Comoediae NovemVenice, Apud Aldum, 1498
EDITIO PRINCEPS. Folio. 346 unnumbered leaves, lacking two blanks. Text in Aldus’ large Greek type 146, 41 lines of scholia surrounding in smaller (type114), Aldus’ preface in Roman. Woodcut strap-work initials in two sizes and headpieces. Early Greek marginalia in brown ink mostly to first quarter of volume. Title page very slightly soiled and strengthened at gutter, two leaves slightly browned (probably damp at printing), couple of minor marginal tears, last leaf with small old marginal repairs, strengthened at gutter, slightly soiled on verso. A very good copy, crisp, clean and well margined in C17 vellum over boards C18 mottling, gilt red morocco labels and gilt thistle motif on spine, C19 ms. bibl. notes on front pastedown, Walter Hirst’s charming bookplate and Sir Thomas Philip’s pencilled shelf mark beneath, earlier ink lettering (press mark?) on rear pastedown, Quaritch pencil note beneath.
A very handsome copy of the beautiful first printed edition of Aristophanes comprising the first nine plays (10 & 11 were not published till 1525) and one of the chef d’oeuvres of Aldus’ early Greek press. The editor was Marcus Musurus, the celebrated Greek humanist, who also contributed an excellent preface on the reasons for studying Greek and the stylistic beauty of Aristophanes. Aldus founded his career on the publication of Greek texts – the first printer to do so – with this type designed and cast on new principles which he perfected over a period of five years. To his scholarly care we owe more of the editiones principes of the major Greek classics than to any other printer and the Aristophanes, texturally and artistically, was one of his finest achievements.
Aristophanes was the greatest of the Athenian comic dramatists and one of her greatest poets. For richness and fertility of imagination probably only Shakespeare is comparable and Aristophanes’ direct influence on English literature was considerable; the comedies of Jonson, Middleton and Fielding derive from him. Apart from constituting one of the surviving glories of hellenic culture Aristophanes’ comedies are an invaluable source for its social history. His surviving plays – out of a probable forty or fifty – provide us with an accurate if satirical commentary on the political, religious, sexual, economical and domestic life of Athens over a period of thirty six years. His changes in style and content match the concurrent constitutional and social changes in the State itself. The plays’ themes are invariably contemporary, a mocking mirror to the condition of the city. This edition has the benefit of the scholia of Thomas Magister, John Tzetzes and Demetrius Triclinus themselves incorporating much of the more ancient commentaries of Appolonius, Callimaches, Didymus and others, which were superseded in later editions by much newer but also much inferior work.
“Première et belle édition … Les Scolies .. sont dans cette importante et belle édition imprimées bien plus correctement que dans la reimpression faite à Florence 1525” Renouard, 16:3.
“Premiere édition belle et rare” Brunet I 451.BMC V 559. GW, 2333. Goff, A-958. Sander I 580. Essling I 2,2 1163.