VERY EARLY UNIVERSAL BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bibliotheca vetus et nova.
Altdorf, impensis W. Mauritii & hæredum J. A. Endterorum, typis H. Meyeri, 1678.
FIRST EDITION. Small folio in 6s. pp. (xii) 888. Roman letter, little Italic, occasional Greek. Woodcut printer’s device to t-p, woodcut initials. Typeset area browned in a few places (poor paper not properly dried), marginal spotting to last two ll., occasionally elsewhere. A very good copy in contemporary sprinkled calf, triple gilt ruled, ornate gilt monogram CJ surmounted by ducal coronet to corners, gilt armorial centrepiece of the Duc de Montausier to covers, raised bands, spine gilt with CJ monograms and gilt-lettered, a.e.r., corners worn, spine repaired at head and foot. Early ms. casemarks and ‘Portal’ to front pastedown, and verso of half-title, the odd early annotation.
Grandly bound with the arms of Charles de Sainte-Maure, Duc de Montausier (1610-90) and his wife, Julie d’Angennes (1607-71). Appointed governor of Louis XIV’s son, he oversaw the creation of the collected editions ‘ad usum Delphini’; he famously commissioned a lavishly bound manuscript collection of poems composed by renowned authors, in honour of his fiancée. First published in 1678, the ‘Bibliotheca’—a universal bio-bibliographical dictionary listing 25,000 authors, from the Creation to 1678—was compiled by Georg Mathias König (1616-99), professor of history, orientalist and librarian at Altdorf. He listed alphabetically, within a single volume, the names, short biographies and significant works of major Jewish, Chaldean, Syrian, Arabic, Persian, Egyptian, Greek and Latin authors in numerous disciplines, including theology, poetry, medicine, philosophy, history and geography. Unlike its most illustrious predecessor and the first of its genre—Gesner’s ‘Bibliotheca universalis’ (1545)—it was not circumscribed to printed material, and encompassed Arabic languages. Although entries were of varying length and quality, which caused a mixed critical reception, ‘Bibliotheca’ was one of the earliest, most portable and comprehensive biblio-biographical dictionaries yet produced. Konig presented it as an instrument to be used ‘to satisfy erudite curiosity, to provide a blueprint for the creation of private or public libraries, or to help editors choose which works to publish’ (Serrai, ‘Storia’, 18). It remained indeed a frequent presence in the libraries of major European collectors, including Richard Heber and the Earl of Sussex, well into the C19.
Serrai, Storia della bibliografia, pp.15-19; Besterman 331, 2121. Not in BL STC Ger. C17, Brunet or Graesse.