Paris, Henry Estienne, 1554.


FIRST EDITION. 4to, pp. [8], 110, [2], without last blank. Greek and Roman letter; printer’s device on title, elegant floriated initials and tail-pieces; title page slightly detaching, a few leaves lightly aged browned in central gathering, last two leaves a little dusty at head. A good, wide-margined copy in seventeenth-century French mottled calf, spine with gilt floral compartments; front cover very lightly rubbed, joints cracked, spine slightly chipped at head and tail; shelfmark and inscription of ‘Coll[egium] Olom[ucensis] Soc[ieta]tis Jesu’, dated 1604, on title, earlier shlefmark by similar hand crossed out at head ‘In l[ite]ra A Inscrip. Catal.’

Elegant editio princeps of Greek odes in the style of Anacreon and the first work published by Henri Estienne the younger. Anacreon (c.560-475 BC) was one of the most powerful and influential amongst the nine lyric poets of Ancient Greece as well as ‘l’un des plus célèbre “Biberons” de l’antiquité’ (Simoni, II, p. 10). Born in a Greek city of Asia Minor, Anacreon went performing his poetry to Samos and later to Hipparchus’s Athens, achieving great fame. Alongside love and beauty, his favourite subject encompasses wine-drinking in social contexts, from private parties to festivals and wild revelries. This is a collection of odes very convincingly imitating Anacreon’s style and distinctive metre, which was probably written before the sixth century AD, but was regarded for a long time as original. Scion of the illustrious printers’ dynasty, Henri Estienne (1528-1598) was a talented Greek scholar educated in Paris with Pierre Danes and Adriane Turnèbe; he published and edited all major Greek authors and a ground-breaking dictionary entitled Thesaurus linguae graecae (1572). He appears to have borrowed the only manuscript witness of these Anacreontic Odes from an English Catholic settled in Leuven. However, in his edition, Estienne omitted the initial poem which hints toward the fact that the collection is a literary homage to Anacreon and not one of his genuine works.

This book was part of the library of the Jesuit College of Olomouc, the oldest university in Moravia. This Catholic institution was established by Emperor Maximillian II in 1573 in order to contrast the influence of Protestant and Hussite communities, which were largely prevailing in the area and had taken control over the university of Prague.

Not in Oberlé. BM STC Fr., 16; Adams, A 1001; Brunet, I, 250 (‘aussi belle que rare); Graesse, I, 110; Renouard, 115:1; Schreiber, 139; Simon, II, 46.



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