Illustrium virorum vite.

Paris, Jodocus Badius Ascensius, [1520].


Folio. ff. (xxii) CCCXCIII, lacking final blank. Roman letter, index in quadruple column. T-p in red and black, handsome woodcut border with (above) scholar writing, putti and crowned dragons, (centre) large printer’s device showing Ascensius’s printing press, columns decorated with faces within ovals flanked by grotesques, (below) satyrs, soldiers on horseback and blank escutcheon; decorated initials. T-p a little finger soiled, small marginal ink splash, little repaired tear to lower blank margin of N5 verso, intermittent marginal foxing, few marginal small paper flaws, rubbed ink splash affecting a couple of words, minor water stain to upper blank corner of last two ll. A very good copy in contemporary Piedmontese brown goatskin, lacking ties, triple blind ruled to a panel design, second border single cross-hatched in blind with fleurs-de-lis and three-pointed comets, centre panel bordered with small blind-stamped ivy leaves, three blind-stamped IHS roundels bordered with ivy leaf tool, raised bands, compartments single cross-hatched, later label and ink casemark to spine, all edges green and gauffered to a dentelle design, small repair at head and foot of spine. Later red crayon inscription to front pastedown, early ms. shelfmark and largely discoloured circular stamp to front pastedown, early ms. ex-libris ‘D.D. Ioannis Iacobi Carante I.V.D. Cuneensis’ and ‘Ad uso Del Pre Ludovico Ma Caranta di Cuneo Mre Pa Prefto’ to t-p, c.1600, and ‘Joh[ann]es Joseph Rabius huius libri d[omi]n[u]s. Hunc Antonius Luperia Cuneensis dominus 19 April. 1589 scribebat’ to rear pastedown, the odd contemporary annotation.

In the C16, this copy was in the private libraries of families near the Piedmontese town of Cuneo. With roots in the hamlet of Quaranta, Joannis Jacobus and Ludovicus Carante respectively were a lawyer ‘in utroque’ and a prefect. Rabia and Luperia were local surnames, the latter aristocratic. The handsome contemporary binding was most likely produced in the Cuneo territory. Given the IHS stamps, a good candidate may be the Cistercian Abbey of Santa Maria di Staffarda, a large and influential institution, with a scriptorium until the end of the C15.

A very good copy of this handsome Parisian edition of Plutarch’s ‘Lives’, produced at the famous press ‘Prelum Ascensianum’. Established in 1503 by the classicist Jodocus Badius Ascensius (or Josse Badius, 1462-1535), formerly editor for the Lyonnaise printers Jean Trechsel and de Vingle. Badius specialised in classical editions; the present edited by Gérard de Verceil, with a detailed index. ‘Vitae’, by the Greek philosopher Plutarch (46-119AD), greatly influenced Renaissance ‘mirrors for princes’ and was used for moral instruction. The work provided parallel biographies highlighting the virtues, vices and deeds of renowned Romans and Greeks, including Pericles, Theseus, Cicero, Demosthenes, Romulus and Scipio Africanus (who elicited the interest of the early owner of this copy). First used in 1507, Badius’s ‘marque typographique’, after his own design, is the second, and first detailed, illustration of a printing press. In this edition, a new version appeared, recut by a German artist, with important differences. ‘In the second, the composing stick used by the figure in the act of setting type is changed from the right to the left hand; the press shows improved mechanical construction, indicating greater solidity and strength. […] the figure sitting at the case on the right side of the engraving is intended to represent a woman, instead of a man as in the earlier illustration’ (Roberts, ‘Printer’s Marks’, 116-17). The four tools hanging from the machine are scissors to cut the paper or frisket, a brush for pressing down the cloth or paper tympan, dividers, and a mysterious Y-shaped tool.

Only 4 copies recorded in the US.

Renouard, Imprimeurs & Libraires Parisiens, III, p.179; Pettigree & Walsby, French Books, 83337. Not in USTC, Dibdin, Moss, Brunet or BM STC Fr. W. Roberts, Printers’ Marks (London, 1893).


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ERASMUS. Apophthegmatum opus.

Paris, apud Ioannem Roigny, 1533. [with]

PLUTARCH. Regum & Imperatorum Apophthegmata.

