HOMER. Odysseia. Batrachomnomachia. Hymnoi.

[Venice], Aldus Manutius and Andrea Torresani, [1517].


8vo. ff. 251, [1]. Greek letter. Printer’s device to title and last verso, with contemporary hand- colouring. Title and last verso a little dusty at margins, light age yellowing, occasional mostly marginal minor foxing, finger-soiling, light water staining to upper outer blank corner and fore-edge of last two gatherings in places. A very good copy in charming, unsophisticated contemporary northern or upper central Italian goatskin, lacking ties, double and triple blind ruled, outer border with blind roll of arabesque ropework, central panel with cross-hatched blind rolls of arabesque ropework and small blind-stamped fleurons, and small blind-stamped lilies at head and foot, raised bands, compartments cross-hatched in blind, blind rolls with arabesque ropework, tools in deep, crisp impression. Tiny loss to upper cover and head and foot of spine, corners a little worn. C20 Greek bookplate 1925 of Spyridon Loverdos to front pastedown, ink stamp to rear pastedown, and ms ‘die 14o septembres’ in a contemporary hand underneath, with C17 ex-libris ‘Caesaris Picj’ (Cesare Picchi?), Greek motto to title.

The charming, unsophisticated, contemporary binding is northern or central Italian. Whilst the arabesque ropework is also found in mainland Veneto (e.g., Bologna, Archiginnasio MS A197) and Milan (combined with ropework border: see Davis III, 244; bound for Jean Grolier: Needham 41), the decorative style, and the central cross-hatching, is reminiscent of Tuscany (e.g., de Marinis I, 1119).

Second Aldine edition of Homer’s works – the ‘Odyssey’, ‘Batrachomyomachia’ and ‘Hymns’ – generally found with a companion volume including the ‘Iliad’. ‘This ed. includes many corrections and improvements, […] and it is better and rarer than that of 1504, which was used as a starting point, and much more correct than the third of 1524’ (Renouard). Then and now, Homer has remained an obscure figure in the history of Western poetry. Whilst his ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’ are dated to the C9-8BC, it is uncertain whether there ever was a blind bard of such genius or whether his persona came to be used to identify the output of a long – standing oral epic tradition. The ‘Odyssey’ famously recounts the adventurous journey of Ulysses, King of Ithaca, to his native island after the end of the Trojan War, facing sirens, cyclops and many other perils. ‘Batrachomyomachia’ narrates a battle between Mice and Frogs, assisted by Zeus and other deities. The 33 ‘Hymns’ – attributed to, but not composed by, Homer – are each devoted to a different god or goddess, and written in a Greek language as archaic as Homer’s.

Spyridon Loverdos (1877-1936) was a Greek bibliophile, politician and economist, and head of the National Bank.

EDIT16 CNCE 22949; Renouard 80:3: ‘un nouveau texte’; Dibdin I, pp.165-6: ‘the second is esteemed the most rare and valuable’; Ahmanson-Murphy 153.