DEMOSTHENES Orationes Quatuor contra Phillipum

Venice, Paulus Manutius, 1551


4to. ff [lii]. Roman letter; title with anchor and dolphin device surrounded by cornucopiae and cherubs, early ms underlinings and and marginalia in at least two hands, contemp. 8 line note praising Paulus’ translation on last leaf. Marginal worming to final ll. without affecting text, a little foxing affecting some edges, occasional light oil splash or minor mark, t-p repaired in gutter. Generally a good, well-margined copy in modern vellum over boards. French embossed library stamp, repeated, to blank outer margin of verso of t-p.

Reprint of the valuable 1549 edition dedicated to Jean Morvilliers of the four Philippics of Demosthenes (384-322 BC), orations made to rally the Athenians against Philip of Macedon who was beginning his conquest of Greece, translated by Paulus Manutius.

The first (351-350BC) centred on the need for resistance, financial reform of the theoric fund in order to adequately prepare for war, acting fast to avoid defeat. The second (344-343BC) was a vehement attack against Philip and his Athenian supporters, delivered in the wake of the unsatisfactory Peace of Philocrates, which saw Philip’s increasing powers for the most part uncombatted. Nonetheless it errs on the side of caution, perhaps indicative of Demosthenes’ own fear of the King, before whom he is said to have fainted. The third (341) is considered to be the best of Demosthenes’ political orations, he contrasts the ancient spirit of Athens with her present degeneracy. Having risen by his oratory to become the most influential politician in Athens, Demosthenes was able to weaken the pro-Macedonian factions within the Athenian political arena, formulating alliances with other small states to increase resistance to Macedon. He demands resolute action against Philip and called for a burst of energy from the Athenian people and the immediate dispatch of forces. The fourth is the subject of some controversy, with Demosthenes’ authorship called into doubt, although the sentiment is similar to the third, the style is different. It has been suggested that the surviving text is descended not from his carefully honed speeches, but from notes for a spot oration, thus explaining its unusual lack of finesse.

Described by Cicero as “the perfect orator” and extolled as “lex orandi” by Quintilian, Demosthenes has long been regarded as one of the great minds of the Classical era, and his works remain a benchmark of eloquence and erudition. This copy has been the subject of careful study.

BM STC It. 213. Ren 151:8 and 146:6. "Cette traduction est élégante et estimée: les exemplaires en sont rares ainsi que ceux de la réimpression de 1551." Not in Dibdin, Adams or Brunet. Graesse II 359.

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