[Paris], Iehan Petit, [after 1507].


Small 4to. 2 works in 1, pp. (x), 496, (xxx); ff. 28, (i). Printer’s device to t-p of both, and last leaf of first, decorated initials. A few lower or outer margins uncut, I: first four ll. a little finger-soiled, slight mainly marginal foxing, II: intermittent browning, light marginal water stain to e 3-7 . Good copies in C19 tree sheep, marbled eps, raised bands, spine double gilt ruled, gilt-lettered morocco label, a.e.r., a little rubbed. I: c,1800 price (?) to ffep, ‘Vidania mal’ (?) on title in C16 hand, 6-line censorship note c.1600, and C19 ‘418’ to t-p, C16 marginalia to first 10 ll., occasional underlinings elsewhere, Letter from Brigitte Moreau of the BNF describing the Plutarch as ‘fort rare’ and known in only one another copy.

Interesting, annotated, very scarce Parisian editions of Erasmus’s and Plutarch’s collections of maxims—the second unrecorded in major bibliographies. Erasmus (1466-1536), the greatest humanist and philologist of the northern Renaissance, wrote some of the most important ‘mirrors for princes’ (‘Institutio principis Christianis’, 1516) and educational works for the elites (‘Adagia’, 1500). Like the latter, ‘Apophthegmata’ was a collection of sayings gathered from Greek and Latin lives of great personalities including Plutarch, Suetonius and Xenophon, grouped according to the virtue they epitomise. First published in 1531, it is here in a new, revised and enlarged edition. This copy was also marked by a near contemporary censor, as shown by his note on the t-p, stating that ‘Erasmus’s works should be read with caution’ and expunged due to his ‘corruption’. Several passages (e.g., one called ‘Deus insepultus’) were highlighted by the censor, and one was erased with the gloss ‘vox Erasmi’ (‘the voice of Erasmus’). From the Index of 1564, Erasmus was included as an author permitted but in need of expurgation; however, this work and the similar ‘Adagia’ were never mentioned specifically or especially targeted (Pabel, 146). The C16 annotator of this copy glossed extensively the dedicatory epistle and the first sections on Agasicles and Agesilaus, kings of Sparta. He was especially interested in material derived from Plutarch’s ‘Apophthegmata Regum et Imperatorum’ (of kings and emperors) and ‘Apophthegmata Laconica’ (of Spartans), a very scarce Parisian edition of which, printed in 1507 by Jehan Petit, was bound together with Erasmus’s work by an early owner. Plutarch (46-120AD) was a Roman magistrate and ambassador, and one of the most influential authors in the Renaissance for his biographies of the lives of the emperors and great ancient personalities, and wise maxims derived from them. Each is contextualised within a short anecdote from the lives of personalities including Silla, Diogenes, Lycurgus and Periander. ‘Apophthegmata regum’, in the Latin translations by Francesco Filelfo and Raffaele Regio, and ‘Apophthegmata Laconica’, together with ‘Moralia’ in Greek, were Erasmus’s models.

I: No copies recorded in the US.
Moreau-Renouard 668; BM STC Fr., p.153. Not in Brunet.
II: No copies recorded in the US.
Not in BM STC Fr., Moreau-Renouard, Hoffmann, Pettigree or Brunet. H.M. Pabel, ‘Praise and Blame: Peter Canisius’s Ambivalent Assessment of Erasmus’, in The Reception of Erasmus in the Early Modern Period, ed. K. Enenkel (Leiden, 2013), 129-62.


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[UDALL, William. Camden, William.]


The Historie of the Life and Death of Mary Stuart Queene of Scotland.

