ARISTOPHANES Aristophanous eutrapelotatou Komoidiai hendeka. Aristophanis facetissimi Comoediae

Basel, apud And. Cratandrum et Joan. Bebelium, 1532


FIRST COMPLETE EDITION. 4to. pp. (viii) 514 (ii), last blank. Greek letter, little Roman. Woodcut printer’s device to verso of last, decorated initials. T-p little dusty, age yellowing, one gathering a bit browned as paper insufficiently dried. A very good, well-margined copy in superb contemporary olive goatskin, traces of ties, later eps, double and triple blind ruled to a panel design, borders single gilt ruled with small gilt leaves to corners, centre panel with gilt interlacing squares surrounded by small gilt leaves, gilt inscription ‘ ’ to upper and figure of Fortune holding sail with initials I.S. to lower cover. Spine double blind ruled in eight cross-hatched compartments, one gilt-lettered, raised bands gilt, minor repair at head and foot, very small loss from lower edge of lower cover. Chatsworth bookplate to front pastedown, another (C19) beneath.

The exquisite binding was almost certainly made in Venice. It belonged to I.S., whose initials are gilt to the lower cover. I.S. was an avid reader of the classics in the 1520s and 1530s, as shown by two other editions bound for him—an Aldine Livy of 1522 and a Lyonnaise Josephus of 1528—both, like this, in olive morocco, gilt, with Fortune flanked by the initials (de Marinis II, 1315bis and 1316). The linguistic knowledge required to appreciate and read Aristophanes in Greek, before the publication of Latin translations, suggests I.S. was probably a gifted humanist.

Very good, well-margined copy of this important Greek edition of Aristophanes’s comedies—‘the first…in which the eleven plays were gathered together’ (Brunet I, 452). It was edited (without commentary) by Simon Grynaeus (1493-1541), a German Protestant theologian and professor of Greek at Basel, admired by Erasmus and Thomas More. ‘This is a rare, correct, and celebrated edition, and the first in which the eleven comedies of Aristophanes appeared complete. It follows chiefly the Aldine [the partial editio princeps printed by Aldus in 1498], and sometimes the Parisian edition of 1528…It formed the basis of a variety of subsequent editions’ (Dibdin I, 296).

Aristophanes (460-380BC), of whom little is known, enjoyed widespread success in antiquity despite Aristotle’s criticism. His comedies, not lacking in witty satire towards specific individuals or categories, were also delightful for their puns and irreverent language which sought to distance itself from the cruder one of the previous comic tradition. Among his most influential texts are ‘The Clouds’ (a critique of Socrates), ‘The Wasps’ (against the legal system in Athens) and ‘Lysistrata’ (on a sex strike undertaken by Greek women to convince their husbands to cease war). Due to the difficulty of his Greek, his plays were soon translated into Latin, first in 1538. Whilst Roman comedy inspired most Renaissance dramatic production, ‘typically, Aristophanes was appropriated first by the academic elite, and he only gradually became accessible to the broader public’ (‘The Cambridge Companion to Greek Comedy’, 436). An elegantly jewel of Greek typography.

Adams A1708; Dibdin I, 296; Brunet I, 452.
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