ALCIATO, Andrea.


De verborum significatione [with] Ad rescripta principum commentarii [and] In digestorum sive, pandectarum libri xii [and] Parergon juris libri tres [and] Paradoxorum ad Pratum, libri sex. [and] Parergon juris libri VII posteriores.

Lyon, Sébastian Gryphius, 1546, 1541, 1542, 1543, 1543, 1544


Folio, 6 works in one, FIRST EDITION of last, pp. 275 (xvii); pp. (vi), cols. 476, pp. (xii); pp. (iv) cols 9-316, pp. (xx); pp (xvi) 66 (ii); pp. (viii) 264 (ii); pp. 132 (xxviii). Roman and Italic letter, some Greek, double-column text framed by commentary in works 1, 2 and 3. Handsome floriated and historiated initials, printer’s device to t-ps and versos of last. First t-p a bit browned, intermittent slight age yellowing, minor waterstains to lower blank margin of final gathering, rare marginal spots or ink marks, ink smudge to one fol. not affecting reading, small tear to one lower outer blank corner. Intermittent contemporary scholarly marginalia in Latin, two different hands (informal secretary hand, neat italic cursive). A very good copy, crisp and clean, in contemporary calf over boards, covers triple blind ruled, gilt fleurons to corners, gilt griffin centrepiece, repairs to one edge and corners. Spine with raised bands, blind stamped fleurons in compartments, rebacked. Vellum stub from an early C15 document in Latin. Contemporary ms. autograph “Egidius Wyts” and “Scient(ia) et conscient(ia)” on fly, ms. Latin inscription (partly chipped) in same hand with 2-line quote from a Greek epigram by Agathias Scholasticus on verso. Autograph ‘Fletcher’ of Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (1655-1716) on all t-p.

A remarkable collection of legal works by Alciato, with interesting scholarly annotations and ownership history. These finely printed editions were published by Sebastian Gryphius (1492-1556), great Franco-German bookseller and friend of the author. The charming little griffin gilt on the covers of this volume is particularly interesting: in fact, a few calf bindings made in Gryphius’ atelier bear his device, a griffin holding an iron ring attached to a block and a winged sphere (Gruel, Manuel Historique et Bibliographique de l’amateur de Reliures, p. 89). Although slightly different in design, this griffin centrepiece is hardly a coincidence and suggests a publisher’s binding.

Andrea Alciato (1492-1550) was an Italian jurist and scholar. After completing his classical and legal studies in Milan, Pavia and Bologna, he moved to Avignon as a professor of law. In 1521, he received the title of Count Palatine from Pope Leo X and then returned to Italy, where he continued teaching until his death. A prolific writer, he composed several works on jurisprudence, which are praised for their literary style and for the author’s competence in discussing legal problems. Alciato is best known for his entertaining ‘Emblemata’ (Augsburg 1531), the first book ever written on emblems, illustrating curious allegories and symbols.

First work in this collection is the celebrated ‘De verborum significatione’ (On the meaning of words), Alciato’s first approach to the study of law. It is an interesting commentary on the ‘Digest’, aimed to analyse and explain the true historical meaning of the texts included in this important compendium. Second is ‘Ad rescripta principum commentarii’: based on the lectures he gave at Bourges on the Code of Justinian. It deals with specific sections of the first two books of the codex titled: ‘De summa trinitate’ and ‘De sacrosanti ecclesiis’ (discussing ecclesiastical law and the role of the pope), ‘de Edendo’ (on the production of documents), ‘In ius vocando’ (On summoning to court), ‘De Pactis’ (On pacts), ‘De transationibus’ (On transactions). Third is ‘In digestorum sive, pandectarum libri xii’, an explanatory commentary on book XII, chapter 1 of the digest titled ‘De rebus creditis si certum petetur et de condictione’. Fourth and last are ‘Parergon iuris libri tres’ and ‘Parergon iuris libri VIII posteriores’, containing a miscellany of quotes from numerous non-legal sources concerning legal topics, which Alciato considered useful to better interpret Roman law texts. Finally, ‘Paradoxorum ad Pratum’ is a fascinating collection of famous and debated legal problems to which the author proposes elegant and ingenious solutions.

The occasional but quite extensive marginalia on the volume are in two different hands. The first hand belongs to ‘Egidius Wyts’, likely the Flemish Gillis Wyts (also known as Aegidius or Egidius Wiitsius, fl. 1560). Wyts was the pensionary of Bruges, the leading functionary and legal adviser of the city, and a writer of jurisprudence treatises (in which he cites Alciatus as a source). His marginalia are sporadic, quickly written, and explaining or adding information to passages with particular focus on ecclesiastic law and the catholic church. Interestingly, Wyts quotes St. Augustine and the curious erudite compilation ‘De honesta disciplina’ by Crinitus (1504).

More frequent and extensive marginalia are in a charming italic cursive and belong to an erudite scholar of law, possibly French. Detailed and critical, this annotator explains, but also corrects and expands the content of Alciatus’ commentaries – he often proposes different interpretations (particularly in the Paradoxorum) and even writes down his own questions. In his notes, he largely quotes the works of the French contemporary legal expert Jacques Cujas (1522-1590).

Later, the volume entered the important library of Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (1655-1716), influential Scottish member of parliament, writer and bibliophile. Eloquent and firm opponent of the union between Scotland and England in 1707, Saltoun became known as ‘the Patriot’ for his political activity in support of Scotland’s independence. In the 1680s, he was exiled in the Netherlands for plotting against King Charles II and then commanded the cavalry for the Monmouth Rebellion to overthrow James II. Saltoun was an outstanding intellectual, and the author of a series of tracts concerning the economic and social conditions of Scotland. His private library, most of which he acquired during his numerous travels in Europe, was the largest and the best collection of books in Scotland at the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

1) USTC 149573; Baudrier VIII, p. 203; this ed not in Adams, BM STC Fr. 16 th century, Brunet or Graesse. Worldcat records four copies in the US (Harvard, Yale, University of Winsconsin Madison library, Illinois university). 2) USTC 140104; Baudrier VIII, p. 144; this ed not in Adams, BM STC Fr. 16 th century, Brunet or Graesse. Worldcat records only one copy in the US (Harvard) 3) USTC 140446; Baudrier VIII, p. 160; this ed not in Adams, BM STC Fr. 16 th century, Brunet or Graesse. Worldcat records three copies in the US (Princeton, University of Chicago, Harvard) 4) USTC 122681; Baudrier VIII, p. 173; this ed not in Adams, BM STC Fr. 16 th century, Brunet or Graesse. Worldcat records three copies in the US (Princeton, University of Chicago, Berkeley Law Library) 5) USTC 153751; Baudrier VIII, p. 175; this ed not in Adams, BM STC Fr. 16 th century, Brunet or Graesse. Worldcat records only two copies in the US (Harvard, Folger Shakespeare Library) 6) USTC 149224; Baudrier VIII, p. 184; this ed not in Adams, BM STC Fr. 16 th century, Brunet or Graesse. Worldcat records four copies in the US (Harvard, Princeton, University of Chicago, Berkeley Law Library) On Wyts, see: CERL Thesaurus cnp01406581. On Fletcher, see: P.J.M. Willems, Bibliotheca Fletcheriana (1999).
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