DAZZLING ARMORIAL BINDING
EUCLID. Elementorum libri XV.
Pesaro, Camillo Franceschini, 1572. [with]
ARCHIMEDES. Opera non nulla. [and] Commentari.
Venice, Paolo Manuzio, 1558.
FIRST EDITIONS. Folio. Three works in one, ff. (xii) 255 (iv) 55 (ii) 63 (i), first lacking last blank, separate t-p to each. Roman and Italic letter, pages double-ruled in red. First t-p within architectural border t-p, allegorical figures, grotesques, cornucopiae and small geometrical diagrams; second and third with printer’s device to last; hundreds of fine geometrical diagrams; decorated initials. Occasional light yellowing, first t-p with odd marginal thumb mark, light marginal water stains to second t-p and a few ll. where annotations were washed, a few marginal tears without loss, old repairs to 3 ll. and one outer margin of final ll. of first work. Very good, well-margined copies in superb C17 French brown goatskin, gilt to a single- and double-ruled panel design, centre panel with gilt arms of Louis Bizeau surmounted by a plumed helmet, gilt monogram LB to corners, gilt roll of lozenges and circles to edges, all edges gilt and marbled. Spine triple gilt ruled in seven compartments, six with monogram LB, one with gilt lettering, floral scrolls with dentelles at head and foot, raised bands gilt to a roll of interlacing circles. Early casemark ‘FF. 8. 31.’ and armorial bookplate of Viscount Bruce of Ampthill and Baron Bruce of Whorleton, ‘Robert Bruce
1729’ to ffep, a few washed-out early marginalia. In modern slip box.
The superb binding bears the monogram and arms (a fess, two stars in chief, a crescent in point) of Louis Bizeau (fl. first half of C17), a prominent bibliophile of whom little is known (Olivier, ‘Manuel de l’amateur de reliures’, V, pl. 486). Some of his bindings c.1645-50 have been linked to the same workshop as worked for Dominique Séguier (Quaritch, ‘Examples of the Art of Book-Binding’, 108-9). His books, like this, had ruled pages, gilt edges and marbled pastedowns.
Excellent, well-margined copies, in fine impression, of Francesco Commandino’s Latin translations of Euclid’s ‘Elements’ and Archimedes’s ‘opera omnia’, with Commandino’s commentary, the last two issued together. These texts provided the foundations of modern mathematics and physics. Commandino (1509-75) was a humanist from Urbino renowned for his translations of the ancient Greek mathematicians including Aristarchus of Samos and Pappus of Alexandria. Several of his Latin renditions of Greek mathematical terms, for which he relied on previous adaptations by Roman authors like Cicero and Vitruvius, became the standard. Euclid (4 th century BC) was the first to reunite mathematical findings from the ancient world into a coherent, bi-dimensional system centred on simple axioms of plane geometry, based on angles and distance, from which further propositions (or theorems) could be deduced. His ‘Elements’ began with the crucial definition of ‘point’, ‘that which has no part nor size’ and which is only determined by two numbers defining its position in space—the fundamental notion on which the Euclidean geometrical system is based. Archimedes (287-12BC) was a mathematician, inventor, astronomer and engineer from Syracuse. The ‘Opera non nulla’ includes all his recorded writings, except for the treatise on floating bodies and that on the method of mechanical theorems, which was discovered later. This edition—the sole Aldine of Archimedes’s works—illustrates superbly his theorems on the area of circles, parabolae, spirals, spheres and cones, concluding with the famous ‘De arenae numero’, a calculation of the amount of sand grains needed to fill the universe. It is followed by Commandino’s commentary on Archimedes’s works, where geometrical diagrams are substituted by numerical calculations.
Charles Bruce (1682-1747), Earl of Ailesbury, Viscount Bruce of Ampthill and Baron Bruce of Whorleton, was a keen book collector. A catalogue of his vast library, comprising over 8,000 volumes, at Tottenham in Wiltshire, was printed in 1733—the second earliest catalogue of an English private library ever published (Pollard & Ehrman, 274-75), this copy being n.17, p.83. The library was eventually sold at Sotheby’s in 1919. His first-born, who died in 1738 before succeeding his father, is probably the Robert Bruce who signed the copy in 1729.
I) USTC 828478; BM STC It., p. 238; Brunet II, 1088: ‘édition bonne de cette traduction estimée’ ; Riccardi I, 362; Mortimer, Harvard Italian, 174; Thomas-Stanford, 18.
II) USTC 810251; BM STC It., p. 36; Rénouard 173:3; Riccardi I, 42: ‘bella edizione, assai poco comune’; Brunet I, 344: ‘peu commune’.