APULEIUS, Lucius Opera

Venice, Philippum Pinzium Mantuanum, 1493


Folio. ff. 118 [last blank] leaves 5-117 numbered I-cxii, cvi. [*]4, a-t , 44 lines and head-line. Roman letter a little Greek. Capital spaces with some guide letters, red printed title on a1 recto, early marginalia. Expert paper restoration to upper inner corner and gutter of the leaves of the first quire, a few letters on verso of title probably perfected in facsimile, small oil stain on three leaves, marginal marks and occasional light browning in places. A good clean well margined copy in early sheep, covers blind ruled to a panel design, outer panel with blind roll, sympathetically rebacked to match, later pastedowns, lower edges restored, a little worn.

Rare third edition edition of the works of Apuleius derived from the first, published in Rome by Swyenheym and Pannartz, edited by Joannes Andreae, Bishop of Aleria. Apuleius is one of the rarest of the relatively major classical authors to find in incunable editions.  Despite his continuing popularity down the ages, only four editions of the opera were printed before 1500 and none could be described as common. A philosopher, teacher, and rhetorician, his literary reputation rests principally on the Metamorphoses or Golden Ass, an elaborate romance interspersed with magic, miracles and plentiful Egyptian and oriental hermeticism; it is a work of great entertainment, invaluable as an illustration of the manners of the ancient world and is the only Latin novel which survives whole. The most famous and poetically beautiful portion is the episode of Cupid and Psyche which has inspired, not just writers and poets, but painters and sculptors ever since. Cervantes’ Don Quixote is demonstrably indebted to Apuleius, parts of Gil Bas are directly borrowed from him and several of the humorous episodes reappear in slightly different guise in Boccaccio. The works also include The Asclepius, a Latin paraphrase of a lost Greek dialogue (The perfect discourse) featuring Asclepius and Hermes Trismegistus, though there is much debate as to its origins. The Asclepius is one of two philosophical books ascribed to the legendary sage of Ancient Egypt, Hermes Trismegistus, though the Greek original, lost since classical times, is thought to date from the second or third century AD. Amongst Apuleius’ other philosophical works are a speech on demonology, ‘De deo Socratis’; a summary of the life and the doctrines of Plato, ‘De Platone et eius dogmate’; and a translation of a Pseudo-Aristotelic cosmological treatise ‘De Mundo’. Little of Apuleius’ work was truly original but he portrayed his characters with a new vigour and versatility which ensured its future appeal.  He is the only example in Latin literature of an accomplished Sophist – in the proper sense of that term – which has come down to us and the loss of most other ancient romances has secured for him an especial influence in the development of modern fiction.  He also stands as one of the last exponents of Platonic and one of the first of neo-Platonic philosophy.

BMC V 495.  ISTC No. ia00936000. Goff A936. Pell 925. Polain(B) 286. Bod-inc A-371.

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