AESCHYLUS. Aeschyli tragoediae VII.

Antwerp, Christophorus Plantinus, 1580.


16mo. pp. [3] 4-355 [11], missing final blank. Greek text, little italic. Printer’s device to t-p, seven complete plays of Aeschylus, including the Oresteia. Historiated initials, ornaments and printed marginal maniculae throughout. Mss ex libris Michael Wodhull, 22nd December 1770 to ffep. together with purchase price, bibliographical note and record of payment to binder Roger Payne (bap.1738-1797). Bookplate of Rev. Samuel Ashton Thompson-Yates (1843-1903) to front pastedown and newspaper clipping to back pastedown recording the sale of Wodhull’s Library in 1886. Lightly age browned, very occasional small stains, extreme lower outer corner of t-p repaired. A clean, well-margined copy in handsome, straight grained C18th red morocco, arms of Michael Wodhull gilt to front cover, gilt spine and rulings.

‘An elegant and correct edition’ of Aeschylus’ seven surviving plays, once belonging to the library of famed bibliophile and poet Michael Wodhull (1740-1816) at Thenford House in Northamptonshire. He began collecting in the 1750s, continuing to build an extensive collection of books until a few years before his death. His interest in the classics is evident as he was the first to translate all extant works of Euripides into English, which he completed in 1782. Some of Wodhull’s library was partially sold in 1801 and 1803, chiefly consisting of duplicates and unwanted books. After his death, his estates passed to his wife’s youngest sister, Mary Ingham, and subsequently to Samuel Amy Severne (1772-1845). Under the ownership of John Edmund Severne (1826-1899), the library’s books were sold by Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge between the 11th and 21st of January 1886. The article clipping at the back of the book records the details of the sale, including books of particular note along with their prices. It reveals bookseller Bernard Quaritch to be among the most prominent buyers.

The work is a ‘creditable monument to the learning and acuteness of [Willem] Canter’ (1542-1757), a philologist who edited the text and provides a short set of notes and commentary at the end. Born in Utrecht, he devoted his life to Greek Tragedy, and according to his biographers ‘worked himself to death’. He worked on all three Athenian tragedians, and although they were all completed by 1570, it remains somewhat of a mystery why his edition of Aeschylus and Sophocles were left unpublished until 1580, five years after Canter’s death and ten years after the publication of his Euripides. In his introduction, Canter reveals his efforts to restore the tragedies to their original form by fixing metrical issues and corruptions. These passages of the text are highlighted using printed maniculae and addressed in the notes at the end.

A learned edition of some of the greatest literary work of Antiquity, together with an equally fascinating provenance.

USTC: 407824; Gruys: II.12, Dibdin: Vol II p.238; Adams: A 270; S. De Ricci: p.81.
Stock Number: L4383 Categories: , ,