TERENTIUS AFER, Publius Comoediae sex

Paris, Robert Estienne, 1541 - 1542


4to, pp. 621, [27]. Roman letter, little Greek; large printer’s device on title; title very lightly soiled, small paper flaw at foot of 242 and 243, very occasional underlining in red chalk in margins. A good copy in eighteenth-century brown calf, gilt supralibros of René-Alexandre Aubry (died 1740) on covers, elaborately gilt compartments and morocco title label on spine; a. e. g., marbled endpapers; minor scratches on covers, extremities slightly rubbed, lower joints a little cracked, repair to head of spine; bookplate of Henri Tardivi (1854-1915) on front pastedown; ex dono signed by Anatole France (1844-1924) ‘Au jeune Latiniste et Bibliophile Jean Bunard’, 1st January 1921, on front fly, year of acquisition ‘1873’ and price note ‘f. 9’ in his hand on verso of front endpapers and recto of front fly.

Accurate Estienne edition of one of the masters of Latin comedy. A liberated slave of North African origins, Terence (c. 195/185-159 BC ) is the most prominent comic playwright of ancient Rome along with Plautus. Relying extensively on the plays of the New Greek Comedy and especially those of Menander, the six comedies written by Terence enjoyed long-lasting success, were copied in several manuscripts and thus exceptionally survived all together. For almost two millenniums throughout the Middle Ages and early modern times, they were employed as model of polished Latin in schools. This is regarded as the best edition published by the humanist printer Robert Estienne, including three fundamental commentaries: the first, featuring the earliest biography of the author, by the famous grammarian Aelius Donatus (fl. mid-4th century AD); the second, complementing Donatus with an insight into the third comedy (The Self-Tormentor), by the scholar Giovanni Calfurnio (1443-1503), one of Aldus’s editors; and the third, briefly illustrating Terence’s metric system and vocabulary, written by Erasmus, whose emendations of the textual faults in a previous edition by Estienne himself (1529) are gladly accepted here.

This copy belonged to René-Alexandre Aubry, lord of Barneville and counsellor of the Parisian Parliament, died 1740. There is no record about his library, though two other books with his distinctive supralibros (Guigard, II, p. 23) have appeared on the French market in recent years. At the beginning of 1921, the book was presented to a promising young Latinist, Jean Bunard, by the French novelist and poet Anatole France (1844-1924), who appears to have acquired it in 1873. Son of a Paris book dealer, France, born François-Anatole Thibault, was a well-known bibliophile. A few months after this gift, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

BM STC Fr., 416; Adams, T 333; Brunet, V, 713 (edition estimée); Graesse, VII, 56; Renouard, 53:11; Schreiber, 64.

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