DE THOU’S COPY

Denarius Pythagoricus.

Leiden, Ioannis Maire, 1631.

£2,750

FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. 112, (xii). A-O⁴, P⁶. Roman and Greek letter, some Italic. Woodcut printer’s device on title, small floriated woodcut initial, gilt oval book label of George Agar Ellis on pastedown, and of the Wigan free Public Library on fly, their blindstamp to blank margin of title, repeated on last, acquisition note dated 1901 with shelf mark on pastedown. A very good copy in contemporary polished French calf, gilt arms of de Thou and his second wife, Gasparde de la Chastre to covers, spine with raised bands, richly gilt in compartments, with their monogram ‘IAGG’, joints and head of spine a little worn, small repair to tail, all edges red.

Rare first edition of this neo-pythagorian treatise on numbers by the renowned classicist Johannes Meursius in a lovely contemporary armorial binding from the extraordinary collection of Jacques Auguste de Thou. De Thou (1553-1617), scholar and historian, the greatest French book collector of his day, of whom it was long said that a man had not seen Paris who had not seen the library of de Thou. He of course died before 1631, but his son frequently added to his father’s collection and continued to use the final form of his father’s arms on the bindings of his acquisitions.

Johanne Meurius (Van Meurs) was a Dutch classical scholar and antiquary. In 1610 he was appointed professor of Greek and history at Leiden, and in the following year historiographer to the States-General of the Netherlands. As a result of the upheavals caused by the eighty years war he accepted the offer, in 1625, of Christian IV of Denmark to become professor of history and politics at Soro, in Zealand, combined with the office of historiographer royal, in which role he produced a Latin history of Denmark (1630–38), Historia Danica.

This rare and unusual neo-pythagorian work is a short treatise on the significance of numbers. “Photius, in his Bibliotheca, has preserved to us part of a valuable work, written by Nicomachus the Pythagorean, entitled Theological Arithmetic, in which he ascribes particular epithets, and the names of various divinities to numbers, as far as to ten. There is likewise a curious work of the same title, by an anonymous writer, which is extant and only in manuscript. From these two, and from occasional passages respecting numbers according to Pythagoras, found in the Platonic writers, Meursius has composed a book, which he calls Denarius Pythagoricus and which is an invaluable treatise to such as are studious of the ancient philosophy.” Thomas Taylor. ‘The hymns of Orpheus.’

George J Agar-Ellis, First Baron Dover, (1797-1833) was a British politician and man of letters. He was elected a Fellow of both the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society in 1816. In 1824 Agar-Ellis was the leading promoter of the grant of £57,000 for the purchase of John Angerstein’s collection of pictures, which formed the foundation of the National Gallery. A very good copy with most distinguished provenance.

Caillet 7488. Not in Thorndike, Brunet, Graesse, or BM STC C17 Dutch.

L1529

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