LUCIAN OF SAMOSATA Deorum dialogi numero 70.

Strasbourg, Johann Schott, 1515


4to. ff. 84 unnumbered leaves, a-x 4 . Roman letter, with Greek. T-p, titles and initials of a 2-3 in red and black; decorated typographical border to left margins of text; decorated initials. Lower part of t-p painted with two horizontal red stripes, occasional slight marginal foxing, some faint waterstaining to upper inner and lower outer corners and inner margins at gutter, light browning to a few ll. and last gathering. A very good copy in a contemporary vellum wallet binding, upper cover with sewn-in repair, traces of label and small worm trail, small hole to folding cover, another with traces of sewing to spine, lacking two binding cords but sound, spine lined with faded (probably C15) ms. Ex-libris in red ink ‘Joannis Talirasy posomensis Liber 1515 ei[que] exibitur ab optimo (?) Mag[ist]ro Cris: Borb[onius?]’ and later casemark ‘XXXXIII.K22’ to t-p, early printed armorial bookplate of Hans Teilnkes von Prespurg, a few early marginalia in two hands.

The handsome printed armorial ex-libris belongs to the bibliophile Hans (János) Teilnkes, citizen of Breslavia (or Presburg), then in Hungary and now in Slovakia. It was probably printed in Nuremberg, hence the Germanisation of his name into Hans, and is reputed to be the first ex-libris ever to be used in Hungary. This copy probably never travelled far from Breslavia. It was originally a prize book given to the student Joannis (János?) Talirasy by a teacher probably named Christophorus Borbonius.

A very good copy of fascinating provenance of Lucian of Samosata’s satirical masterpiece against the traditional representation of Greek deities, translated into Latin and edited by the humanist Ottmar Luscinus. Originally from Syria, Lucian (c.125-180AD) was a Hellenistic author renowned for his very successful, mordant works in prose, poetry and dialogue form, inspired by the philosophical current of the Cynics and their indifference towards received conventions. ‘Dialogues of the Gods’ teased the portrayal of Greek gods and goddesses immortalized in Homeric poems, with both a complicit yet disenchanted eye. It features 75 dialogues between deities and heroes of the heavens, sea and underground, including Jove, Prometheus, Neptune, Hermes, Apollo, Bacchus as well as nymphs. For instance, the Cyclops Polyphemus complains with his father Neptune about how Ulysses blinded him in his sleep in Homer’s ‘Odyssey’; after mocking his son’s incompetence, Neptune concludes ominously that, although he may not be able to cure blindness, he has full power over mariners; and Ulysses ‘is still navigating’. As proved by the provenance of this copy, in the Renaissance Lucian’s works were deemed useful for the education of youth for their engaging content and brilliant style. A great promoter of the teaching of Greek in Strasbourg, Luscinus explained in the preface how he had been taught Greek on Lucian’s ‘Dialogues’. Widely translated, Lucian’s writings influenced European authors including Shakespeare and Marlowe, and inspired fundamental works of Western thought like Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’.

Only Harvard and KU copies recorded in the US.BM STC Ger., p. 530; Brunet III, 1208. Not in Dibdin or Légrand.

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