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Ποιησεις Ομηρου […] Opus utrumque Homeri Iliados et Odysseae.

Basel, per Ioan. Hervagium, 1551.


Small folio. 2 parts in 1, separate t-ps, pp. (xx) 394 [i.e., 410] (ii), 314 (ii). Greek letter, occasional Roman, mostly double column. Woodcut printer’s device to t-ps and versos of last, additional engraved portrait of J. Camerarius by P. Galle (late C16) mounted on ffep decorated initials. A handful of gatherings lightly browned, slight marginal foxing, light water stain to upper outer blank corner, another to lower outer blank corner of second half, small ink splash to outer blank margin of e 6 , edges slightly trimmed touching a few marginalia. A good copy in C18 sheep, modern reback, boards worn with some loss. C19 booklabel of John McAllister, C18 bookplate of Bell’s Circulating Library and modern auction record to front pastedown, intermittent C16 Greek and Latin marginalia in red or black ink, ex-libris of Jacob Feilitscher, Jenensis, 1554, and C16 inscription on Greek language to second t-p.

Annotated copy, extra-illustrated with a handsome author’s portrait by P. Galle, of the Greek text of Homer’s ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’. It sought to improve on the Hervagius edition of 1535, which had a critical apparatus based on the ‘scholia’ of Didymus of Alexandria (now believed to date much later). The German humanists Joachim Camerarius (1500-74) and Jakob Micyllus (1503-58), also the authors of Homeric commentaries, revised the 1541 edition and added further material to the Greek-only ‘scholia’ surrounding the text.

This copy sheds light on the teaching of Greek at Jena in the mid-C16. The annotator was Jacob Feilitzscher, registered as a student at the Protestant Academy of Jena (from 1558, a university) in 1548, the year of its foundation (‘Matrikel’, 99). In 1554, he was studying Greek under the Lutheran humanist and former student of Melanchthon, Michael Neander (1529-81), who, after moving from Wittenberg, taught Greek and mathematics at Jena in 1551-72. Neander compiled a ‘Gnomologia Graecolatina’, a collection of ‘sententiae’ in Latin and Greek by major classical authors. Feilitzscher noted a quotation by Neander on the ‘Odyssey’ t-p, on Homer’s use of the Ionic dialect. In the notes, philology is preeminent, with attention to variants, some not listed in the surrounding commentary, as well as Greek synonyms or Latin translations. Feilitzscher noted rhetorical figures (e.g., ‘hysteron proteron’), classical quotations by Ovid, Virgil and Quintilian. In Book 2 of the ‘Iliad’, he glossed ‘the same with the civil wars in Germany’. He also highlighted and annotated scenes with ‘THERSITES’, as well as references to Aristotle’s discussion of Homer in his ‘Poetics’, and to Virgil. In Book 3, he highlighted Hector’s berating of Paris as ‘mad after women’, a ‘beguiler’ who ‘should never have been born’, and added numerous glosses to the subsequent section on the preparation for the battle, Priam’s dialogue with Helen and her dialogue with Paris after his return from the battle. On the passage describing Helen’s appearance on the walls of Troy, he glossed ‘fair among women’ with ‘Maria’, a reference to the Virgin Mary. In Book 4, he highlighted, with an observation on the Homeric relation between human faults and the gods’ will, Athena’s trick on the Trojan Pandarus, as she convinces him to shoot an arrow against Menelaus and thus undo the truce. Feilitzscher added one gloss to the ‘Odyssey’, underlining what Homer presented as the best treatment of guests and strangers, in Book 15.

In the C18, this copy was among the books available at Bell’s Circulating Library, near St Paul’s Church, one of several which rented out books to readers who could not afford to purchase them or to subscribe to a normal library. Whilst most circulating libraries were devoted to fiction and sensationalist novels, some also sold more scientific and scholarly books. Bell advertised that he ‘gives ready money for new and old books’.

In the early C19, this copy was in Philadelphia, in the library of John McAllister Jr. (1786-1877), owner of a renowned firm of optical equipment, and married to Eliza Young, the daughter of the noted printer and bookseller William Young. After his retirement in 1835, McAllister turned into a keen collector of books and mss., assembling a library ‘rich in works of all kinds’ (Watson’s ‘Annals’, 1905 ed.). The library was divided among his children; his son, John Allister, left his portion, increased with further purchases, to the Library Company. ‘The John A. McAllister Collection held by the Library Company has many thousands of items encompassing some of the same classifications as his father’s collection, but few with a provenance to connect them to John McAllister Jr. and his famous library’ (‘The John A. McAllister Collection’, The Library Company). This copy bears John Jr’s bookplate.

Hoffman II, 316; Brunet III, 271; Dibdin II, 50 (footnote). Die Matrikel der Universität Jena. Band I (1944); ‘Michael Neander’, Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie 23 (1886), S.340.