Delle guerre civili (with) Delle guerre esterne

Florence (with) Venice, Heirs of Filippo Giunta (with) Nicolò Zoppino, 1526.


8vo, 2 works in one: 1): ff. 287, (1); 2): ff. 191, (1). Italic letter; printer’s device to title 1 and at end of each work; title 2 within detailed woodcut border with mythological subjects including Apollo and Marsyas; manuscript inscription crudely washed from title 1 leaving two marginal stains, light waterstains to fore-edge in places in central and final gatherings. A very good, well margined copy in splendid Italian contemporary dark-brown morocco made in Bologna (see  M. Foot, The Henry Davis Gift, III, no. 282) and traditionally regarded as for Francis I, King of France (1515-1547); gilt interlacing borders with square knots to corners, eight small lunettes, central panel with gilt title and blind-tooled motto in oval, four flower bunches to corners, gilt nerves on spine; joints slightly cracked; all edges gauffered; label of George Dunn (1865-1912) on front pastedown.

An exquisitely bound copy of the first Italian translation of Appian’s account of Rome’s expansion and civil wars. Appian of Alexandria (c.95-165 AD) was a Greek historian as well as a renowned lawyer in Rome and administrator of the imperial province of Egypt. Only half of his 24 books on Roman history survive, the most relevant being the five volumes devoted to the Roman civil wars. These are gathered in the first book, offering an invaluable picture of the internal fights which marked the twilight of the Roman Republic, from the Gracchus Brothers’ reforms to the victory of Augustus over Marc Antony. The second book comprises Appian’s chronicle of the wars fought by the Romans against Carthage, Antioch III of Syria, Mithridates VI of Pontus and the Parthian Empire in the East, including some interesting ethnographical digressions. Alessandro Braccesi or Bracci (1445-1503) was secretary to both the Medici regime and the Republic of Florence, until Machiavelli took over his office. He published three collections of his Latin and vernacular poems, though his major effort was the translation of large part of Appian into Italian. Braccesi himself looked after the publication of the four books on the external wars in Rome in 1502 (the edition bears a Latin title). Delle guerre civili was published in 1519 by the Giunta of Florence. Ignorant of Greek, Braccesi worked on Decemberio’s Latin version of Appian. His influential translation was expanded and reprinted several times over the sixteenth century.

While the motto ‘et io del mio dolor ministro fui’ on the rear cover is drawn from Petrarch’s Trionfi, the love verses stamped on the front ‘ardo in foco d’amor lieta et contenta’ are more puzzling and not attested anywhere else. Earlier sale catalogues starting from Gancia 1868 (lot 960) connected it to the salamander shrouded in flames, symbol of the French King Francis I. Its motto, however, was ‘Nutrisco et extinguo’ or in Italian ‘Nutrisco al bono, stringo al reo’, referring to justice rather than love. Although the design resembles that of another Italian binding commissioned by Francis for his famous library in Fontainebleau (see A. Hobson, Humanist and Bookbinder, no. 144), this seems insufficient to ascribe this beautiful Italian 1520s binding to the French king in particular.

‘George Dunn (1864-1912), of Woolley Hall, Maidenhead was a keen student of palaeography and early printing (…) and it is much to be regretted that his choice and extensive library should have dispersed at auction. During a number of years he had been a generous and systematic buyer, collecting early English law books (…) medieval manuscripts (…) early-printed books (…) and lastly, early stamped bindings, which he was one of the first collectors to notice and preserve.’ S. De Ricci, English Collectors, pp. 182-183.

1) Not in Adams or Graesse. BM STC It., 35; Brunet, I, 358.

2) Not in Adams or BM STC It.  Brunet, I, 358 ; Graesse, I, 169.


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