ILLUSTRATED TABLETS OF SOLAR CULTS
Antiquae tabulae marmoreae Solis effigie, symbolique exculpate.Rome, B. Zannetti, 1616.
FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. 98 (vi) + 1 folding plate. Roman letter, with Italic, occasional Greek. Woodcut printer’s device to title, 1 full-page engraving, 2 woodcuts and 1 engraved folding plate depicting ancient marble tablets, 5 small text woodcuts of coins or gemstone signets, decorated initials and ornaments. Light age yellowing, few ll. minimally foxed at margins, couple of very small faint water stains to fore-edge of title, folding plate and last gathering browned. A very good, clean copy in contemporary limp vellum, author’s name inked to spine, the odd ink spot, tiny worm holes to spine, C20 bookplate to front pastedown, purchase note from Diana Parikian pencilled to fly, early doodle of zodiac sign to verso of plate.
A very good, unsophisticated copy, in contemporary binding, of the first edition of this most interesting, beautifully illustrated work on the interpretation of the Tabula Heliaca and ancient solar cults. Nephew of his namesake the Vatican librarian under Leo X and secretary to Cardinal Barberini, the antiquarian Girolamo Aleandro the Younger (1574-1629) was inspired to write this commentary on the symbolism of the Tabula Heliaca after seeing the marble tablet, with a symbolic depiction of the sun god Mithras, at the Roman house of Asdrubale Mattei. His interest in Mithraic cults led him to correspond with Peiresc. Aleandro studied the tablet’s ‘symbolic theology’ in relation to ‘the original unity of god under the image of the sun’ (‘sol invictus’), which he linked to the four original elements and the origin of the world (Hafner, p.112). The sundry sections of the work discuss solar deities – the Sun with rays around his head, Apollo, Bacchus, Hercules, Mercurius, Encarpus and Lyra – using dozens of famous and obscure ancient Greek and Latin sources. Aleandro mentions that such tablets were found in stacks at ancient crossroads, compares the sun iconography of the Tabula to that of ancient coins and gemstone signets (illustrated), and connects its interpretation to the four Apollinean arts, the four elements, the four ages of the world and the four seasons. The handsome larger illustrations show the Tabula Heliaca, as well as a marble tablet preserved in Rome with Apollo, Mercurius and a young Bacchus astride a goat, and another (to which the appendix is dedicated) showing 5 ancient figures with zodiac signs, which Aleandro saw at the Padua house of Paolo Gualdo. A learned, elegantly printed work.USTC 4028781. Not in Brunet or Berlin Cat. R. Hafner, Götter im Exil (2012).