RHODIGINUS, Caelius Antiquae lectiones

Venice, Aldus and Andrea Torresani, 1516


FIRST EDITION. Fol., pp. [80], 862, [6]. Predominantly Roman letter, little Greek and Italic; title and printer’s device in red, Aldine device in black at the end; margins lightly soiled and foxed, some leaves a bit browned in the middle; tiny worm holes at head and foot of title and following leaf and on final four; old repair to CCvii, tear to blank lower outer corner of 157. A good copy in beautiful Italian dark morocco, probably Venice around 1525 (very similar to another Aldine described by De Marinis, II, n. 2104:); covers neatly tooled in blind, external panel and central diaper design with elaborated floral decoration and lozenges; rear slightly worn in margins, spine repaired. Two early ex libris on title by father and son, Mark and Johann Jochwerg from Lippstadt, 1576 and 1583; early annotations throughout, mainly by a contemporary Italian hand knowing Greek, occasionally by ‘Mark’ and two later hands; early and later notes on pastedowns, among them the autograph of the collector James W. Rimington-Wilson (1822-1877). Three eighteenth-century large etchings loosely inserted, probably Italian, on verso of pages cut from a large numismatic publication.

First edition of these massive and learned commentaries of the Italian Renaissance in sixteen books. Caelius Rhodiginus is the humanist nickname of Ludovico Ricchieri (1469-1525), a respected professor of Latin and Greek in Rovigo. In 1511, Rhodiginus moved to Milan to take over the lectureship of Demetrios Chalcondyles, under the auspices of the city treasurer and renowned book collector Jean Grolier. The Antiquae lectiones are dedicated to Grolier, with a remembrance of Aldus Manutius, recently dead. The work gathers together a considerable number of short essays and notes on Latin and Greek antiquity, ranging from literature, philology and science to philosophy, history, anthropology and morality. Remarkable considerations on ancient music are to be found in book five, chapters XX-XXIX. The somewhat confusing encyclopaedic structure was modelled after Gellio’s Noctes Atticae and Erasmus’s Adagia. The book was very well received and was frequently reprinted up to 1666. Despite some initials charges of plagiarism, even Erasmus ended up to value Ricchieri’s work.

In his Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries (London 1869, I, p. 272), Henry Hallam defines it as ‘by far the best and most extensive collection hitherto made from the stores of antiquity. It is now hardly remembered; but obtained almost universal praise, even from severe critics, for the deep erudition of its author, who, in a somewhat rude style, pours forth explanations of obscure and emendations of corrupted passages, with profuse display of knowledge in the customs and even philosophy of the ancients, but more especially in medicine and botany.’ This copy was annotated by a contemporary reader mainly interested in the philosophical passages, while the owner inscribing the head of the title-page commented on two musical essays at pp. 231-233.

Renouard 79, 11; BM STC It., 555; Adams R-450; Brunet, IV, 1269; Graesse, VI, 105.