SUIDAS To men paron biblion, Souida. Hoi de syntaxamenoi touto, andres sophoi

Venice, in aedibus Aldi, et Andreae soceri, mense Feb., 1514


Folio. ff. 392. a[alpha]-z[psi]8 &[omega]8 A[Alpha]-Z[Psi]8 &[Omega]8 2A[Alpha]8. quire H misbound, z2 bound upside down. Greek letter, in double column, ruled in red throughout. Woodcut Aldine device on the title-page and verso of final blank, capital spaces with guide letters, manuscript title inscription ‘Collat. ch perf. April 10 1798 M. R.’ with a note in latin concerning the misbound quire [Matthew Raine 1760-1811, headmaster of Charterhouse School], C19th pencil note on fly leaf ‘afterwards Mr Heber’s’, small label ‘Baron Monson’ [William, 6th Lord Monson] label on rear pastedown. Light spotting and very light soiling on first and last leaves, faint dampstain in a few fore margins, occasional light marginal spots, small repair to r3. A very, very, good copy in fine 18th-century French red morocco, (Derome?) covers bordered with a triple gilt rule, spine, with gilt ruled raised bands, double gilt ruled in compartments richly gilt with a semé of small tools around a fine gilt urn tool at centre, edges with double gilt rule, inner dentelles gilt, marbled paper endleaves, a.e.g. lower corners fractionally rubbed.

A fine copy of the first Aldine edition of the Suida, a tenth century encyclopaedic lexicon which gives a wealth of references to ancient sources, some of them now lost. The author of the Suida is unknown. “Suida’ means “fortress” and was intended as an authoritative collection of historical information on secular and ecclesiastical writers and events. At some point Suida was taken to refer to the author, and thus one finds reference to “Suidas” as the author. The first edition of the Suida was printed by Bissolo and Mangio in 1499 in Milan, where they were forced to relocate after Aldus obtained the Venetian monopoly on the printing of hitherto unpublished Greek texts. This Aldine differs slightly from the first, probably being derived from a different manuscript. The lexicon is one of the most valuable documents of Greek philology, grammar, and literary history using material from the classical period; a long chain of later authors, from Eustathius of Thessalonica (c. 1192), quote from him. Suidas’s lexicon is something between a grammatical dictionary and an encyclopaedia in the modern sense. It explains the source, derivation, and meaning of words according to the philology of the period, using such earlier authorities as Harpokration and Helladios. It is the articles on literary history that are particularly valuable. In these it gives details and to some extent quotations, from authors whose works are otherwise lost. It uses older scholia to the classics (Homer, Thucydides, Sophocles, etc.), and for later writers, Polybius, Josephus, the “Chronicon Paschale”, George Syncellus, George Hamartolus, etc. The lexicon represents a convenient work of reference for those people who played a part in the political, ecclesiastical, and literary history of the Byzantine empire down to the tenth century. Its chief source is the encyclopedia of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (912-59), and for Roman history the excerpts of John of Antioch. The lexicon is arranged, not quite alphabetically. Suidas also contains much material for early church history among his biographical articles.

The fine red morocco binding is similar in style to late bindings made by Derome le Jeune and his successor Derome-Bradel. The design of the compartments on the spine, and the fine tools used, also bears some similarities to bindings made by the French binder Bisiaux, who copied many of Derome’s tools, that were inherited by Bradel from Derome. “consequently, unsigned Bisiaux bindings are often erroneously attributed to Bradel as Renouard’s main supplier of bindings in this style (M. Breslauer, Catalogue 110, p. 274, n. 161)” Bl Catalogue of bindings. Bisiaux, who was active 1777-1781 in Paris, bound many works for Renouard. The tools used, the quality of the morocco, and the gilding are of the highest order and the neo-classical style perfect for this work.

Matthew Raine (1760-1811), was headmaster of Charterhouse School, much of whose library went to Trinity College Cambridge after his death.The pencil note on flyleaf describes the work as then going to Heber, but it is not found in Heber’s sale catalogues of 1834-1836, though Heber did have a copy on vellum. A lovely copy, exquisitely bound.

BM STC It. Cth Adams S2062; The Aldine Press, 2001, n. 119 Censimento 16 CNCE 37492; Renouard 1515:11; Texas 118; UCLA 101
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