THE FERRARI – ROVIDA ANNOTATED COPY
De animalibus et alia.
Venice, Aldus, 1497 or 1498.
EDITIO PRINCEPS. Folio, ff. 457 (i.e. 458), (9), aaαα-&&ωω10, AA-ΠΠ10, PP10+1, ΣΣΦΦ10, XX8,*8, lacking blank XX8. Greek, little Roman in preliminaries; large decorated initials; recto of first leaf lightly soiled, old oil stain to gutters at head; tear from blank lower corner at 152, small tear at foot of 364; marginal damp stains, small central oil splash over final gathering. A good, well-margined copy in early plain goatskin, vellum spine superimposed; chipped corner and front joint lightly cracked; a bit worn. Extensive scholarly Greek and Latin annotations by Ottaviano Ferrari (1518-1586), his autograph at head of title, and occasionally a slightly earlier Italian hand; with the supplemental gathering added, printed later and often missing, densely annotated by a knowledgeable late sixteenth-century Italian philologist; Ferrari’s autograph on title, early shelfmark and late sixteenth-century owner’s annotation confirming the notes were by Ferrari and the volume was purchased from Cesare Rovida’s heirs; later table of contents on front fly verso; bibliographical inscriptions (inaccurate) on front pastedown.
The third volume from a series of five comprising the celebrated collected edition of Aristotle published by Aldus Manutius between 1495 and 1498. The first two sets of Aldine Greek Type 1 cut by Francesco Griffo appeared in this edition. This tome comprises nineteen treatises of Aristotle, manly focused on animals, plus five commentaries by his pupil Theophrastus on fish, dizziness, tiredness, smell and sweat. Arguably, no other thinker in history has been more influential than Aristotle. His detailed and comprehensive studies in zoology, forming about a quarter of his surviving works, provided the most complete account on the animal world until the sixteenth century and, in many respects, up to the Enlightenment.
This copy extraordinarily retains the original strip pasted by Aldus at foot of f. 100v (kkxv) to supply a missing line, like the copy of George III in BL and very few others. The colophon also bears the corrected variant οἰκίᾳ in place of οἰκείᾳ, as in BL Cracherode copy. Gathering *8, originally missing in many copies of the edition, was integrated here by a scrupulous later owner. It consists of a fragment from the tenth book of the History of Animals, which was added by Aldus at the very last moment, so it was not included in earlier press run.
The present copy is entirely annotated, mostly by the Milanese scholar Ottaviano Ferrari (1518 -1586). Ferrari read humanities at the Canobian schools in Milan and, for a short time, taught logic at the University of Pavia. He was a close friend of Giulio Poggiani, Jacopo Bonfadio and Aldus’s son, Paolo Manuzio. De disciplina Encyclio was his most appreciated work, published in 1560 by the Aldine press under Paolo’s management. It was a valuable introduction to Aristotelian philosophy. His important Greek manuscripts which he carefully collected are mostly in the Ambrosiana Library of Milan.
As a proof of his respect for Aristotle’s teachings, his medallion portrait (about 1560) shows the Greek philosopher on its verso. Ferrari declared himself as a passionate student of medicine too, an interest which was certainly the reason for him to dwell so much on this mainly naturalistic book within the Aristotelian corpus. His annotations are dense and incredibly learned. He went over and over the volume, using three different inks and writing sometimes quick and large, sometimes minute and precise. Yet, the habit of recording in the margins and over the lines the internal page numbers treating of similar subjects remains consistent over the years of his intensive study.
Along with etymological notes on animals’ names, Ferrari made continuous reference to major and minor works by Aristotle, their Greek and Arabic commentaries, as well as an impressive list of authorities, such as Plato, Herodotus, Plutarch, Aratus, Hippocrates and Galen, Pliny, Varro, Lucretius, Cicero, Vitruvius and even Thomas Aquinas and Albert Magnus. Nor are absent mentions of early modern scholars, like Joseph Scaliger, Denis Lambin, Lodovico de Varthema, Robert Estienne, Ippolito Salviani, Pierre Belon, Piero Vettori, Bessarion and Niccolò Leoniceno. Here and there, one can find quotations from Theodorus Gaza’s Latin translation of these zoological treatises; finally, there are occasional textual emendations (for instance, f. 164r), referring to a manuscript owned by Ferrari and another by Giovanni Battista Rasario (1517-1578), a renowned Aristotelian commentator and professor of Greek in Padua and Venice.
Upon Ferrari’s death, this copy was acquired by Cesare Rovida (c.1559-1591/4), remarkably as one of his many Greek manuscripts. A pupil of Ferrari, Rovida was a bibliophile and professor of medicine in Pavia. He also commented on Aristotle and Ptolomeus, though he failed to publish his works. Because of their extraordinary value, the Ferrari-Rovida codices were purchased by Cardinal Federico Borromeo in 1606 and became one of the founding nuclei of the Ambrosiana Library (see, for instance, MS H 50 sup., with De anima and ancient commentaries, as described in Martini-Bassi, n. 435). Yet, this interesting Aldine copy of Aristotle’s naturalistic treatises has followed a different path. As we learn from the lower inscription on the title, it was sold by Rovida’s heirs to another Italian collector, who checked and certified that the annotations were truly by Ferrari.
The annotations over the tenth book of History of animals in the last gathering are also very interesting. They record numerous textual variations and commented on early authorities mentioning the text (now thought to be a spurious later addition). They were written in a very neat hand by a late sixteenth-century Italian scholar in Latin, Greek and Italian. It is a pity they were not signed. On verso of the last leaf, the annotator reported the abbreviations of the many codices he used in his philological work. One of them is said to be formerly owned by Christophe de Longeuil (died in 1522) and then Lazzaro Bonamico (died in 1552). Only few Aristotelian students, for example of the calibre of Piero Vettori (1499-1585), were able to display such knowledge and elegant handwriting in their marginalia.
BMC V 555-556; BSB-Ink, A 698; GW 2334; Goff, A 959; IGI 791; Hain *1657; Renouard, 11.2.