London, John Haviland for Richard Whitaker, 1624


FIRST EDITION. Folio. pp. [xii], 250, [ii]. A(±A3), B-2H, 2I. Roman and Italic letter, text within box rule. Fine engraved portrait of Mary as frontispiece within roundel, Mary’s arms above, signed: R: Elstrack, title within large woodcut border, epistle signed “Wil. Stranguage” [i.e. William Udall], “One of three imprint variants of this edition. In this state the dedication, with pseudonymous signature, is a cancel.” ESTC. “.Hadinton” in a contemporary hand on title. another autograph erased dated 1651 above, engraved armorial bookplate of Thomas Hamilton (1721-1794), 7th Earl of Haddington, on verso of t-p, contemporary inscription on fly erased, early shelf marks on t-p and and frontispiece. Light age yellowing, very rare spot or mark, t-p fractionally dusty in lower outer margin. A fine, large paper copy, crisp and clean in handsome contemporary calf, covers double gilt and blind ruled to a panel design, corners stopped with small gilt fleurons, gilt fleurons to corners of inner panel, arms of John Bill, Kings Printer at centres, spine blind ruled, slightly later morocco label gilt, edges gilt ruled, a.e.r. endpapers renewed, extremities slightly rubbed.

A remarkable, large paper copy bound with the arms of the Kings printer John Bill, almost certainly made for presentation; The University of Toronto, British Armorial Bindings, records two vols with John Bill’s armorial device, one of them being another copy of this work. At this late stage in his career John Bill was a hugely successful, influential and wealthy printer. “In the Jacobean period the King’s Printers were Robert Barker (1570–1645), and the two Shropshire men, Bonham Norton (1564–1635) and John Bill (1576–1630). At this time the office of the King’s Printer included the privilege to print the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer in English. .… But the rights to the office of King’s Printer in English were in dispute, and Robert Barker, Bonham Norton and John Bill—who held the office either alone, or together in various partnerships from 1603–1645—fought bitter legal battles in the Court of Chancery for more than a decade to establish their rights to a share in the business. …. through John Bill’s good managing of the business (which drew in overseas investments through his Continental contacts) the office began to pay. These Continental contacts emerged from a joint-stock partnership which Bonham Norton, John Norton, and John Bill had set up in 1603. This long-running partnership, from 1603-1619 was designed to import continental books and stationary, and to produce books at home and abroad. It operated through an intricate web of book-trade contacts and markets, which John Bill was able to draw into the operation of the King’s Printing House. The KPH institutions extended their power as instruments of cultural production in Jacobean England. James’s desire to define a national culture and influence European thought through the printed word meant that the Salopian’s book-trading became as important culturally for the king as it was financially for the partners.” ‘A Brief History of the King’s Printing House (KPH) in the Jacobean Period’

Attractive principal edition of the classic early ‘Life’ of Mary, Queen of Scots and the author’s only printed work. Though drawn almost exclusively from the Latin history of the period by Camden (probably with Camden’s sanction), it achieved considerable popular success. Mary was one of the most attractive and fascinating figures of British history of the late C16th., and the establishment of her Stuart line on the throne of England of course heightened the interest of Englishmen in her life and unhappy fate. “Anticipating that his portraits of Elizabeth and Mary would met with objections, Camden appears to have opposed publishing his Annales in English during his lifetime. As evidence, historians usually point to Jame’s commission for Abraham Darcie’s translation, which was not printed until 1625, over a year after Camden’s death. Udall’s neglected ‘Historie of the Life and Death of Mary Stuart Queene of Scotland’ appeared even earlier, in 1624, evidence that James was getting what was for him the most significant part of the text out to the English public as soon as possible. Udall, who first published this book under the name ‘William Stranguage’ does not credit Camden as his source, and up through the nineteenth century, many, if not most, readers assumed Udall wrote it himself. Udall’s history popularises a version of Mary’s tragedy that argues for James’s legitimacy against those who might challenge him.”. By John D. Staines ‘The Tragic Histories of Mary Queen of Scots, 1560-1690.’

A stunning copy of this important work.

ESTC. S117760. STC 24509a. Pforzheimer I 123. Arber IV 158.


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MEXIA, Pedro


The Imperiall historie, or the lives of the Emperours, from Iulius Caesar… 

London, Mathew Lownes, 1623


FIRST EDITION thus. Folio. [xii], 867, [i]. A-4C⁶, 4D⁸. Roman letter, some Italic. Engraved title with figure of ‘Germanie’ above, Roman Emperor to left and German Emperor to right (Jonson, Anon 27), large historiated and smaller floriated initials, woodcut head and tail-pieces, typographical ornaments, ‘1713’ ms. with shelf mark and price at head of pastedown, engraved bookplate of Maurice Burrus at side, his purchase label “Maggs 1936’ on rear fly. Light age yellowing, some minor mostly marginal spotting, closed tear expertly restored on title. A very good copy in stunning contemporary olive morocco for Charles I, covers gilt ruled to a panel design, outer dentelle border of repeated small gilt tools, large fleurons to corners, central panel with an all over semée of alternate rose and lozenge tools, arms of Charles I gilt stamped at centres, spine with gilt tooled raised bands, gilt ruled in compartments with gilt ruled and gilt scrolled ‘false bands’ at centre of each compartment, richly gilt with small tools in each half compartment, edges gilt ruled, remains of blue silk ties, bound upside-down. 

