CAMERARIUS, Joachim Commentarius explicationis primi libri Iliados Homeri (with) Commentarii explicationum secundi libri Homericae Iliados.

Strasbourg, Kraft Müller, 1538, 1540


FIRST EDITIONS. 4to, 2 works in one, pp. (vi) 152 (ii); pp. (viii) 208 (xvi). Roman and Greek letter, some italic, printer’s device to t-ps and verso of last of both works, woodcut floriated and historiated initials. Slight age yellowing, first t-p dusty with tiny ink spots to blank, very small light waterstain to fore-edge of a couple of ll., very rare marginal ink mark or spot. A very good copy in contemporary stiff vellum, dyed green, rubbed, C15 manuscript stubs from a breviary. Dense early Latin marginalia to three ll. (charming italic hand), occasional later annotations. Ms. autograph “Franz Joseph Cremer 1817” and earlier ms. ‘Iperlings’ to inside front cover, 4-line early ms. inscription in Latin and Greek to fly, also c.1800 autographs “Franz de Blois”, “Ludwig Dörsten” and “seiner C. Ferd.o. Graff(?)”, “Fd Graff (?)”, “Collegii Societ(atis) Jesu Coloniae 1627” and early ms. price “Emptus 2 batz” at head of t-p.



First editions of Camerarius’ important commentaries on Books I and II of the Iliad. These are regarded as the first attempt to write a commentary on Homer in the early modern period. Joachim Camerarius (1500-1574) was German classical scholar who taught Latin and Greek at Nuremberg and reorganised the Universities of Tubingen and Leipzig. A close friend of Melanchthon, Camerarius helped the reformer to draft the Augsburg Confession. “Camerarius published in Strasbourg (1538) an extensive commentary on book one of the Iliad followed in 1540 by a commentary on book two. Both commentaries contained the Greek original accompanied by a Latin hexameter translation. These slim volumes were meant for instruction, with prefaces exhorting readers to the study of Homer. The translation (…) was clearly intended as an aid for students wading through the difficult text. These commentaries, it has been observed, were meant for the education of young students.” (Ben-Tov) The two works are structured in a similar way: after a dedication, they both contain a preface, then a detailed commentary – this comprises a summary of the books, a grammatical and syntactical analysis of the text with references to ancient authors and antiquarian details – and finally the Greek text followed by Camerarius’ translation. The preface to Book I is particularly interesting, featuring a brief biography of Homer, an explanation of the Iliad’s title, a list of its contents and of ancient commentators.


A Latin translation of the first 182 verses of the Iliad in Greek (at pages 109-114, titled ‘Iliadis Homeri Compositio’) was here annotated in manuscript by an early owner – possibly a member of Jesuit collegium of Cologne – in the outer margin. This manuscript translation corresponds to one by the humanist Sebastien Castellion, first printed in 1561. The Latin annotation to the front fly reads records a legend, often recounted by ancient authors, concerning the death of the Emperor Domitian. It reads: “Cornix commendavit his graecis verbis mortem crudelissimi imperatori Domitiani: εσαι παντα καλως” and it can be translated as “A crow commended the death of the cruellest Emperor Domitian with these Greek verses: all will be well”. The ms. inscription “Emptus 2 batz” on the title page means “bought for two Batzen”. The Batzen was a southern German and Swiss coin, in use in the mid 16th century: it is likely that these volumes were purchased in around Strasbourg soon after printing, and probably unbound. At this time, one loaf of bread cost around 4 pfennig (0.25 Batzen).


Franz Joseph Cremer (1767-1841) was a German professor at the Düsseldorf Lyceum, who remarkably taught the basis of Latin and Greek to the famous Romantic poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856). Unfortunately, it appears that he was dismissed for incompetence in 1813. Franz de Blois was a German surgeon and obstetrician (1799-1841) of Huckeswagen, who obtained his diploma at Bonn in 1823. The identity of “Ludwig Dörsten” and “C. Ferd. Graff”, could not be identified with certainty. Curiously, Ludwig Dörsten is the name of a character in ‘Das Horn von Wanza’ (1881), by the German novelist Wilhelm Raabe.

USTC 623451 and 623505; Adams C418; Graesse II, p. 25; BM STC Ger. C16, p. 413; Not in Brunet. A. Ben-Tov, Lutheran Humanists and Greek Antiquity (2009). On Cremer, see: Robert C. Holub, Heinrich Heine\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s Reception of German Grecophilia, Vol 1 (1979). On Blois: Amtsblatt der Preußischen Regierung zu Koblenz (1839).
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