JUSTINUS (1) Justini historici clarissimi in Trogi Pompeji historias exordium… [with] (2) GELLIUS, Aulus. Noctium Atticarum comentarii…

Venice, (1) Filippo di Pietro, 1479; (2) Bernardus de Choris, de Cremona and Simone de Leuro, 1489


2 works in one. Folio. [110] unnumbered leaves, i: a-c , d , e-2l , m , n¹ . ii: ff. [v] 131 [i] (blank). Roman letter, occasional Greek in second work. Capital spaces and guide letters. Very occasional marginal thumbmark, single round wormhole to final gatherings of second work, these also a bit age browned. A well-margined, clean, very good copy on thick paper in contemporary Venetian maroon morocco over thick wooden boards, covers with elegant and intricate knotwork tools within a double frame of knotwork rolltools, and triple fillets, spine in 4 compartments hatched in blind. A very elegant binding, lacking central bosses and 4 ties (original 8 star head studs present on upper cover, missing on lower), a few small wormholes to covers, spine neatly repaired in places at head, foot and joints, generally very good. Occasional early marginalia in a neat and attractive humanist hand.

A very clean and wide-margined copy of two Venetian incunables in a strictly contemporary and very attractive Renaissance binding. The second work notably features a fine instance of the kind of large Greek type used in the 1480s, illustrated by Proctor, who praised it for ‘the regularity and size which make it the best type of its class’ (p.127).

Justinus was a second century Roman historian. This, his most notable work, he describes as a collection of the most interesting and important passages from Pompeius Trogus’ ‘Historiae philippicae et totius mundi origina et terrae situs’, written in the time of Augustus and now lost. This was a general history of those parts of the world that had come under the auspices of Alexander the Great, and takes as its main theme the Macedonian Empire founded by his father Philip. The last event it records (in Justinius’ version) is in 20 B.C. Through his frequent digressions, Justinus here produces not an epitome but rather a useful and sometimes elegant anthology based on the work. It was very popular in the Middle Ages, when the author was frequently confused with Justin Martyr.

The Noctes Atticae consists of a miscellaneous anthology on various topics, including philosophy, law, literature, grammar, and history. Gellius (c. 125 – c. 180) wrote the book for the education of his children during his winter nights in Attica, and the work proved very popular into and throughout the Middle Ages. It grew out of a commonplace book that Gellius kept, in which he recorded items of unusual interest that he heard in conversation or read about. The book deliberately has no specific structure, and of the twenty books only 19 have come down to us – the 8th is known only through its index. In it, Gellius quotes extensively from Greek and Latin authors, many of whose works have not survived – the book is therefore a valuable resource in preserving fragments of writings otherwise entirely lost.

The binding, although elements of its decoration are common to several printing centres in Italy at this time, bears a strong resemblance to a number of bindings known to have been produced at Venice (and in particular to de Marinis’ no. 1532 in vol II of his ‘Legatura Artistica in Italia’). In its decoration it shows elements of the assimilation of Eastern design in Italian bookbinding, especially by the Byzantine/Ottoman nature of the central knotwork tools. It must previously have been very grand, and shows evidence of elegant and arabesque furniture at the corners and at the centre of the covers. The furniture would most likely have been bronze or silver; the remaining studs holding the stubs of the ties are in bronze. The binding is still an elegant example of Renaissance bookbinding craftsmanship and examples in this condition and are invariably rare.

i: BMC V, 221; HC 9651; Goff J-618.ii: BMC V, 464; HC 7522; Klebs 442.6; Goff G-123. R. Proctor, The Printing of Greek in the 15th Century (1900).

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