MEURSIUS, Johannes.


MEURSIUS, Johannes. Atticarum Lectionum libri VI.

Leiden, ex officina Elzeviriana, 1617


FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. (viii) 376 (xxxii). Roman and Greek letter, some Italic. Woodcut printer’s device to title, decorated initials and ornaments. Light age yellowing, few tiny worm holes at blank foot of initial gatherings, ink splash to upper edge of N-P4, traces of faint water stain extending from gutter to lower blank margin of second half (a bit heavier to last few ll. of index). A very good, very wide-margined copy in early probably Mexican vellum over boards, yapp edges, title inked to spine in a handsome Gothic hand, a.e.r., boards and spine a little soiled. Marca de fuego SEVARC(?) to upper edge, contemporary ms. inscriptions: ‘De Colegio de Thepotzotlan de la Compañia de Jesus’ to ffep, ‘del Col[egi]o de la Comp[añi]a de Jesus de la Veracruz’ (last word crossed out) and ‘es del do[ctor](?) Ger[ar/l]do de las (?) to t-p, inquisitorial ms. ‘auctoris damnati’ and ‘Author damnatus, opus permissum, ex regula expurgatorij anno 1707, ex comiss[ion]e etc S. Tribunalis Fidei Tepotzotlani. Die 4 Julij Ann 1716. Martinus de Sezama’ to t-p, ‘Author damnatus’ in the same hand to +2.

A very good copy, with interesting contemporary Mexican provenance, of the first edition of this important work on Greek antiquity by the Dutch antiquary Johannes Meursius (1579-1639), professor of Greek at Leiden. This copy was in two Jesuit ‘collegia’ in Mexico: at Veracruz, where the Jesuits first landed in 1572, and at Tepotzotlan. The latter, established in c.1600 near Mexico City, became one of the most influential novitiates, especially under the rectorship of the chronicler Andrés Pérez de Ribas (1575-1655), probably in office when this copy was acquired. He called the Collegium ‘one of the principal and most necessary’ in Mexico, especially as an institution which also focused on the teaching of the Nahuatl and Otomí languages (Molina, 101). This included the staging of adapted Spanish plays translated into Nahuatl and performed in local churches (Burkhart, 35).

An invaluable didactic instrument, Meursius’s work was intended first and foremost for university students. This copy was very likely employed at the collegia as the ‘Ratio studiorum’ of 1599, which systematised the Jesuit curriculum, ‘considered Greek a part of required studies’ and generally ‘saw history as ancient history’ (Worcester, 661). ‘Lectiones Acticae’ built on previous works on Greek antiquity by the great classicists Graevius and Gronovius, to create a compact encyclopaedia of ancient history and customs. It includes sections on Athens, the oath of junior magistrates (thesmotetai), the history of the Metrōon sanctuary, the obscure painter Micon, the seating places for senators and ephebi at the theatre, and the walls of Piraeus, with the addition of detailed interpretative emendations of Greek words through comparative etymology. Each statement is followed by the specific Greek passage whence it was taken, Meursius’s main sources being Strabo, Suidas, Thucydides, Aristophanes, Pollux, Plutarch and epigraphic inscriptions. The result is a compact collection of all that was known on those topics, enhanced by a detailed final index. Although Meursius was an ‘auctor damnatus’ added to the Index, this work was ‘permissum’, as specified in this copy by the C18 Inquisitor Martinus de Sezama. A very interesting copy.

Willems 130; Copinger 3072; Rahir 108. Not in Brunet. J.M. Molina, The Jesuit Ethic and Spirit of Global Expansion (2013); L.M. Burkhart, ‘Nahuatl Baroque’, in Nahuatl Theater (2008), III; T. Worcester S.J., ‘Jesuit Schools and Universities’ [Review], Journal of Jesuit Studies 7 (2020), 661-3.

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