Orationes et poemata.Bologna, Franciscus dictus Plato de Benedictis, 1491
FIRST EDITION. Small 4to. 76 unnumbered ll., a-i k 4 . Roman letter. 4- to 7-line initials, capitals and paragraph headings heightened in red (occasional smudge). Recto of first and verso of last leaf a bit dust-soiled, the former restored at gutter, couple of ll. very slightly shaved at head, affecting couple of letters of a headline and one ms. note, light oil splash extending from lower gutter of g 7-8 , the odd marginal spot. A very good copy in early C19 polished calf, rebacked, spine remounted, eps renewed, double gilt ruled, bordered with small ropework in blind, spine gilt, gilt-lettered morocco label, corners a little worn, all edges blue, silk bookmark. Contemporary ms. marginalia in black and red.
A very good copy of the first edition of the orations and poems of Philippus Beroaldus—a leading humanist in Europe c.1500. Except for brief spells in Parma and Paris, Beroaldus (1453-1505) was a much esteemed professor of rhetoric at Bologna, his hometown, from 1472 to his death in 1505. Among his students were Jodocus Badius and Polydore Vergil. A skilled editor of the classics, he was also a prolific author and worked as editor for Benedetto Faelli, the publisher of the present work, known for his elegant imprints. Since 1487, Faelli had collaborated with Francesco ‘Platone’ Benedetti, ‘the prince of Bolognese typographers’, producing books with type ‘of superior elegance’ (Cioni, ‘Diz. Biog.’). Dedicated to Beroaldus’s student Martinus Boemus, ‘Orationes et poemata’ provides critical assessments of major authors including Virgil, Propertius, Livy, Cicero, Lucan, Juvenal, Sallust, Persius and Horace. It also portrays fascinating scenes from late C15 Bologna, scattered among topical orations on the appointment of the Briton Thomas Anglicus to rector of the Gymnasium Bononiense (with a celebration of Albion/England/Britannia based on Tacitus and Pliny), on the celebration of Ludovico Sforza and the weddings of the nobility. At the end are a few poems on sundry subjects including epitaphs, the Passion, love, slander, and the fable of Tancredi from Boccaccio.
This work was used by rhetoric students, doubtless including Beroaldus’s own, for examples of oratory, Neo-Latin poetry and classical commentaries. The contemporary ms. marginalia in this copy highlight the contrast between the Virgilian virtues of ‘rusticitas’ and the late C15 vices of ‘urbanitas’ (with merchants and usurers), Propertius’s views on love, ancient theories of poetry (with mentions of Homer), as well as Beroaldus’s scattered lamentation for lost ancient books (e.g., Livy and Sallust) or for the life of his times (e.g., ‘so strong in mortals is the innate greed for novelty’). The orations bear so many references to contemporary Bolognese city and university life that the work was probably a fascinating ‘guide’ for (especially foreign) students. For instance, the annotator highlighted Beroaldus’s description of the crowds gathering for the marriage of Annibale II Bentivoglio and Lucrezia d’Este in 1487. On the lower margin of the last leaf, he penned the appropriate motto ‘etate iuvenis maturitate senex’, from St Jerome’s commentary on Isaiah’s description of Daniel.Hain 2949; BMC VI 825; ISTC ib00491000; GW 04144; Goff B-491. A. Cioni, ‘Faelli, B.’, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 44 (1994).