A stunning copy of this work, the second edition of the English translation by Traheron of Mexia’s ‘Historia imperial y cesárea’, enlarged by the historian Edward Grimstone, in a  remarkable Royal binding for Charles I. This work was printed the same year as Charles’ trip to Spain for the ‘Spanish match’. “The other English-Spanish translation published in this annus mirabilis was an edition of Pedro de Mexia’s The Imperiall Historie, first published in 1604, with additional material written by the Sergeant at arms Edward Grimestone and dedicated to Lionel Cranfield the Lord High Treasurer.” Alexander Samson ‘The Spanish Match: Prince Charles’s Journey to Madrid, 1623’. The superb binding is similar in style and structure to one in the BL shelfmark c18c4, also with a dentelle border with an all over semi of small tools around the arms of Charles I. It is the work of the highest quality using the finest materials. It was most probably made for Charles’ library, and not just for one of the Royal chapels. It is hardly a coincidence that this work was published the year of Charles I’s trip to Spain for the ‘Spanish Match’, and the combination of this work in this binding would suggest a presentation copy to Charles, probably from Grimestone. 

“One of the later royal historians appointed in the age of Charles V, Mexia shared with his predecessor the distinction of writing a text that was popular both in Spain and abroad. Eight Castilian editions of his Historia Imperial y Cesarea were printed between 1545 and 1665 in Seville, Madrid, Basel and Antwerp. The Italian translation by Ludovico Dolce was even more successful. Between 1558 and 1688 at least seventeen Italian editions were printed in Venice, some of which included the lives of Charles V, Maximilian II, and Ferdinand. A German translation was printed in Basel in 1564, and two English translations by William Traheron and Edward Grimestone were published in London in 1604 and 1623, respectively. In total, at least twenty-eight editions were printed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, making it the most successful of the Spanish Imperial histories after that of Guevara. It surpassed Guevara, however, in the influence and reputation that it enjoyed in Spain, where it was considered a fundamental work by the educated class in the later half of the sixteenth century. Viewed as free of lies and exagerations of chivalric literature, the Historia Imperial was considered by some contemporaries to be the first general work of humanist history written in Castilian.” Thomas James Dandelet. ‘The Renaissance of Empire in Early Modern Europe.’

“Grimeston wrote a number of ‘continuations’ to large scholarly works including two editions of the Historie of France .. and his translation of Pedro Mexia’s The Imperiall Historie (1623) whose continuation had some topical overlap with Grimeston’s continuation for the third edition of the History (1621)”. Anders Ingram. ‘English Literature on the Ottoman Turks in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries’.

A stunning Royal binding. 

ESTC S114709. STC 17852. Lowndes 1541. Alden 623/82


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SANDOVAL, Prudencio de


Historia de la vida y hechos del emperador Carlos V, primera parte. [with] Historia de la vida y hechos del emperador Carlos V…parte segunda.

Pamplona, Bartholomé Paris…a costa de Pedro Escuer, 1634


Folio. 2 vol. pp. (xxviii) 895 (xxxi) (with) (iv) 898 (xiv), without engraving of Charles V in vol. 2. Roman letter, with Italic, mostly double column, t-p in red and black. Woodcut arms of Charles V to t-ps, full-page engraved portrait of Charles V to verso of e4 in vol. 1, decorated initials and headpieces, armorial tailpieces. Varying degrees of age browning, vol. 1: spotting to first gathering, faint marginal waterstaining in a few places, tiny worm trail to upper blank margin of 4z4-5c4, vol. 2: lower outer blank corner of 2f1 torn, clean tear to 4v2 touching letter. Good copies in contemporary Spanish straight-grained crimson morocco, double gilt ruled to a panel design, raised bands, spine in four double gilt ruled compartments, gilt lettering, little worming and minor repair at head and foot, inscription ‘estas (?) de este libro stan registradas (?) (?) se vendan juardan de la casa (?) (?) (?) deside Junio 1654 Vano dia 5’ to verso of t-p, occasional early marginalia.

