Epistolae, et praefationes quae dicuntur.

Venice, in Academia Veneta, 1558.


FIRST EDITION. 8vo. ff. (viii) 148. Italic letter, little Roman. Finely engraved vignette to t-p. T-p and verso of last leaf slightly dusty, minor marginal spotting to first gathering and occasional browning. A very good copy in contemporary polished calf, traces of ties, single gilt ruled, gilt oval centrepiece with gilt interlacing ribbons and fleurons, spine in five compartments, each double blind ruled with large gilt fleuron, raised bands, all edges blue, rebacked, spine remounted, minor repair at corners. C19 label of P.P.C. Lammens and acquisition note (?) to front pastedown, ‘In classe Grammatices Premium Pietatis Antonio vande Eynde Lyrano’ dated 1639 and C17 autograph of Friar Anthonius van den Eynde to fep.

The inscription on the fep indicates this was a prize book for a course on Latin grammar taught in 1639; in these classes, texts like Cicero’s ‘Epistolae’ and Virgil’s ‘Bucolicae’ were usually read. It was a ‘premium pietatis’ awarded to students who had been especially devout and studious of catechism—in this case Anthonius vanden Eynde from Lier (Lyre) in Flanders. This same Anthonius probably wrote, later in life perhaps as a monk (‘frater’), his own ex-libris. Although we have not been able to confirm, he was likely related to the vanden Eyndes (also called ‘à Fine’) of Lier, several members of which had joined the Carthusian monastery of Saint Catherine in the same city. Anthonius vanden Eynde (d. 1613) was prior of the Charterhouse in 1571-96. In his ‘Motives and reasons for dissevering from the Church of Rome’ (1621, p. 12), the monk-turned-Protestant Christopher Musgrave wrote that ‘Father Anthony à Fine, who had been twenty years Prior of the Carthusian Monastery of Lyre, and died Vicar of the same House, did tell me the Womans Name (to wit, Petronilla,) which had that Child by the Prior of Martins Busse [a Flemish Carthusian monastery]’. Anthonius’s namesake nephew (c.1605-46) was a monk whilst Johannes vanden Eynde was a ‘clericus-redditus’ in the same monastery (see Delvaux, ‘Biografische nota’s over de religieuzen van de kartuize Sint-Catharina te Antwerpen en Lier’).

Very good copy of the first edition of this epistolary collection composed by Paulus Manutius. The most renowned descendant of Aldus, Paulus (1512-74) was a printer, first in Venice and then in Rome under papal patronage, and an admired humanist who produced major editions of Cicero’s works as well as treatises on Roman antiquities and fine instances of Neo-Latin literature of his own composition. ‘Epistolae’ is an exquisite example of the Renaissance epistolary genre, inspired mainly by Cicero. Manutius’s epistles, addressed to major cultural, religious and political figures of his time, touch on a variety of themes, from classical wisdom to rhetorical jeux d’esprit and Christian piety, which made them a suitable prize book for young Catholic humanists. The epistles appear to mimic the personality of the addressee. For instance, that to the humanist Annibal Caro, renowned for his classy humour, begins with a ‘Damned be the inhabitants of Forlì [where Caro was living at the time], who keep you away from me’. All addressees, whether political or religious like Francesco Gonzaga or Cardinal Ranuzio Farnese, are exalted for their ability to blend Christian and humanist virtue and scholarly knowledge. The ‘Epistolae’ also shed light onto Manutius’s everyday life in Venice; for instance, in his letter to the Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, he mentions the consequences of the plague on his printing activity and in that to Annibal Caro his intense work on the edition of Cicero. The work was printed with the financial assistance of the Accademia Veneta, which partly funded Manutius’s enterprises from 1556 to c.1560.

P.P.C. Lammens (1762-1836) was a bibliophile and the first librarian of the University of Ghent after 1817.

Renouard 317:9; BM STC It., p. 413; Brunet III, 1383.

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