MANUTIUS, Paulus. Apophthegmatum.

Venice, Damiani Zenari, 1590


8vo. Pp. 706 (xxxviii). Roman letter. Woodcut printer’s device to tp, ornamental headpieces and floriated initials. Early ms to fly ‘Ad usum Flaminy Casari [obscured by ink stain]’, ms in same hand above ‘Ad usu [?]’ and to last in same hand ‘Di Flaminio [?]’ 1665 Lucca. Light blue ink stain to lower and fore edge of tp and few leaves following and end, some p. uncut at foot. Minor worm holes to cover, tp and first few leaves, worm hole to back cover and at gutter of last leaf. A good clean copy in contemp. vellum.

Paulus Manutius (1512-74) was a Venetian printer and passionate humanist, son of the prosperous printer Aldus Manutius, founder of the Aldine Press. Paulus was mentored by important figures of the Venetian intellectual scene including Pietro Bembo, the Italian poet, scholar and literary theorist. Andrea Torresani, Paulus’s grandfather, managed the Aldine Press during this time. He died suddenly, and disputes emerged over who should take over the enormously successful business. Paulus took over in 1533; in his first year alone eleven new titles were published. On top of his work as a printer, Paulus retained his passion for humanist scholarship and writing. He was a passionate devotee of Cicero and published a collection of the Roman statesman’s letters and orations in 1540 as well as his own epistles in a Ciceronian style. Paulus was invited to Rome by Pope Pius IV in 1561, who offered a generous stipend for him to re-establish the Aldine Press there instead of Venice, with the profits to be split between Paulus and the Papal Treasury. He accepted the offer, and spent the next nine years publishing works that had a typically anti-Protestant emphasis.

Apophthegmata is several collections of aphorisms, or adages. These are concise, memorable, and usually philosophical in subject, and are meant to express some kind of truth or a universal principle. There was a long classical tradition of producing compilations of aphorisms, using ideas by Socrates, Plato and Alexander the Great as well as Augustus, Cicero and Cato the Elder. This work is an exercise in classical knowledge and a demonstration of humanistic education. It contains anecdotes supposedly from the lives of great classical figures, for example that Socrates abstained from food and drink that men typically eat needlessly, stating that being hungry bestows a humbling power on an individual.

This edition not in BM STC It or Adams.
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