AELIANUS, et al.


AELIANUS, et al. Ailianou poikilēs istorias […] Aeliani variae Historiae libri XIIII

Rome, Blado, 1545


EDITIO PRINCEPS, LARGE PAPER COPY. ff. (iv) 111 (xiii). Greek letter. Woodcut printer’s device to t-p and verso of last. T-p and verso of last a little dusty, upper margin of first gathering and a handful of other ll. oil (?) stained, tiny tear to upper outer blank corner of * 3 and ι 3 , very light water stain to outer blank margin of couple of ll., occasional minor bleed from yellow painted edges, lower outer blank corner of ρ 2 torn. A very good, fresh, large paper copy in English polished calf c.1600, double blind ruled, gilt arms of Herbert of Cherbury to covers, ms. price and monogram to margin of t-p, raised bands, lower edges a bit rubbed. ‘Powis’ to front pastedown, contemporary probably binder’s instructions to verso of last.

Handsomely bound, large paper copy of the Greek editio princeps of this compendium of anecdotes on ancient history and other interesting, lesser known Greek texts on physiognomy and divination. Claudius Aelianus (175-235AD) was a Roman Stoic author, renowned for his mastery of Greek. ‘Variae Historiae’ is one of two works that have reached us—a compendium of anecdotes on the ancient world (on wonders, customs and myths), biographies (of philosophers, writers and historians) and maxims, often taken from sources now lost. Among the subjects he discussed were Greek painting, fly-fishing and pagan religious cults, some of which archaic and obscure. With Aelianus’s ‘History of Animals’, ‘Variae Historiae’ formed ‘part of the standard canon of classical reference works in the early modern period’ (Lupher, ‘Greeks’, 128). Prefaced by a life of the author taken from Philostratus, this edition was prepared by Camillo Peruschi (d.1572), rector of the university of Rome in the 1530s. It features another five works. ‘De rebus publicis Commentarium’ by the Greek astronomer and philosopher Heraclides Ponticus (390-310BC), famous for suggesting that the Earth rotates on its axis in the course of 24 hours. Polemon of Laodicea’s (90-144AD) and Adamantios’s ‘Physiognomica’ were manuals teaching how to tell character from appearance, the former highly influential in the Arabic world. The last two—a treatise on divination through the study of heart palpitations, and another on divination through birthmarks and moles—were attributed to the pagan soothsayer Melampus (3 rd century BC).

This copy was in the fine library of the great book collector Edward, 1 st Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1582?-1648), created at Montgomery Castle, in Wales, in 1622-25. It was also one of c.230 volumes which, through the history of the Herbert family, ended up in the library of Powis Castle after 1748, probably from Oakley Park, dispersed in the 1950s-60s (Roberts, ‘Lord Herbert’, 118).

Dibdin I, 229; Moss I, 3; Fumagalli 1523; Brunet I, 62; Schweiger I, 3; Hoffmann, Bibliographisches litt. der griechen, I, 11. Not in Bernoni. D. Lupher, Greeks, Romans, and Pilgrims (Leiden, 2017); D. Roberts, ‘Lord Herbert of Cherbury’s Library at Montgomery Castle’, Library & Information History 31 (2015), 117-36.