[HERTEL, Jacob]


[HERTEL, Jacob] Ta ek ton palaion kai panton sophon komikon… Vetustissimorum sapientissimorum comicorum quinquaginta.

Basel, [Johann Oporinus], [1560]


8vo, (lxiv), 769, (xxxi). Roman, Italic and Greek letter, printed side notes. Floriated and historiated woodcut initials. Light age yellowing, occasional spotting, very light marginal water stain slightly affecting gatherings a-d. A beautiful copy in French [?] calf c.1600, panels bordered with single gilt rule and central floral device, tooled bands to spine with central gilt fleurons, a. e. g.; spine and corners expertly restored. Ownership inscriptions probably reading “Garzoni Thomaso” [?], on front free endpaper, and “Gismond [?]”, on title page; profusely annotated in Latin and Greek throughout by a contemporary hand.

Rare second edition of this collection of quotations of about 50 ancient Greek authors, such as Menander, Philemon, Apollodorus, Eupolides, Cratinus and many others, with facing Latin text, edited by Hertel. The date appears in the preface. Jacob Hertel (1536-1564) was a deacon and teacher in Basel and died at 28 of plague. He wrote Lutheran works. His collection of sentences was banned in 1783.

This copy probably belonged to the erudite writer Tommaso Garzoni (1549-1589). No record of his handwriting has survived neither autographs or manuscripts. Garzoni studied law at Ferrara and Siena, and then entered the monastery of Santa Maria del Porto in Ravenna (1566). He travelled across Italy and was in contact with many intellectuals of the time, such as Alvise Groto and Torquato Tasso. His works reflected his encyclopaedic culture dealing sometimes with unorthodox topics. Among them “Il teatro de’ vari e diversi cervelli mondani” (1583) and especially “La piazza universale di tutte le professioni del mondo (1585), both published in Venice. They are compilations of anecdotes and fragments from classical and modern authors. Garzoni was inspired by ancient and contemporary collections of sentences and probably read Hertel’s Sentences for the purpose of his writing. He read many other condemned works, particularly by Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim.

The interest in the study of proverbs can be traced back to the philosophical writings of Aristotle. It inspired the work of many Renaissance scholars, from Erasmus onward, who found wisdom in aphorisms from the Classical and Hellenist age. Hertel’s work includes fragments from those which did not survive and were passed on by indirect sources. A long preface explains the cultural importance of the proverb and the key role played by printing in the survival of classical texts. It also contains a defence of the author’s interest in pagan culture reconciling it with the Christian tradition. There follows a section of Platonic fragments concerning the origin of ancient comedy (Aristophanes, Cratinus and Eupolides). The work is divided into parts each dedicated to a different author including his biography and list of plays, which precedes the catalogue of the sentences itself arranged in alphabetical order and according to political, moral or philosophical topics. Most interesting is the chapter on Menander’s sentences which contains information on aspects of life in Athens between IV and III century B.C. (economic crisis, rebellions, famine and war) especially focusing on moral, social and political topics (justice, peace, government, differences between classes, marriage, misogyny). Sentences by other authors feature references to agriculture, conviviality, historical personalities and religion.

Adams, P1693; BM STC p. 401; Brunet, III, 135; Scotto-Thellung, n. 233.

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