EGNATIUS, Giovanni Battista

EGNATIUS, Giovanni Battista De exemplis illustrium virorum Venetae civitatis, atque aliarum Gentium

Paris, Bernardo Torresano sub Aldina Bibliotheca, 1554


16mo, ff. [16], 334, [2], missing final blank. Roman letter; Aldine device on title, few historiated initials; occasional very light foxing to margins, slight yellowing. A very good copy in contemporary vellum; bookplate of Allan Heywood Bright on front pastedown.

Second edition of this curious collection of exemplary episodes, issued in Paris some months after the princeps of Venice the same year. Giovanni Battista Cipelli (1478-1553), better known by his humanist nickname Egnatius, was a prominent scholar in Renaissance Venice and a trusted collaborator of Aldus Manutius. Very knowledgeable in Latin and Greek, he taught in the School of St Marcus and was appointed official orator of the Venetian Republic. On account of his philological, editorial and teaching skills, he was held in high esteem by Pietro Bembo, Marco Musuro, Marco Antonio Sabellico and even Wilibald Pirckheimer and Erasmus. His most successful work was De Caesaribus, a learned overview of the lives of the Roman, Byzantine, Frankish and German emperors, up to Maximilian I of Augsburg. An extract of the second book circulated independently as an essay on the origins of the Turks. Following the model of Valerius Maximus, Egnatius assembled a vast number of edifying stories from the lives of Venetians and other illustrious personalities of the past and present. It is divided into nine books and each of the numerous chapters is devoted to a topic (either virtue or vice). Book 8 includes a note on the invention of printing (f. 300rv) and a praise of Columbus (f. 301v). Muslims and Ottomans are also frequently mentioned, with several examples drawn especially from the life of Saladin (ff. 172r, 237rv, 242v, 265v, 326r). ). The work was published posthumously by Marco Molin, the son of Egnatius’s heir and friend.

This is a copy of the first of the eighteen books published in Paris by Bernardo Torresano on behalf of the Aldine Press over the 1550s and 1560s. Bernardo was the grandson of Andrea Torresano, father-in-law and business partner of Aldus Manutius. The Aldine enterprise tried several times to set up a branch or at least have a trusted dealer in Paris, but the attempts were all quite short-lasting and little fruitful.

BM STC It., 231 (under variants of the Venetian edition); Adams, E 82; Renouard, 295:1. Not in Alden.
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