LATIN GRAMMAR FOR A RENAISSANCE AUDIENCE

Cornucopiae, siue linguae Latinae commentarij diligentissimé recogniti.

Venice, Aldi et Andrea Soceri, November 1513 [but May 1517].

£3,950

Folio. ff. 79 (i), 1,436 columns, ff.(i). π-10π8, a-z8, A-Y8. Italic letter in double column. Aldine device on title, capital spaces with guide letters. Two leaves of quire slightly oxidized browned, couple of tiny single worm holes on first few leaves and at end, title a little thumbed in lower outer blank corner of table, the odd minor marginal mark. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in contemporary vellum over boards, title manuscript on spine.

An excellent copy of the second Aldine edition of this monumental collection of grammars, including one of the most important Renaissance Latin dictionaries by Niccolo Perroto, together with three influential classical grammars by Varro, Festus and Nonius Marcellus, dedicated to the condottiere Federico da Montefeltro of Urbino. Although the date 1513 is shown on the final colophon as if it was the second Aldine edition, this is in reality a reprint carried out in May 1517, as the colophon at the end of Perotti’s work indicates (col 1064 [i.e. 1054]). The largest section of the book is taken up by Perroti’s Cornucopia. Written as a commentary on book I of Martial and de-constructing its every sentence, Cornucopia became a standard reference work on the Latin language. “A massive encyclopedia of the classical world. Every verse, indeed every word of Martial’s text was a hook on which Perotti hung a densely woven tissue of linguistic, historical and cultural knowledge” Brian Ogilvie, ‘The Science of Describing: Natural History in Renaissance Europe.’

The work was revised and expanded by Perotto’s son Pyrrhus and the first edition was published in Venice in 1489 with the first Aldine appearing in 1499. The text was carefully numbered by page and by line helping to key the index precisely and thus introducing a modern scholarly system of reference. Niccolò Perotto (1429-1480) was an Italian cleric and humanist, who was born and died in Sassoferrato. From 1451 to 1453 he taught rhetoric and poetry at the University of Bologna. In 1452 he was acknowledged as Poet Laureate by the Emperor Frederick III during his welcome speech upon his arrival in the city. He was the papal secretary from 1455 and archbishop of Siponto in 1458. Although his later career was as a papal governor, he continued his scholarly pursuits, editing the works of the Roman writers Pliny and Martial. Apart from Cornucopia, he wrote a Latin school grammar, Rudimenta Grammatices (Pannartz and Sweynheim 1473), one of the earliest and most popular Renaissance Latin grammars, which attempted to modernize the language by excluding many words and constructions of medieval origin.

The Cornucopia is bound together with the three most important classical texts on the grammar and etymology of the Latin language. Firstly, “Varro’s treatise is the earliest extant work on Grammar. This great work which was finished before Cicero’s death in 43 BC, owes much to the Stoic teaching of Aelius Stilo. … The first three of the surviving books are on Etymology, book V being on names of places, VI on terms denoting time and VII on poetic expressions.” Sandys I, p. 179. Second is Sextus Pompeius Festus’ epitome in 21 books of the encyclopaedic treatise ‘De verborum significatione’ of Valerius Flaccus. Festus gives the etymology and the meaning of many words, throwing considerable light on the Latin language, mythology and antiquities of ancient Rome. The work ends with Nonius Marcellus’ Compendia. A lovely, fresh copy of these important texts.

BM STC. It. C16th p. 499. Adams P720. Renouard 63.6.

L1543

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