CICERO, Marcus Tullius


M. T. Ciceronis epistolarum familiarium libri XVI

London, Apud Thomam Marsh, 1574


8vo. ff. 267 [i.e. 280]. Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut printers device on title, floriated and white on black criblé woodcut initials. Light age yellowing, title and verso of last soiled, minor mostly marginal waterstaining in places, the odd thumb mark or spot, margins of first quire a little creased. A good, crisp copy, in C18th English calf, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, tan morocco label, corners worn, a little rubbed, small tear on lower cover.

Exceptionally rare edition, extraordinarily only the second edition of Ciceros letters in the original latin published in Britain. The first English printing (in the version of Manutius) was made in 1571 by Henry Bynneman and is recorded by ESTC in two copies only; this different edition by Thomas Marsh is equally rare, recorded at the Bodleian and York Minster libraries only. Cicero was published in Britain at an early date, Caxton published the first edition in 1481, the first classical work published in Britain, but in translation only. It was only by the later half of the C16th that English printers were skilled enough to compete with European imports of the Latin editions. “In 1569-70 Henry Bynneman, had established his right to print a variety of schoolbooks, basing his appeal partly on a claim to be able to do better than the editions of classical authors then being imported; in 1572 Thomas Marsh acquired a licence to print and sell another wide-ranging selection of schoolbooks ; and in June 1574 .. Thomas Vautrollier acquired a monopoly to print, among others, the works of Cicero and Ovid in Latin.” David McKitterick ‘A History of Cambridge University Press’. Christoph Hegendorff (1500 – 1540), of Leipzig, the editor of this edition, was a Protestant theological scholar, educator, a Protestant reformer and a great, public admirer of Erasmus. His sermons were published in an English translation.

Written over the course of many years from 65 B.C. onwards and compiled by Cicero’s personal secretary Tiro, the letters are often written in a subtle code to disguise particular political contents. The work is made up of Cicero’s letters to his friends, acquaintances and also their replies, there is one to a conspirator in Caesar’s murder, “I congratulate you. I rejoice for myself. I love you. I watch your interests; I wish for your love and to be informed of what you are doing and what is being done,” ( Fam. vi. 15). We know from others that Cicero thought about publishing some of his letters during his lifetime, but it is generally agreed that the Ad Familiares were published by Cicero’s friend Tiro, who suppressed his own letters and included those written to him at the end. Cicero’s letters are among the most valuable sources of information on the period, we learn from him a great deal about daily life in Rome and the provinces, especially the province of Cilicia of which Cicero was sometime governor. There is no other period of antiquity for which we still possess such an immediate and intimate record and in such domestic detail.

ESTC S109965 Bodleian and York Minster only. STC 5296
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