INCUNABLE ANTHOLOGIES IN WELL-PRESERVED RENAISSANCE BINDING
Justini historici clarissimi in Trogi Pompeji historias exordium.
Venice, Filippo di Pietro, 12 Dec 1479
Noctium Atticarum comentarii.
Venice, Bernardus de Choris, de Cremona and Simone de Leuro, 13th August 1489.
Two works in one. Folio, 110 unnumbered leaves. I) a-c8, d6, e-2l8, m6, n10. II) ff. (v) 131 (i), last blank. Roman letter. Capital spaces and guide letters. Very occasional marginal thumb mark, single round worm hole to final gatherings of second work, these also a bit age browned. A well-margined, clean, very good copy on thick paper in contemporary Venetian maroon morocco over thick wooden boards, covers with elegant and intricate knotwork tools within a double frame of knotwork rolltools, and triple fillets, spine in four compartments hatched in blind. A very elegant binding, lacking central bosses and four ties (original eight star head studs present on upper cover, missing on lower), a few small wormholes to covers, spine neatly repaired in places at head, foot and joints, generally very good. Occasional early marginalia in a neat and attractive humanist hand.
A very clean and wide-margined copy of two Venetian incunables in a strictly contemporary and very attractive Renaissance binding. Justinus was a second century Roman historian. This, his most notable work, he describes as a collection of the most interesting and important passages from Pompeius Trogus’ ‘Historiae philippicae et totius mundi origina et terrae situs’, written in the time of Augustus and now lost. This was a general history of those parts of the world that had come under the auspices of Alexander the Great, and takes as its main theme the Macedonian Empire founded by his father Philip. The last event it records (in Justinius’ version) is in 20 B.C. Through his frequent digressions, Justinus here produces not an epitome but rather a useful and sometimes elegant anthology based on the work. It was very popular in the Middle Ages, when the author was frequently confused with Justin Martyr.
The Noctes Atticae consists of a miscellaneous anthology on various topics, including philosophy, law, literature, grammar, and history. Gellius (c. 125 – c. 180) wrote the book for the education of his children during his winter nights in Attica, and the work proved very popular into and throughout the Middle Ages. It grew out of a commonplace book that Gellius kept, in which he recorded items of unusual interest that he heard in conversation or read about. The book deliberately has no specific structure, and of the twenty books only 19 have come down to us – the 8th is known only through its index. Gellius’ extensive quotations from Greek and Latin authors, many of whose works have not survived, established the book as a valuable source of fragments of writings otherwise entirely lost.
Although elements of the binding’s decoration are common to several printing centres in Italy at this time, they bear a strong resemblance to a number of covers known to have been produced in Venice, in particular to de Marinis’ no. 1532 in volume II of his ‘Legatura Artistica in Italia.’ The details point to the assimilation of Eastern design in Italian bookbinding, especially through the Byzantine/ Ottoman nature of the central knotwork tools. Original versions must have been very grand, as evidenced by elegant and arabesque embossing in the corners and centre of the covers. The patterns are likely to have been covered in bronze or silver; the remaining studs holding the ties are in bronze. The binding is an elegant example of Renaissance bookbinding craftsmanship and editions in this condition are invariably rare.
1) BMC V, 221; HC 9651; Goff J-618.
2) BMC V, 464; HC 7522; Klebs 442.6; Goff G-123.