CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH BINDING
OperaBasel, H. Froben, 1544
EDITIO PRINCEPS. pp. (xii) 967 (i). *6, a-z6, A-Z6, 2a-2h6, 2i4, 2k-2z6, 2A-2M6. Greek letter, preface in Roman. Title page in red and black, Froben’s large woodcut device in red, smaller woodcut device on verso of last, fine large historiated woodcut initials and white on black and strapwork headpieces, capital spaces with guide letters. Contemporary autograph at head of t-p in English hand, ‘Arthur Best Pemb.’ in later hand at side, feint marginal annotations in a slightly later hand in lead-point in places, engraved armorial bookplate of Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex on pastedown, that of John Alfred Spranger below. Very light age yellowing, first leaf of text, a little dusty, title with minor stains, small waterstain in lower blank margin of first few leaves, tiny single wormhole in blank outer margin, occasional very minor marginal stain or mark. A good copy, crisp and clean, on thick paper, in contemporary London, blindstamped calf over thick boards, covers triple blind ruled to a panel design, border of central panel with blind roll with Tudor emblems, signed H.R. (Oldham 442) centre triple blind ruled to a lozenge with the same scroll, spine with raised bands, rebacked to match, upper corners restored, old morocco labels, holes for ties, a.e.r.
A most interesting copy of the important Editio Princeps of Josephus’ works, in a strictly contemporary London binding with early English provenance, edited by A.P. Arlenius and S. Gelenius, which served as the basis for all later editions of the Greek text until the end of the nineteenth century. Josephus Flavius, the ancient Jewish writer of first century Palestine, wrote a number of historical, apologetical and autobiographical works which together comprise a major part of Hellenistic Jewish literature. The original Aramaic version of his first work, the Bellum Judaicum, or The Jewish War, has been lost. However, the Greek version, and the rest of his works written in Greek during his Roman exile after the destruction of Jerusalem, were preserved by the Church, because of their general importance for the history of Palestine in the early Christian period and for the curious Testimonium Flavianum to the founder of Christianity contained in the Jewish Antiquities. Josephus’ writings represent the only contemporaneous historical account to link the secular world of Rome and the religious heritage of the Bible. His greatest work is his Antiquitates Judaicae (The Antiquities of the Jews) in which he recounts the history of the Jews from creation up until the revolt of AD 66-70 and contains contemporary references to Jesus, James (the ‘brother’ of Jesus), John the Baptist, Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, Agrippa I and Agrippa II, as well as the Sadducees, the Pharisees and the Zealots. His Bellum Judaicum (History of the Jewish War) gives a detailed account of the revolt of AD 66-70 and includes Josephus’ famous description of the siege of Jerusalem. “The Jewish War not only is the principal source for the Jewish revolt but is especially valuable for its description of Roman military tactics and strategy” (Britannica). “Josephus gives as his reason for writing this history the contradictory reports circulated either to flatter the Romans or to disparage the Jews (ib.§ 1). He himself pretends not to have flattered the Romans, though he is distinctly partial to them. He emphasizes his exactness (e.g., “Vita,” § 4); but his claim thereto is justified only when he states bare facts. He writes partly as an eye-witness and partly from reports obtained from eye-witnesses (“Contra Ap.” i. § 9); and he had already begun to make notes during the siege of Jerusalem. Both Vespasian and Titus, to whom the work was submitted, praised his accuracy.” Jewish Encyclopedia.
Arlenius of Brabant was a pupil of Gyraldus and also produced the first Greek edition of Lycophron as well as an important edition of Polybius. In 1542 he travelled to Venice, where he became librarian to the Spanish ambassador, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, cataloguing Mendoza’s collection of Greek manuscripts, from whose library he obtained the manuscript to produce this edition. This work is dedicated to Mendoza. The beauty of Froben’s printing, typography and layout does justice to the importance of the text; a very handsome copy of this seminal work.
“A familiar London roll is signed H.R., with in the other compartments, Tudor emblems. There are three variants of this roll and one of them I know only two examples, one at Shrewsbury School and the other belonging to the Oxford University Press…The remarkable thing about these two examples is that one book is dated 1551 (which fits in with most of the bindings bearing other H.R. varients), but that the other is dated 1654 and is not an emboitage.” This work must have come to England shortly after printing and was probably first bound at London.
Royal provenance: Prince Augustus Duke of Sussex was the sixth son of George III. “He had liberal views and supported the abolition of the slave trade, Catholic emancipation, the removal of civil restrictions on Jews and dissenters, the abolition of the Corn Laws, and parliamentary reform. He was elected President of the Society of Arts in 1816, and from 1830-8 was President of the Royal Society. Duke Augustus built up a large library of over 50,000 volumes, including about 1,000 editions of the Bible, and many ancient manuscripts.” Royal Collection Trust.