MANILIUS, Marcus [with] SCALIGER, Joseph.

MANILIUS, Marcus [with] SCALIGER, Joseph. Astronomica [with] Commentarius.

Paris, Roberti Stephani, 1579


8vo. 2 parts in 1. Pp. (xii) 136 (viii); Pp. 292 (xii). Italic and Roman letter. Printer’s device to both tps, arms of the dedicatee Henri III to verso of first, ornamental head and tail pieces and initials. Astrological diagrams to 7 pages of second part, one shaved a little at fore edge. Age yellowing, two minor marginal worm holes to first tp, light marginal water stain to fore edge of first part, foxing and spotting, mainly to second. A good copy in C17 vellum, red morocco label, aeb.

First edition published by Joseph Scaliger of this very early didactic poem on astrology by Roman poet Marcus Manilius (1st c. AD). Joseph Scaliger (1540-1609), a French Calvinist and humanist was the first to critically edit Manilius’s enigmatic work since the editio princeps published in Nuremberg in 1473 by the astronomer Regiomontanus. The poem is divided into five books and is accompanied by a second part containing Scaliger’s extensive commentary as well as astrological diagrams to seven pages. The poem itself demonstrates influence from Lucretius’s De rerum natura and describes the zodiac and Roman astrology.

Manilius’s identity is shrouded in mystery, as is when he wrote the work. The only historical event explicitly mentioned is the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest, leading scholars to suggest a date in the early-mid 1st century AD. Volk (2009) states that the poem is the earliest surviving extensive and comprehensible work on astronomy and astrology. The five books commence with the origin of the universe and the nature and composition of earth and space. The orbit of planets is discussed in depth as well as each zodiacal sign and birth charts, horoscopes and ascendants. Following this classical myths are used as vehicles for considering celestial phenomena. Stoic, Platonic, Pythagorean and Epicurean views are all present and modern scholars consistently praise the complex and elegant writing style of the poem. Housman (1916) exclaimed that Manilius was “the one Latin poet who excelled even Ovid in verbal point and smartness”.

Scaliger established himself as the preeminent Latin scholar and critic of his day through the publication of this 1579 critical edition. His commentary is essentially a treatise on ancient astronomy and it forms an introduction to his later publication ‘De emendation temporum’ (1583) which sought to expand the contemporary perception of ancient history from just Greeks and Romans to Persians, Babylonians and Egyptians. Indeed, Manilius’s identity as a Roman was much debated and questioned; he has been suggested to be an African or Asiatic Greek. Scaliger’s edition reintroduced Manilius to the scholarly world and led to many later editions including Boeckler’s, Bentley’s and Housman’s.

Adams M361; Smitskamp, The Scaliger Coll., 97; Dibdin II 224; Ren 181:4; Houzeau & Lancaster 1037; Grassi p. 434.
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