DIONYSIUS PERIEGETES; MELA, Pomponius; SOLINUS, Gaius Iulius; AETHICUS. Situs orbis descriptio...

[Geneva], Henri Estienne, 1577.


4to. Three works in one, half-title to second and third, pp. [8], 158, [24], 47, [1], 1-152, last 2 blank + 4 tipped-in blanks, of which 5 pp. with extensive contemporary ms annotations. Double column, Greek letter, little Roman. Woodcut printer’s device to title, two small woodcut geometrical shapes, decorated initials and ornaments. Minimal toning, upper and outer edge of title and first leaf a little frayed, light water stain to upper outer corner of early ll., and to lower outer blank corner of last, two tiny worm holes to upper blank gutter of first half. A very good, unsophisticated, well-margined copy in contemporary limp vellum, yapp edges, scuffed, upper hinge starting, small holes to spine, occasional contemporary ms annotations, ms Greek references to the text on rear fep.

A very good, unsophisticated copy, in contemporary binding and with interesting early annotations, of this very handsome student collection of ancient geography textbooks and commentaries. ‘De situ orbis’ by Dionysius Periegetes, he lived in Alexandria in the 2nd or 3rd century AD, was a popular geographical poem on the boundaries of the known world. Pomponius Mela’s (1st cent. AD) ‘De situ orbis’ described in prose the then-known world, dividing it into 5 zones, only two of which he deemed inhabitable. Solinus’ ‘De mirabilibus mundi’ – a compendium of the ancient wonders of the world – was a favourite for teaching, especially the chapter on the peoples of remote countries. The collection also includes ‘scholia’ (commentaries) by the humanists Morel and Papia, some concerning Aethicus’ ‘Cosmographia’, now considered a medieval forgery.

 This copy was owned by a university student or scholar, who covered in dense ms annotations the margins of the first three chapters of Mela’s ‘De situ’ – on the four parts of the world, and the descriptions of Asia and Europe – adding a few blanks for further notes. The annotations are at times summaries of the text, but mostly provide personal observations and integral information. For instance, the annotator refers to the version of the text found in a ‘Codex Parisiensis et manuscriptus’, most likely one of the many precious mss of classical works preserved at the Royal Library. He noted information about the author, and provided numerous additional information based on Pliny, Strabo, Ptolemy and other ancient authorities, with reference to specific peoples (e.g., Iberii) and places (e.g., Caspian Sea). Further occasional marginalia show his knowledge of other editions, e.g., by J. Vadianus, and his interest in the etymology of ‘Britannia’, which our annotator glossed with an additional, quite obscure etymology, as ‘a name made of two Hebrew nouns, translated as ‘stanum’ (tin) and ‘agrum’ (field) in Latin. An interesting, unsophiticated copy.

USTC 450740; Renouard, Estiennes, 145:5; Gilmont 2627; Brunet II, 729-30.