QUINTILIAN, MARCUS FABIUS. Institutionum oratoriarum libri xii.

Paris, Robert Estienne, 1542


Large 8vo. pp. 552 (l). Roman letter. Printer’s device to tp. Light age yellowing, light soiling to tp, old repair to upper outer corner to first three leaves, occasional marginal browning to a few leaves, intermittent light marginal foxing. A good clean copy with generous margins in handsome black calf C1600, gilt central oval and fleurons to corners, gilt and blind ruled border, gilt fleurons repeated on spine, corners, joints and bands a bit rubbed, scratches to covers, worn at head, a few wormholes towards foot of spine.

Handsomely bound and typographically elegant Estienne edition of Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria from c. 95 AD. This is the only extant work penned by the Spanish-born Roman rhetorician. Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (c. 35-100 AD) was writing in the latter years of the reign of Domitian, and had been tutor to Domitian’s family. Following the Ciceronian tradition, the twelve volume textbook on the theory and practice of rhetoric discusses the education and personal development of the orator himself. Quintilian outlines the ideal characteristics for a proficient orator, namely good morals, skill at public speaking and the inclusion of a just and honourable message in his speeches. This theory is based on the idea (since disproved) that one cannot be a good orator if one is a dishonourable or bad person. He also believed in the power of oratory to beneficially educate the population, as opposed to its use as a means to plead a case, even if the defendant were guilty.

First printed in 1470 and based on the complete manuscript found at St. Gall by Bracciolini in 1416, the work proved deeply influential in the Renaissance, the humanists sharing Quintilian’s belief in the relationship between rhetorical skill and moral education. ‘Quintilian takes his future orator at birth and shows how this goodness of character and skill in speaking may be best produced. No detail of training in infancy, boyhood or youth is too petty for his attention. The parts of the work which relate to general education are of the greatest interest and importance. Quintilian postulates the widest culture; there is no form of knowledge from which something may not be extracted for his purpose; and he is fully alive to the importance of method in education…..[His] literary sympathies are extraordinarily wide…..[and] ancient literary criticism perhaps touched its highest point in the hands of Quintilian.’ (Enc. Brit., 13th. ed.). This edition reproduces the text of Coline’s of 1541 with variants.

Ren. 53:9; Adams Q64; BM STC. Fr. p. 369; Brunet IV 1025n.
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