Handsomely bound copies of the two parts of this monumental history of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, including extensive accounts of the conquests of Mexico and Peru.

Prudencio de Sandoval (1533-1620) was a Benedictine monk, a historian and the bishop of Tuy and Pamplona. His most famous works are encyclopaedic saints’ lives and histories of the kings of Spain, which are considered fundamental historical sources to this day. The first part of the ‘Historia…del emperador Carlos V’ was published in 1603 and the second in 1614, when the first was also reprinted. Like Sandoval’s other works, it featured ample references to and the reproduction of epigraphic material and documents, e.g., the edict of Worms, some of which are no longer extant. Vol. 1 begins with a genealogical overview of Charles V’s ancestry. The historical narrative begins in 1500, the year of Charles V’s birth, an event anticipated by prophetic overtones. The ‘Historia’ analysed the splendour achieved through difficulties in C16 Spain, at a moment in which Habsburg pre-eminence was in decline. In addition to the Emperor’s life and the annals of his reign, it provides accounts of the Ottoman wars, relationships with other states and exploration, including a long section on the discovery and conquest of New Spain by Hernando Cortes in 1519 (I, 159-90) and those of Peru (I, 680-92 and II, 529-38). The work discusses approximately one year and a half of Charles V’s reign in each chapter; vol. 1 ends in 1528, vol. 2 spans the years 1528-53.

An elegantly bound monument to the glorious days of the Habsburg Empire. According to Palau, the printer Pedro Escuer from Zaragoza added the date 1634 to the t-p of several copies of the 1614 edition printed in Pamplona (Palau 297147, 1614 ed.). Of a total of 9 and 7 copies of the 1614 and 1634 editions respectively, which we have been able to consultor for which collation was available, nearly fifty per cent do not have the vol. 2 engravings. Its absence appears to be a variant.

Brunet V, 124; Palau 297147: ‘sólo consistía en cambio de portada de la de 1614’; Alden 634/121; Sabin 76426: ‘contains accounts of the conquests of Mexico and Peru.’ Not in BM STC Sp.


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HALL, Joseph

The Shaking of the Olive-tree. The remaining works of Joseph Hall.

London, J. Cadwel for J. Crooke, 1660.


FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. [xvi], 64, 112, 121-168, 179-209, 230-438. Roman letter, some Italic and Greek. Title within double line rule border, woodcut head pieces and initials, typographical ornaments, “Via media. The way of Peace in the five busy articles commonly known by the Name of Arminius.” has special title-page, pagination and register are continuous, extra illustrated with engraved portrait of Hall, folded, placed as frontispiece, book-label of John Sparrow on pastedown, Robert S. Pirie below. Light age yellowing, the rare marginal spot. A very good copy crisp and clean in contemporary calf, covers bordered with a double gilt rule, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, fleurons gilt at centres, red morocco label gilt. a.e.r.

First edition of some of the works of the celebrated theologian and author Joseph Hall, published four years after his death containing many as yet unpublished including two important pieces of autobiography, many of his unpublished sermons on a multitude of subjects, and several controversial writings. The two autobiographical works are ‘Observations of some Specialities of Divine Providence In the Life of Jos. Hall, Bishop of Norwich’ and his tract ‘Hard Measure’ which details the severe treatment to which himself and other prelates were subjected under Parliament during Charles’ reign. “Hall is responsible for initiating several literary genres. In his own day, he was acknowledged as a ‘leader of literary fashion’. Tom Fleming Kinloch describes him as a pioneer in more than one branch of literature. Hall has been regarded by scholars mainly as a master of satire. John Milton criticised Hall’s writings [but] despite Milton’s criticism there have been many voices praising Hall’s contributions to English literature. Arnold Davenport quotes Pope, who found Hall’s satirical works to be amongst the best poetry and authentic satire in the English language.” Damrau “The Reception of English Puritan Literature in Germany.” “Several folio editions of his works were published by the bishop in his lifetime, in 1621, 1625, and 1634. The preface of the first folio has an extravagant laudation of King James, reprinted in the folio of 1634. A small quarto, with a collection of posthumous pieces called ‘The Shaking of the Olive Tree,’ was published in 1660; in 1662 a more complete collection of the bishop’s works.” DNB.

