ROMAN HISTORY BY A CLASSICAL SCHOLAR OF RENAISSANCE ITALY
Historiarum ab Urbe Condita [with] Scholia.
Venice, Paulus Manutius, 1555.
FIRST EDITION thus. Folio, ff. (iv) 478 + 98 (xl). Two parts in one, separate title page to each. Roman letter, index and epitomes in Italic, large historiated initials. Printer’s anchor and dolphin device within oval frame of fruits and leaves on both title pages, autograph of Hieronymus Comes, Abbot of St. Gregory’s 7th March 1558 beneath each, autograph of Gilbert Boucher (1800) on first. Light mostly marginal water staining to final gathering, a few minor marginal marks, a good copy in contemporary vellum over boards, a little worn, upper joint cracked at head and tail.
First edition of Sigonius’ classic and handsome edition of Livy’s monumental history of Rome and the first edition of his Scholia. Livy’s history begins with the landing of Aeneas in Italy and ends with the death of Drusus in 9 BC though it was probably intended to continue to the death of Augustus. Of the original 142 books, only 35 have come down to us, and of these two are incomplete. Nevertheless Livy remains the first authority for the history of ancient and Republican Rome down to the conquest of Macedonia in 167 BC. It is a state history, military and political, arranged strictly chronologically, recounting all the major events with accounts of their principal participants.
Inevitably, given the extent of the ground covered there is little philosophical reflection, but the work is saved from being a dry recitation of fact by the author’s considerable literary talents. Livy’s elegant Latin, masterly portraits of great men, impressive speeches and skilful depiction of the play of emotion made him a favourite with Roman readers equalled only by Cicero and Virgil. His history, the greatest narrative history of antiquity, provided the groundwork of almost everything subsequently written on the subject and constituted a textbook for schoolboys from his day to modern times.
Sigonius’ edition is the first in which scholarly criticism is applied to the chronology of Roman history and was the best and most accurate of the day. Sigonius (1524-1584) was professor of literature in Venice and produced a number of works for the Aldine press. He then became the most important classical scholar in Italy, probably rivalled only by Scaliger. Doubtless because of its size and consequent cost this edition is rare, and was almost impossible to find in good condition, even by the mid C19.
“Belle édition bien imprimée, sur bon papier, et peut-être de toutes celles de cet histoire, la plus amie de l’oeil et la plus facile à lire…celle-ci, de 1555, est fort rare et ne se trouve presque jamais qu’en très mauvaise condition:” Renouard 166:15. BM STC It. p.390. Brunet III 1106 “Pour la beauté des caractères autant que pour celle de tirage et du papier, cette edition est bien préférable aux différentes réimpressions plus ou moins mesquines qu’en ont données les Alde… elle est d’ailleurs devenue rare, surtout en bonne conservation.”