Omērou Ilias.

Venice, Aldus, [1517].


8vo. Four works in one, ff. (50) 277. Greek letter. Printer’s device to t-p of fourth. Some very light age yellowing, lower outer blank corner of first leaf torn away. A fine, well-margined copy in contemporary German pigskin, traces of ties, pastedown with C14 annotated ms slip from Avicenna’s works. Blind-tooled to a double-ruled panel design, outer border with small blind-tooled diaper tools, second border with blind-tooled rosettes, centre panel with blind- tooled fleurons and rosettes. Spine in four compartments, blind-tooled double-ruled border and decoration with leafy tendrils to each. Early reference to Everhardus Feithius’s Antiquitatum Homericarum libri IV (1726) on recto of fly and early Greek inscription on verso; illegible Greek inscription, another ‘Homerus et Esaias fuerunt coetanei’ and ‘206’ casemark, all in early hand on recto of first fol. together with the library stamps ‘Ex Bibliotheca Regia Acad. Georgiae Aug:’ (founded by King George II of Great Britain in Göttingen in 1734) and ‘Dupl. Bibl. Gott. Vend.’, early Greek inscription ‘polla d’apanta 250’ (Odyssey, Book 23?) to rear pastedown, early Greek and Latin annotation throughout.

A fine, well-margined, clean copy of the second Aldine edition of Homer’s immortal ‘Iliad’. It is often with a companion volume containing the ‘Odyssey’, ‘Hymns’ and ‘Batrachomyomachia’. Homer has remained an obscure figure in the history of Western poetry. Whilst his ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’ are dated to the C9-8BC, it is uncertain whether there ever was a blind bard of such genius or whether his persona came to be used to identify the output of a long-standing oral epic tradition. This edition is prefaced by three ancient Greek accounts of the life of Homer attributed to Herodotus, Dio Chrysostom and Plutarch. In the introductory epistle, Aldus accepted the responsibility for the decision to include these ‘alienos libros’. One of the most influential poems of Western civilisation, the ‘Iliad’ narrates the last years of the Greeks’ siege of Troy, focusing on the causes and consequences of Achilles’s ‘wrath’—the opening word of the poem—after King Agamemnon seizes his concubine. The early owner of this copy—a scholar of Greek—highlighted key passages still used by students today. These include the first few lines of the proem with the ‘aetiology’ of the story; Glaucus and Diomedes’s combat truce based on their ancestral kinship; Hector’s moving dialogues with his wife and his mother before heading to the battlefield; and Patroclus’s death. He glossed with the word ‘excommunicatio’—in its original etymology of ‘exclusion from a community’—Nestor’s moral advice to Agamemnon: ‘A cast-out and outlaw with no home is he / who loves civil war’. This edition is the best and rarest of the three produced by Aldus in 1504, 1517 and 1524.

BM STC It., p. 330; Brunet III, 269: ‘édition la meilleure et la plus rare du trois que les Aldes ont données’; Rénouard 80:3: ‘Meilleure et plus rare encore que celle de 1504.’