Joseph Hall (1574-1656), Bishop of Norwich, poet, moralist, satirist, controversialist (against Milton, i.a.), devotional writer, theological commentator, autobiographer and practical essayist, was one of the leading hommes de lettres of the Jacobean age. He was at the centre of public life under James I representing him at the Synod of Dort in 1618, assisting in his negotiations with the Scots and in Lord Doncaster’s French embassy and was foremost among the defenders of the temporal and spiritual powers of the Bishops in the Puritan Parliament of 1640-41. However, it is as a writer that Hall is now remembered. Fuller called him ‘the English Seneca for his pure, plain, and full style’. While Hall may not have been the first English satirist, as he claimed, he certainly introduced the Juvenalian satire into English.

Wing H416. Lowndes 979. Not in Pforzheimer or Grolier.


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The Historie of Twelve Caesars. ..and newly translated into English..

London, M. Lownes, 1606.


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to, pp. [xxxii], 272, 39, [i]. [[fleuron] [superscript pi]1, A-B B-Z 2A, ²C ²A-B. First and final blank. “Snowdon printed the preliminaries and annotations; Lownes the rest (STC and addendum). The annotations have separate register and pagination, with caption title ‘Annotations vpon C. Iulius Cæsar Dictator’ In this setting of the title page, line 10 begins ‘Togeather’”.ESTC. Woodcut printers device on title, woodcut initials and head and tail-pieces, elaborate woodcut chapter headpieces incorporating medallion portraits, bookplate of Robert S. Pirie on pastedown. Very light age yellowing, a few corners turned in, tiny tear in outer blank margin of t-p.. A fine copy in contemporary limp vellum, slightly defective at foot of spine.

First edition in English of Suetonius’ dramatic biographies of the Caesars, the important Philemon Holland translation. An excellent copy in contemporary vellum binding. Thomas Fuller, writing in the mid-17th century, included Holland among his Worthies of England, terming him “the translator general in his age, so that those books alone of his turning into English will make a country gentleman a competent library for historians”. Holland’s translation style was free and colloquial, sometimes employing relatively obscure dialect and archaic vocabulary, and often expanding on his source text in the interests of clarity. He justified this approach in prefaces to his translations of Livy and Pliny, saying that he had opted for “a meane and popular stile”, and for “that Dialect or Idiome which [is] familiar to the basest clowne”, while elaborating on the original in order to avoid being “obscure and darke”. “while the plague raged at Coventry in 1605-06, Holland translated Suetonius’ Historie of Twelve Caesars” (DNB). “When Philemon Holland published his translation of Suetonius’s Lives of the Twelve Caesars, he made it clear that the original text required additional information. Evidently believing Suetonius to have been insufficiently informative, he saw fit to elaborate upon the enmity between Caesar and Cato, explaining in the accompanying annotations the history of Caesar’s invective against Cato and Cicero by drawing on the Anticatones and other works.” Rebecca Herissone, ‘Concepts of Creativity in Seventeenth-century England.’

One of the few surviving works of Suetonius, the ‘XII Caesars’ contains the biographies of the twelve Roman emperors from Julius Caesar to Domitian. Each biography begins with the ancestry of the emperor portrayed, followed by his early life, political career, physical appearance and private life, a pattern that influenced mediaeval biographers. As Suetonius was secretary at the imperial palace under Trajan, he was able to consult the imperial archives, although he often followed second-hand sources that make his narrative rich in anecdotes and rather gossipy. “There is an account of Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon, and a detailed narrative of his assassination; mention of his dark piercing eyes and his attempts to conceal his baldness. Augustus is said to have been short but well-proportioned, with and aquiline nose and eye-brows that met, careless in dress, frugal, and sparing in diet … There is a vivid picture of the grotesque appearance of Caligula, of his waywardness and insane cruelties; of the awkward walk, loud guffaw, and stammer of Claudius … The life of Nero reveals much about his stage displays and his passion for horses … and that of Domitian records his restoration of the libraries which had been burnt down and his efforts to collect manuscripts.” Oxford Companion to Classical Literature.

