HANDSOME GREEK ESTIENNE
Sophokleous ai epta tragoediae. Sophoclis tragoediae septem.
[Geneva, Henri Estienne,] 1568.
Tall 8vo. 2 parts in 1, pp. (viii) 461 (i) 142 [i.e., 242] (ii). First part in Greek letter, in two sizes, second in Roman, little Greek. Woodcut printer’s device to t-p, decorated initials and ornaments. T-p a little dusty, minor soiling to outer margin, occasional very slight foxing towards outer edges, small, faint water stain to lower blank margin of few gatherings, three tiny worm holes to couple of ll. touching the odd letter. A very good, clean copy in C18 English tree calf, marbled eps, single gilt ruled, raised bands, spine gilt, contrasting morocco labels, spine a little rubbed with minor loss at head, corners a bit bumped, late C18 armorial bookplate of F.W. Brydges to front pastedown, another earlier C18 of ‘R.H. [Robert Holbyn] C.C.C. Oxon. Comm.’ to t-p verso, *ii initialled R.H.
Very good, clean copy of this handsomely produced first Estienne Greek edition of Sophocles’s seven tragedies. ‘A very excellent and accurate edition, and highly creditable to the editorial talents of Henry Stephens […]. It contains some very choice readings: there is not an Edition in which I read Sophocles with so much pleasure as in this…’ (Moss). Henri Estienne (1528-98) had been in Geneva since the late 1550s, when his father, the Royal Printer Robert, abandoned Paris to escape religious persecution, bringing duplicates of the matrices of his famous ‘Grec du roi’ typeface devised by Garamond. Upon Robert’s death in 1559, Henri became official printer of the Republic of Geneva. A fine humanist and prolific author, Henri produced numerous editorial milestones of the Greek classics, the New Testament in Greek, and his very expensive masterpiece, ‘Thesaurus grecae linguae’. Based on Turnebus’s 1553 version, this Greek edition of Sophocles comprises ‘Ajax’, ‘Antigone’,
‘Women of Trachis’, ‘Oedipus Rex’, ‘Electra’, ‘Philoctetes’ and ‘Oedipus at Colonus’. The text is surrounded by the Scholia of the 1518 Roman edition and those of Turnebus, edited by Estienne. Appended are the important scholia by the C14 Byzantine scholar Triclinius, concerned with Sophocles’s metre, and a commentary by Joachim Camerarius, whose critical work from the 1530s ‘stands at the very beginning of modern Sophoclean criticism’ (Lurie, ‘Int. History’, 441). Estienne’s annotations on Sophocles and Euripides, mentioned on the t-p for publicity, were printed separately.
A choice collector’s item, this copy was in the library of Robert Holbyn (1710-57) of Nanswhyden, Cornwall, formerly a student at Christ Church College, Oxford. He accumulated ‘a magnificent library, which was taken to Bath and sold by auction by his successor in the property, […] the sale lasting six weeks, with catalogues costing 10s. 6d. each’ (Jewers, ‘Registers’, vii). It was later owned by Francis William Brydges of Tiberton Court, high sheriff of Herefordshire.
Schreiber, The Estiennes, 171; Renouard, Annales, 131:3; Brunet V, 447: ‘Bien executée et réputée correcte’; Hoffman III, 414; Adams, S1448. Dibdin I, 363-64 and Moss II, 597 cite it as published in Paris. M. Lurie, ‘Towards an Intellectual History of Sophocles in Europe’, in A Companion to Sophocles, ed. K. Orman (2012), 440-60; A.J. Jewers, The registers of the parish of St. Columb Major, Cornwall (1881).