Interpretatio antiqua, ac perutilis in Apollonij rhodij Argonautica.

Paris, Jacques Bogard for the widow of Conrad Neobar, 1541.

£1,250

8vo. 152 unnumbered leaves, α-τ8. Greek letter. Small woodcut printer’s device on title and verso of last. Capital spaces with guide letters, Chatsworth Library bookplate with shelf mark on pastedown. Light age browning, minor water-staining in places, title and verso of last a little dusty, the odd minor mark or spot, fly almost loose. A good copy, in excellent 18th century tan morocco, covers bordered with triple gilt rule, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, richly gilt in compartments with central gilt fleurons, red morocco label gilt, inner dentelles gilt.

Rare and beautifully printed edition of the Greek text of the Argonautica, printed separately, but simultaneously with a latin translation of the text, also by the widow of Conrad Neobar, finely bound for the library at Chatsworth. Conrad Neobar was appointed royal printer of Greek in 1539 but died barely a year later. He commissioned a new Greek type for the newly appointed Typographia Regia which Garamont is thought to have helped create. He was replaced in his role by Robert Estienne. Apollonius Rhodius was a Greek epic poet and scholar of the Library of Alexandria who flourished in the C3rd BC. He was the author of this celebrated epic describing the journey of the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece, including Jason’s love for and eventual betrayal of Medea. The key episodes of the myth were sourced from older poets such as Hesiod and Pindar. The Argonautica differs in some respects from traditional or Homeric Greek epic, though Apollonius certainly used Homer as a model.

It is shorter than Homer’s epics, with four books, less than a third the length of Homer’s work. Apollonius’ epic also differs from the more traditional in its weaker, more human protagonist Jason and in its many discursions into local custom, the origins of myths, and other popular subjects of Hellenistic poetry. Apollonius also chooses the less shocking versions of some myths, having Medea, for example, merely watch the murder of her brother Apsyrtus instead of murdering him herself. The gods are relatively distant and inactive, following the Hellenistic trend to allegorize and rationalize religion. “The language is that of the conventional epic. Apollonius seems to have carefully studied Homeric glosses, and gives many examples of isolated uses, but his choice of words is by no means limited to Homer. He freely avails himself of Alexandrian words and late uses of Homeric words.

The “Argonautica” was translated by Varro Atacinus, copied by Ovid and Virgil, and minutely studied by Valerius Flaccus in his poem of the same name. Some of his finest passages have been appropriated and improved upon by Virgil by the divine right of superior genius. The subject of love had been treated in the romantic spirit before the time of Apollonius in writings that have perished, for instance, in those of Antimachus of Colophon, but the “Argonautica” is perhaps the first poem still extant in which the expression of this spirit is developed with elaboration. The Medea of Apollonius is the direct precursor of the Dido of Virgil, and it is the pathos and passion of the fourth book of the “Aeneid” that keep alive many a passage of Apollonius.” R.C. Seaton. A finely bound copy from the Duke of Devonshire’s great library at Chatsworth.

BM STC Fr. C16th. p. 20. Brunet I 348 “Édition assez rare et excellente”.

L1519

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