ESTC S126802. STC 23423, with Holland’s name on the title page. Lowndes 2544.


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PLATINA, Bartholomaeus de

In vitas pontificum ad Sixtum IV.

Nuremberg, Anton Koberger, 1481, 12 August.


Folio, 128 ll. unnumbered and unsigned [*2 a8-2 b8 c-r6 s8 t6 v8] plus additional leaf inserted before a1. Gothic letter, double column, spaces blank. Most of blank paper of first leaf cut away (as in BL copy) and replaced, probably at time of binding, 16 line text on verso rubricated, monogrammed ‘S-C’ in red and mounted, detailed C16 ms index on verso of next and following inserted blank, extensive contemporary and C16 scholarly marginalia throughout in at least two Germanic hands, slightly trimmed in places, extensive bibliographical notes of J. Niefert, 1807 on blank prelims. Slight age yellowing, a good, clean, wide margined copy in Northern European polished calf, spine in eight compartments richly gilt, c1700.

Third edition and first printed north of the Alps of Platina’s classic ‘Lives of the Popes’ from St. Peter up to the accession of Sixtus IV, in the form of individual biographies arranged chronologically. It became on of the great bestsellers of the 16th century. Elegantly written and full of remarkable information not easily found elsewhere, Platina’s was the first systematic handbook of Papal history, undertaken at the behest of Sixtus who had suggested the work and who subsequently appointed Platina Prefect of the Vatican Library (the subject of a great fresco by Melozzo da Forli). Somewhat surprisingly therefore the ‘Lives’ is far from constituting a general Papal hagiography. It is venomous about Paul II, who had made Platina redundant from his position in the College of Abbreviators (“cruel and an enemy of science”) and had him imprisoned for the authoring of a defamatory pamphlet, responsible for the ridiculous story of Calixtus XIII excommunicating Halley’s comet, and often disparaging about the conditions in the Church, all of which contributed to its demand in Catholic and Protestant Europe alike. Nevertheless the ‘Lives’ remains of value as the first and for some time only work of its kind and if Platina was inconsistent in his verification of historical detail, he was not ignorant of the value of critical research.

The particular value of the present copy lies in the consistent ms glosses through which we can still discern the reaction of a contemporary reader, at first hand.

BMC II 420. Goff P769. HC13047. ISTC


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Historia del Magnanimo, et Valoroso Signor Georgio Castrioto.

Venice, Fabio & Agostino Zoppini, 1580.


8vo, ff. [12], 403, [1], several ll. within gathering CCC misbound; final blank. Roman and Italic letter, printer’s woodcut device on title, floriated and historiated initials. Printing privilege on final recto. Small tear to blank upper margin of title page. A good, clean copy in half vellum over boards c. 1700, early nineteenth-century green and red morocco gilt labels to spine; remains of ties, early ms. marks to front pastedown.

Later edition in Italian of Marin Barleti’s Historia de vita et gestis Scanderbegi (1508-1510) by Pietro Rocca, first printed in 1554. Barleti’s work was widely read and translated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Marin Barleti (ca. 1450-ca. 1512-13) was a historian and Catholic priest from Shkodra, in Albania. After surviving the siege of Shkodra in 1478, as we learn from De obsidione Scodrensi (1504), he moved to Italy and spent the rest of his life between Rome and Venice. He wrote a lives of the Popes (Compendium vitarum summorum pontificum), but was better known for his extensive History of Scanderbeg, in thirteen books, dedicated to Don Ferrante Castrioti, Scanderbeg’s grandchild. The work is the first biography of the famous Albanian hero George Castrioti, called Scanderbeg (1405-1468), who defended Albania against the Turks, and occupies an important place in the histories of the Ottoman Empire.

