A HISTORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE IN PRINCEPS EDITION

Φλαβιου Ἰωσηπου Ἰουδαικης ἀρχαιολογιας λογοι κ. Ἰουδαικης ἁλωσεως λογοι ζ. Περι ἀρχαιοτητος Ἰονδαιων κατα Ἀπιωνος λογοι β. Εἰς τους Μακκαβαιους λογος, ἠ περι αὐτοκρατορος λογισμον… Opera.

Basle, H. Froben, 1544.

£8,500

EDITIO PRINCEPS. pp. (xii) 967 (i). *6, a-z6, A-Z6, 2a-2h6, 2i4, 2k-2z6, 2A-2M6. Greek letter, preface in Roman. Title page in red and black, Froben’s large woodcut device in red, fine large historiated woodcut initial and white on black and strapwork headpieces, capital spaces with guide letters, manuscript ex-libris “Beatae Maria de Brolio Catalogus Inscriptus” in later hand, c. 1700, at blank upper margin of title page, faded, another inscription in lower blank margin, almost completely faded, substantial neat scholarly marginal annotations throughout in both Greek and Latin, with some underlinings, in an early hand. Occasional very minor marginal thumb mark, small tear restored in lower outer corner of a1, just touching text, no letters affected. A very good copy, with wide clean margins, crisp and clean, in late C19th vellum over boards, spine with four thick raised bands, title gilt in compartment, in folding box.

An excellent copy of the important Editio Princeps of Josephus’ works, edited by A.P. Arlenius and S. Gelenius, which served as the basis for all later editions of the Greek text until the end of the nineteenth century. Josephus Flavius, the ancient Jewish writer of first century Palestine, wrote a number of historical, apologetical and autobiographical works which together comprise a major part of Hellenistic Jewish literature. The original Aramaic version of his first work, the Bellum Judaicum, or The Jewish War, has been lost. However, the Greek version, and the rest of his works written in Greek during his Roman exile after the destruction of Jerusalem, were preserved by the Church, because of their general importance for the history of Palestine in the early Christian period and for the curious Testimonium Flavianum to the founder of Christianity contained in the Jewish Antiquities.

Josephus’ writings are the only contemporaneous historical accounts that link the secular world of Rome and the religious heritage of the Bible. His greatest work is his Antiquitates Judaicae (The Antiquities of the Jews) in which he recounts the history of the Jews from creation up until the revolt of AD 66-70. It contains contemporary references to Jesus, James (the ‘brother’ of Jesus), John the Baptist, Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, Agrippa I and Agrippa II, as well as the Sadducees, the Pharisees and the Zealots. His Bellum Judaicum (History of the Jewish War) gives a detailed account of the revolt of AD 66-70 and includes Josephus’ famous description of the siege of Jerusalem. “The Jewish War not only is the principal source for the Jewish revolt but is especially valuable for its description of Roman military tactics and strategy” (Britannica).

“Josephus gives as his reason for writing this history the contradictory reports circulated either to flatter the Romans or to disparage the Jews (ib.§ 1). He himself pretends not to have flattered the Romans, though he is distinctly partial to them. He emphasizes his exactness (e.g., “Vita,” § 4); but his claim thereto is justified only when he states bare facts. He writes partly as an eye-witness and partly from reports obtained from eye-witnesses (“Contra Ap.” i. § 9); and he had already begun to make notes during the siege of Jerusalem. Both Vespasian and Titus, to whom the work was submitted, praised his accuracy.” Jewish Encyclopedia.

“[Froben’s press] is remarkable for the number and importance of its productions, as well as for excellence of workmanship. In his desire for accuracy Froben surrounded himself with a number of scholars to whom he deputed the work of editing and correcting. Chief among these was Erasmus, who, after visiting him on several occasions, in 1521 permanently took up his residence with the printer and gave fresh impetus to the press” (The Printed Book by Harry G. Aldis). Arlenius of Brabant was a pupil of Gyraldus and also produced the first Greek edition of Lycophron as well as an important edition of Polybius. In 1542 he travelled to Venice, where he became librarian to the Spanish ambassador, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, cataloguing Mendoza’s collection of Greek manuscripts, from whose library he obtained the manuscript to produce this edition. This work is dedicated to Mendoza. The beauty of Froben’s printing, typography and layout does justice to the importance of the text; a very handsome copy of this seminal work.

BM STC Ger. C16th p. 463. Adams J352. Graesse II, 480. Brunet III, 569 “assez rare.” Dibdin II,130 “beautiful and rare.” Hardwood 76 “it is one of the noblest and most venerable old books I ever saw.”

L1291

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