LUCAN. [with] PHILOSTRATUS. [Pharsalia.] [with] De vita Apollonii Tyanei.

[Lyon, Balthasar de Gabiano, c.1502-4; c.1504-5?].


8vo. 2 works in 1, I: ff. [140], a-r8 s4, last blank; II: ff. [110], [*]4 a-z8 A-B8 C6, last blank. Italic letter, little Roman. Early C17 ms ‘Thomae Turneri’, mid-C16 ‘p[re]tium 2d.6’, 1-line inscription rubbed off and 3-line ms Latin verse to first title; 11-line ms note on Philostratus’s work to verso of last blank of first work; short ms inscription to verso of last blank of second work; few Latin ms marginalia (occasionally just trimmed by binder), underlining in black ink or red crayon to second work. The odd minor marginal spot or mark, I: light water stain to first gathering, first two ll. a little finger-soiled at margins, traces of ancient bookmarks to outer blank margin of i4 and l1 verso, printer’s offsetting to upper blank corner of r1 recto, II: title a bit dusty. Very good copies, on good-quality paper, in C16 Oxford calf, c1800 eps and reback to style, double blind ruled, blind-stamped oval arabesque centerpiece to covers, traces of hatching to edges towards spine, all edges painted yellow, early ms title to fore-edge, spine gilt and gilt-lettered, few extremities expertly repaired, C19 Gaddesden Library bookplate to front pastedown.

An interesting combination, with intriguing early English provenance, of scarce ‘Aldine counterfeits’. Both feature italic characters devised to resemble Aldus’s; the papal privilege protecting Aldine editions was effective only in Italy. Although most of these ‘counterfeits’ were destined for the Italian market, the present copy was in England by the middle of the C16.

The binding is decorated with ‘one of the earliest centerpieces used in Oxford’, c.1560-73 and c.1590-97, a variation of xiii in Pearson, ‘Oxford Bookbinding’, p.78. The pattern of the edge hatching suggests Pearson’s A (c.1565-90), so was probably produced in the early 1570s. Thomas Turner was an early C17 collector of medieval mss. The same autograph ‘Thomae Turneri’ is found on the 12th-century Cambridge UL, MS Ii.3.20 – one of the few extant mss in the hand of William of Malmesbury. The ms ‘Thomae Turneri semel’, in an early C16 hand (now faded), is found on the majestic 8th-century Lindisfarne Gospels (BL, Cotton MS Nero D IV, fol.211) (see Thomson, p.94 n.2) – perhaps a family connection? The present book is the only trace of Thomas Turner’s connection to Oxford. St John’s College Library preserves a C14 English medical ms (MS 189) donated by a Thomas Turner, who matriculated in 1610 and was later chaplain to the king and chancellor of St Paul’s 1629.

The first work is a counterfeit, without Aldus’s preface, of the 1502 Aldine edition of ‘Pharsalia’, an epic poem by the 1st-century Roman author Lucan on the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey, a complex blend of fiction and historical reality. Lucan was not among the canonical authors frequently taught to early Tudor Oxford freshmen (Paleit, pp.38-9). ‘Pharsalia’ became extremely influential towards the end of the century, inspiring Marlowe (who translated Book I in 1593) and Kyd.

This edition of the ‘De vita Apollonii Tyanei’, is by the humanist Filippo Beroaldo. It is counted among the Aldine counterfeits for the use of the pseudo-Aldine Italic type. Philostratus (c.170/172–247/250) was a Greek sophist who studied in Athens and later settled in Rome, where he joined the intellectual circle of Julia Domna, wife of Emperor Septimius Severus. ‘De vita’ narrates the life and travels of the Pythagorean philosopher Apollonius of Tyana (c.40-c.120), with stories of marvellous cities, kings, Brahmins, Gymnosophists, and dragons. In the first half of the C16, Philostratus was regularly taught at Oxford lectures on Greek rhetoric, in conjunction with Isocrates and Lucian. The present Latin translation was probably used to assist students of Greek. The first annotator glossed sections on dragons in India, the 5 elements, pygmies, the nature of stones, a speaking statue and Roman emperors. Writing on the fore-edge, an early owner only noted the title of Philostratus’s work, more important for his studies.

I: Harvard, UCLA and Pierpont Morgan copies recorded in the US. Shaw n.8; Baudrier VII, 7; Ahmanson-Murphy 1108; Renouard 306:3. II: Shaw n.17; Baudrier VII, 15; Renouard 307:16; Gültlingen I, 67/36; Brunet IV, 621; BM STC Fr. p. 350. Alumni Oxonienses; PLRE database; P. Dean, ‘Tudor Humanism and the Roman Past’, RQ, 41 (1988), pp.84-111; A. Paleit, War, Liberty, and Caesar (2013); R. Thomson, William of Malmesbury (2003).