CATULLUS, Gaius Valerius

CATULLUS, Gaius Valerius Catullus et in eum commentaries M. Antonii Mureti

Venice, Paulus Manutius Aldus, 1554


FIRST EDITION. 8vo. ff. [iv] 134 [ii]. Italic letter, occasional Roman and Greek. Anchor device on title and verso of final leaf. A little light marginal foxing, a very good, clean copy in contemporary Italian limp vellum, title in brown on spine, gauffered edges (a little scuffed, lacking ties). Contemporary autograph of Vincenti Mariae Frosini of Pistoia in blank margins at bottom of title above early monogram ‘TF’ in blank portion of lower margin, contemporary price on fly.

First edition of Marc-Antoine Muret’s commentary on Catullus. Muret (1526-1585) was a noted French humanist and all-round Renaissance man, being a jurist, theologist, philisopher and poet; counting among his pupils the young Montaigne; his reputation as a lecturer was so great that even Henri II and Catherine de Medicis came to hear him. Muret spent much of his life wandering, in France initially – from Bordeaux to Paris to Toulouse – and then in Italy, from Venice to Padua and Rome. This was partly due to dogged allegations of homosexuality which followed him and led to brief imprisonment in Châtelet at Paris and his eventual condemnation to death in Tolouse in the early 1550s, prompting his flight to Italy. In Venice, he was well received and embraced by the learned community. One of his first contacts there was Paulus Manutius, and this is his first work produced in Italy, a scholarly and detailed commentary on the poems of Catullus, indulging in a depth of detail and level of criticism that shows it is aimed for the scholarly reader. Catullus was the “greatest lyric poet of Rome”, and Cornelius Nepos considered him one of the “two greatest poets of his own time”. His poems consist of 116 pieces, varying in length from 2 to 408 lines, but mostly short and written in the lyric, iambic or elegiac metre. They give the reader a vivid impression of the poet’s life, as well as serving as a useful mirror to Roman society in the years before the Second Civil War. Some of the poems deal with the varying stages of his love affair with ‘Lesbia’, really Clodia, the notorious sister of Publius Clodius Pulcher, who was in the habit of seducing young men and then putting them aside once she had tired of them.

BM STC It., p. 161; Adams C-1145; Renouard 162: 19; Brunet I, 1682.
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