LE ROY, Louis


LEROY, Louis De la vicissitudine ò mutabile varietà delle cose, nell’universo.

Venice, Giorgio Angelieri presso Aldo Manuzio, 1585


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to. pp. (xxxii) 327 (i). Roman letter, occasional Italic. Title within woodcut architectural border with cherubs holding palm leaves, male and female figures, weapons and printer’s device; decorated initials, head- and tailpieces. Light age yellowing, couple of ll. with light mostly marginal water stains, mostly marginal, slight marginal foxing in a few places, a few gatherings lightly browned, small slip pasted over two lines on one Ai. A good, well-margined copy in contemporary vellum, yapp edges, contemporary title and shelfmark inked to upper cover. Spine cracked with minor loss to upper compartment. Stamps of Jesuit seminary ‘SGS’ on t-p, tiny early marginal inscription to t-p, early ink stamp of the ‘Bibliot (?) Stanu[y]’ on t-p and verso.

Good first edition of Louis Le Roy’s much admired and curious work on the mutability of the universe, in its Italian translation by the humanist Ercole Cato. Le Roy (1510?-77) was a humanist, political writer and historian renowned for his translations of Greek authors, including Aristotle and Plato, into French. ‘De la vicissitudine’, first published in French in 1575, was his last work and a definitive compendium of his prismatic ideas on history, politics, letters and philosophy. The main subject of the work are ‘the variety and vicissitudes of men, peoples, cities, republics, kingdoms and empires’. A blend of the classical and Christian traditions inspired by the cultural syncretism of Italian humanism, it concentrates on change—inspired by the Renaissance concepts of ‘mutability’ and ‘variety’—as the principle responsible for all historical mutations, from migrations to wars, the history of civilisations, the making and unmaking of the physical world through interactions between the four elements. These mutations, Le Roy argued, are kept together by divine providence which prevents such balance of contraries from turning into chaos. In the section where Le Roy explains the simultaneous creation and eventual end of the Heavens and Stars, the owner of this copy concealed with a pasted slip: ‘when the Universe will have dissolved, returning to the ancient Chaos and original darkness’. Le Roy was especially attracted by the birth, development and ruin of civilisations, which he explored through the medieval model of universal history embracing the origins of man to the present. The work ends in a sombre tone, with a prophetical message based on the warnings of the past, that the climax of European civilisation might soon be undone by new invading peoples, plagues and wars.

Niccolò Manassi (fl. 1590), a scholar and author of the preface, was entrusted with the Venetian Aldine press from 1585, when Aldus the Younger moved to Rome to run the Vatican press.

USTC 837671; Renouard 235:1; BM STC It. p. 376; Alden 584/43 and 575/16: ‘Includes references to America’. Not in Brunet or Graesse. M. Jeanneret, Perpetual Motion: Transforming Shapes in the Renaissance from da Vinci to Montaigne, Baltimore, 2000, pp. 166-67.

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