DEMOSTHENES Orationes Quatuor contra Phillipum

Venice, Aldi Filios, 1549


4to. ff [lii]. Roman letter; title with anchor and dolphin device surrounded by cornucopiae and cherubs, contemporary ms underlinings, early inscription to t-p ‘Double de X.1685’ at foot of t-p, autograph ‘[?] Kulenkamp 1790’ to fly, 19th C pencil note beneath. A few tiny wormholes to last couple of quires, barely touching text, one or two insignificant marginal oil spots, a little early underlining. A very good, very well-margined copy in French mottled calf c. 1700 slightly worn at corners, spine gilt, red and green morocco labels, French-curl patterned marbled endpapers, a.e.r.

Valuable 1549 edition, dedicated to Jean Morvilliers and translated by Paulus Manutius, 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. The first (351-350BC) centred on the need for successful resistance for financial reform of the theoric fund to prepare for war and for swift action 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 left Philip’s increasing power largely unchecked. 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), the best of Demosthenes’ political orations, 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, formulating alliances with other small states. He demands resolute action against Philip, a burst of energy from the Athenian people and the immediate dispatch of force. The fourth is the subject of 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 text is descended not from his carefully honed speeches, but from notes for a spot oration, hence 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.

We have not been able to find anything further about Kulenkamp, but his autograph appears in a number of other books on various subjects. He may be a relation of the noted Dutch minister Gerardus Kulenkamp (1700-75).

BM STC It. 213. Ren 146:6. "Cette traduction est élégante et estimée: les exemplaires en sont rares." Dibdin 486 "This translation is elegant and esteemed". Brunet II.592."Traduction estimée". Not in Adams.

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