SEVEN OF CICERO’S PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAYS
Secundo volumine haec continentur, de natura Deorum libri III.
Venice, Aldus and Andrea Torresani, 1523.
8vo, ff. 214, (2). Roman and Italic letter, Aldine device on title and verso of last, a couple of little splashes at head of first few leaves. A good clean and well-margined copy in contemporary russet deerskin, remains of clasps, boards blind-tooled with border of repeated initial ‘A’s, urns, triple-ruled frames and florets to corners, a central elaborate floral panel typical of Lower-German bindings in the first quarter of sixteenth-century (Foot, A Collection of Bookbindings, II, nos 325, 329 (an Aldine), 332); cords exposed on spine, leather partially torn away at tail, compartments ruled and roll-stamped to pattern as covers, gauffered edges gilt. On pastedown and title, ex libris of George Vasbachs, presumably the founder of the family chapel in Kirchhundem in 1667; sixteenth-century inscription of Arnold von Vitringen beneath; contemporary inked over ex libris of Joannis Georgii V? beside device.
FIRST ALDINE EDITION edited by Gian Francesco Torresani and containing seven of Cicero’s philosophical and political works, many of which survive only in part and whose missing fragments are designated multa desunt throughout: “On the Nature of the Gods”, “On Divination”, “On Destiny”, the six surviving books of “The Dream of Scipio”, the famous dialogue “On the Laws”, a commentary on Plato’s Timaeus, and a treatise “On Running for Consul”. The first two works were hugely influential from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment – Voltaire regarded De Natura Deorum as ‘the best book of all antiquity’ – offering detailed accounts of Epicurian, Stoic, Academic and Sceptical philosophies, as well as a critical approach to types of divination common in pagan theology. A continued discussion of omens, lots, dreams, and divination in De Divinatione influenced the writings of sceptics into the 18th century.
The sixth book of Cicero’s De re publica, also known as Somnium Scipionis, offers a comprehensive view of Roman cosmology in the form of a dream vision. In it, Scipio is visited by his dead grandfather and shown the heavens, the Milky Way, the earth’s atmosphere, and its insignificant size in comparison to the rest of the universe. It is the earliest known mention of the Wheel of Fortune (rota fortunae), which along with the planetary spheres enjoyed such popularity throughout the middle ages and gave rise to many beautiful illustrations. De Legibus was written in the final years of the Republic before Caesar assumed power, and discusses the foundations of Natural Law. The concluding treatise advises electioneering for Counsulship, and claims to be written for Marcus Tullius Cicero by his brother, Quintus, but its authenticity is contested.
‘Ces deux volumes complètent l’ancien Cicéron donné avant Paul Manuce, soit qu’on veuille le former absolument des premières éditiones, soit qu’on y admette les secondes ou les troisièmes, données justqu’en 1522. Au reste, toutes sont tellement rares, que l’on n’a guère la faculté de choisir, et qu’il faut prendre celles qu’on recontre, si l’on veut parvenir á se complèter mème dans le cours de beaucoup d’années: d’ailleurs leur réunion ne forme nullement disparate.’ Renouard, Annales des Alde, p. 97.
BM STC It p. 175; Adams, C 1741 (Vol I. only); Brunet, II, 15; Thorndike, VI, 503; Renouard, 97:5.