QUINTILIAN. Institutionum Oratoriarum Libri XII.

Paris, R. Estienne, 1542.


Large 4to. pp. 551 [i.e., 669], [51]. Roman letter. Woodcut printer’s device to title, decorated initials and ornaments. Title a little dusty, three minor marginal repairs, slight age browning, contemporary ex-libris and ms marginalia gently washed (now nearly invisible) to title and initial ll., and occasionally elsewhere, few tiny marginal worm holes and a little marginal foxing to last gathering. A very good, wide-margined copy in late C18 southern Italian polished calf, gilt rolls of dentelles and interlacing lilies to outer border, central panel with large gilt cornerpieces of fleurons and tendrils, gilt unidentified armorial centrepieces with Italian pine and two crossed palm fronds within decorative frame, outer edges gilt, marbled eps and flyleaves c1900, a.e.g., corners a bit worn, expert repair to head and foot of spine, a.e.g., green silk marker.

The fine binding was probably produced in the third quarter of the C18. The unidentified armorial centrepiece is also found on the vellum binding of a law book printed in 1752, now at the Bib. dell’Archiginnasio (ZANARDI M*. 2). The ‘rocaille’ decoration recalls that on several bindings attributed to workshops based in Rome (e.g., Braidense nos 24, 26, 32) and Naples (‘Legature’, pl.5).

A handsome Estienne edition, a very close reprint of Simon de Colines’ quarto of 1541. Quintilian’s ‘Institutio Oratoria’ was the main text for the study of classical rhetoric until way into the C18 – ‘the most complete and detailed collection of the historical development of theories and techniques of communication in Greece and Rome up to the first century’ (Celentano, p.361). Written in the 1st century AD and rediscovered in 1416, it introduced students to the basic principles of rhetoric, e.g., orations, their elements, tropes and figures of speech. Issued without the editor’s preface, it begins with Quintilian’s own letter to his publisher, Trypho, who had allegedly been pressing him to finish his work – the result of 20 years of teaching – on the best education of the orator. The 12 books deal with preparatory material, the nature of rhetoric and its elements (inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria, actio), the character of the orator, and how he should study, prepare and argue his cases. ‘The Institutio has been described as four major works blended into one: a treatise on education, a manual of rhetoric, a reader’s guide to the best authors, and a handbook on the moral duties of the perfect orator’ (Murphy, p.59).

Renouard 53:9: ‘Edition estimable’. Not in Dibdin, Brunet or Moss. Le legature pregiate della Biblioteca universitaria di Napoli (1998); Arte della legatura a Brera. Il Settecento (2012); M.S. Celentano, ‘Oratorical Exercises from the Rhetoric to Alexander to the Institutio oratoria’, Rhetorica, 29 (2011), pp.357–65; J. Murphy, ‘The Structure and Contents of the Institutio oratoria’, The Oxford Handbook to Quintilian (2021), pp.59-94.
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