Opera quae extant omnia.

[Geneva], Henri Estienne, 1578.


FIRST COMPLETE EDITION, folio, 3 vols., pp (xxxvi) 542 : (viii) 992 : (viii) 416, 139 (i). Greek and Roman letter, double column, smaller printed side notes. Printer’s woodcut device within ornate woodcut border on first title, grotesque woodcut ornaments on others, fine large floriated and grotesque woodcut initials, head and tail pieces, early mss. shelf mark on pastedown of all three vols. Light age yellowing, occasional light browning, with some minor spotting, small loss to blank outer margins, restored at an early date, from quires 5V to the end in notes and index of the third vol, with some heavier water-staining and spotting. Generally good, clean, copies in handsome late C18th calf, covers bordered with a gilt scroll, ‘lyre’ fleurons gilt at corners, spine gilt in compartments with triple gilt scrolls, gilt lettered, with blind rose fleurons, marbled endpapers, a.e.r.

The ‘Celebrated and magnificent’ (Dibdin) first complete edition of the first published and probably foremost work of philosophy of the ancient world, ‘it has been truly said that the germs of all ideas can be found in Plato’ P.M.M. cit inf. It was also by far the best edition until modern times as well as the first edition of the translation of Jean de Serres and of many of the glosses and scholia. All subsequent editions in fact derive from it. By Renaissance standards Plato was a best seller: his two dominant themes, the quest for the truth and for human improvement held enormous appeal for the nearly modern mind. This edition was also responsible, with the Thesaurus Grecae, for its editor’s Henri Estienne’s reputation as one of the great literary and scholarly figures of the C16 – the preparation of the Greek text for which this edition is above all valued was entirely his work. This copy is complete with the dedications to Elizabeth I, James VI  and the Canton of Berne – their absence is the works most common defect.

“For two centuries [Estienne’s edition] remained the indispensable instrument of Platonic studies: to this day its pagination is universally accepted as the standard system of reference to the text of Plato…. For the translation Estienne discarded the old standard Latin version by Fincino, and commissioned an entirely new one by John de Serres… Of all Henri Estienne’s publications the Plato is perhaps the most lavishly decorated… it is the only publication in which Estienne used his entire series of decorative headpieces, numerous woodcut initials, culs-de-lampe, and a striking elaborate title-device specially designed for this edition and making its only appearance here…” Schreiber.

Renouard 145:1, ‘cette édition a toujours été en grande estime…les beaux exemplaires sont rares.’ Brunet IV 695 ‘Belle édition, plus recherchée pour son texte et pour les notes de H. Estienne…les exemplaires…se rencontrent difficilement bien conservés.’ Dibdin II ‘This work has long been considered as a very valuable acquisition to the libraries of the learned, and for its its magnificence and variety of critical material must be always held in estimation.’ Printing and The Mind of Man 27 (1st edn.). Schreiber 201. Adams P 1468


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