title vignettes. Each volume includes the armorial bookplate of Mathew Wilson with the Latin motto "Res non verba" (Actions speak louder than words) on the front pastedown and the armorial bookplate of Frances Mary Richardson Currer on the front free endpaper. Purchased from K Books Ltd.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

See also


  1. George Boas, "Fact and Legend in the Biography of Plato," The Philosophical Review 57, no. 5 (Duke University Press, 1948): 443-44.
  2. Richard Kraut, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Plato, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992): 3.
  3. Ibid, 1.
  4. Richard Kraut, Edward N. Zalta, ed., "Plato," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013).
  5. Ibid.
  6. Alcinous, "The Doctrines of Plato", translated by George Burges in The Works of Plato: a new and literal version (London: 1865), VI: 241-43.
  7. Mary Margaret Mackenzie, "Plato's Moral Theory," Journal of Medical Ethics 11, no. 2 (BMJ, 1985):88, 90.
  8. Richard Kraut, "Plato."
  9. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  10. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 2:33-34 [no.1311].
  11. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on April 21, 2013,

External Links

Google Books.