PTOLEMY Liber de analemmate… Eiusdem Federici Commandini liber De horologiorum descriptione.

Rome, apud Paolo Manuzio, 1562


FIRST EDITION. LARGE PAPER COPY. 4to. 2 works in 1, ff. (iv) 93 (iii). Roman letter, little Greek and Italic. Woodcut Aldine device to t-p, c.100 woodcut geometrical diagrams, few initials in period-colouring (gold, black, red and blue). T-p somewhat browned, all edges untrimmed, lower blank margin of t-p and upper outer blank corner of A4, B4, C4 and D4 flawed, intermittent minor spotting or slight age yellowing, small oil stain to upper outer blank corner of gathering S. A remarkable, very good, clean copy, on large paper (240 x 175mm), in a superb near contemporary crimson velvet Dogale binding, traces of four pairs of ties, single gilt ruled, decorated to a design of gilt, embossed morocco sunk panels, gilt almond-shaped centrepieces to covers with St Mark’s lion (upper) and arms of the Morosini (?) (lower), two smaller almonds and scalloped cornerpieces gilt to an arabesque pattern, all decorated with red and green paint and brown enamel, edges rubbed with some loss. Spine substantially damaged, exposing stitching on flat parchment tapes, traces of raised bands. C19 book label to front pastedown, late C17 casemark (?) inked to fep.

The superb nearly contemporary binding bears the arabesque pattern, though embossed not painted, of the cornerpieces on the lacquered Newberry Library, Wing MS.ZW 1575. The latter covers an official ms. ‘commissione’ of 1572 from the Doge Mocenigo to a Venetian official; it also bears, like this binding, a centrepiece with St Mark’s lion ‘in moleca’ (front-facing, encircled by his wings in the shape of a crab). The ‘Commissioni’ were mss on vellum, handsomely illuminated, containing official letters addressed by the Doge to magistrates, diplomats or aristocratic families (the arms on the lower cover were those of the addressee). The use of such ‘Dogale’ bindings on ‘Commissioni’ was common in Venice from c.1550 to the early C17. Binders and finishers used a broad range of luxury materials and ornaments to turn the Commission volumes into ‘the symbol of its recipient’s social status’, including crimson velvet, as in this case and BL, Add. MS 26067 (Rampazzo, ‘The Sunk-Panel Book-Binding’, 1-2). We have not been able to trace any bindings with St Mark’s lion ‘in moleca’, sunk panels and four pairs of ties surviving on works which are not ‘commissioni’, though they may have existed. The arms are those of the Morosini, who boasted a Doge in 1688-94, about the period of the casemark; yet, their escutcheon is or with fess azur, not gules with fess argent. Possibly, the binding was taken from a ms. commission sent to a Morosini in the late C16 and reused on one of their treasured books, sewn on flat parchment tapes (a technique not common in Italy before the C18 (Pickwoad, private correspondence)), or possibly this binding was an exception to the general practice of the time.

Large paper copy, untrimmed, of the edition princeps of Ptolemy’s ‘Liber de analemmate’—a very influential astronomical work. Ptolemy (c.100-170AD) was a Roman geographer, mathematician and astronomer from Alexandria. His extant works, all written in Greek, influenced Western knowledge for centuries, especially the ‘Almagest’, a comprehensive treatise on astronomy, and the ‘Geography’, providing calculations of geographical coordinates. ‘Liber de analemmate’ is now only known in its Latin version, edited by Federico Commandino, a major Renaissance mathematician also responsible for the first Latin translation of Euclid’s ‘Elements’. Ptolemy developed the three ancient methods used to transpose the earth’s surface onto a plane; he thus anticipated the criteria formulated by Gerard Mercator changing Renaissance cartographic and astronomical knowledge (Cigola, ‘Distinguished Figures’, 108). Based on triangulation and projection measurements, here illustrated by handsome woodcuts, ‘analemma’ is a diagram tracing the shifting position of the Sun in the sky, due to the elliptical trajectory of the Earth’s revolutions, when observed from the same location in the course of time. It was especially useful for the constructions of ‘horologia’ (sundials) and the calculation of the angle and orientation of the gnomon, the vertical part casting a shadow. The second work in this edition, Commandino’s ‘De horologium descriptione’, completed Ptolemy’s study with a discussion of clocks used in the C16, e.g., equinoctial, italicum, astronomicum, with a vertical or horizontal angle, etc. Debates on sundials, the calculations of the length of days and the movements of the earth in relation to the Sun were ripe in the 1560s, when the Council of Trent approved the Gregorian calendar reform enacted in 1582. A superbly bound, large paper copy of this major scientific Aldine.

BM STC It., p. 542; Brunet IV, 948; Renouard 187:13 (he records one on ‘grand papier’); Ahmanson-Murphy 512; Honeyman 2558; Riccardi II, 360. O. Granzotto, ‘Legature di commissioni dogali a Venezia dal ’400 al ’700’, in 6th Forum Internazionale della Rilegatura d’Arte, ed. D. Pino et al. (Verona, 1999), 24-34; L. Nuvoloni, ‘Commissioni Dogali. Venetian Bookbindings in the British Library’, ‘For the Love of the Binding’: Studies in Bookbinding History Presented to Mirjam Foot, ed. D. Pearson (London, 2000), 81-109; M. Rampazzo, ‘The Sunk-Panel Book-Binding of a Renaissance Venetian Commissione Dogale’, Heritage Science 6 (2018), 1-13.
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