The dedicatory letter is written by Francesco Rocca to the venetian Paolo Contarini in 1568. Focusing on religious and military oratory, including Scanderbeg’s, it portrays Scanderbeg as the model Christian soldier. After a prologue recalling Pyrrhus and Alexander the Great’s exploits, the biography falls into two main parts, separated by a second preface: the wars against Murad II (1404-51) and Mehmed II (1432-81), books 1-6 and 7-13, respectively. The general is chronological. Some books have individual themes, for example book one provides background information on Albanian history, book five is about the Turkish occupation, the 10th concerns Scanderbeg’s expedition to Italy, the 11th his death.

The history starts with Scanderbeg’s childhood, when he was taken hostage with his brothers by the Ottoman Sultan, at whose court he received an excellent education. Becoming the Sultan’s favourite, he was assigned important tasks. However, in 1443 Scanderbeg led the military campaign that drove the Turks from Albania with the support of Venice, Hungary and Alfonso V, King of Naples. He maintained Albania’s independence for 25 years, but after his death opposition to the Turks collapsed.

In Scanderbeg’s heroic biography there are many affinities with the story of Alexander the Great who defeated the Persians, for instance dreams and omens predicting the destiny of the hero. Although based on the witness of knights close to Scanderbeg and official documents from Venice’s archives, details may have been made up by Barleti, at least in part, such as the tale of Voisava’s dream, the harangues of Scanderbeg to the soldiers on the eve of battle and the letters he exchanges with the Sultan and Wladislav of Hungary. Barleti embraces the typical features of ancient epics, representing battle scenes, sieges, duels, embassies, celebrations and funerals which invite comparison with Plutarch and Herodotus, Homer, Vergil and Livy – as Francesco Pall has demonstrated (“Marino Barlezio: uno storico umanista”, 1938).

USTC 812338; Edit16 4239; BM STC IT, p. 72; Göllner, 1719. Adams, Blackmer and Brunet list only previous editions.


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I.G. de rebus auspiciis serenissimi, & potentissimi Caroli gratia magnæ Britanniæ, &c. sub imperio illustrissimi Iacobi Montisrosarum marchionis…: Supremi Scotiæ gubernatoris anno 1644, & duobus sequentibus præclarè gestis, commentarius.

Paris, ex Typographia Ioannis Bessin, propè Collegium Remense. 1648.


8vo. pp. (xxiv), 563 (i). Large paper, Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut and typographical headpieces, small woodcut initials, printed label, ‘6506’ from the sale of Bolongaro-Crevenna at head of front pastedown, bookplate of Robert Maxtone Graham below. Light age yellowing, the very rare marginal spot. A fine, large paper copy in exceptional contemporary French red morocco in the style of Le Gascon, covers double gilt ruled to a panel design, outer panel filled with a fine scrolled roll, middle panel with two fine dentelle scrolls elaborate fleurons to corners, central panel bordered with a small pointillé roll, elaborate corner pieces with scrolled and pointillé tools around a central oval worked to a lozenge form with fine scrolled tools, spine richly gilt with gilt ruled raised bands, double gilt ruled with further pontillé rules to compartments, richly gilt with scrolled tools and semé of small tools, edges with gilt dentelle roll, combed marble endpapers.

A fine, large paper copy of this most interesting contemporary biography of the feats of the great Scottish General, James Montrose, in a stunning contemporary morocco binding attributable or very close to the great French binder Le Gascon, from the exceptional library of Bolongaro-Crevenna. “Dr. George Wishart was born in 1599… In 1626 he moved to St. Andrews as second charge, and it has been conjectured that is was there that he first met the Earl of Montrose, who matriculated at the University of St. Andrews in 1627… When the Presbyterians obtained the ascendancy, Dr. Wishart fled to England with Archbishop Spottiswood. On 19th October 1639, he was appointed to a lectureship of All Saints Church, Newcastle, and in 1640 he was presented at St. Nicholas Church, Newcastle. When Leslie and the Scots army took Newcastle on 19th October 1644, Wishart was taken prisoner, and, on the charge of corresponding with royalists, was imprisoned in the Thieves’ Hole, Edinburgh. After 7 months in prison, Wishart was liberated when the Marquis of Montrose arrived in Edinburgh after his victory at Kilsyth on 15th August 1645. Wishart joined the royal army at Bothwell, and was appointed private chaplain to the Marquis of Montrose. In this capacity he accompanied the Marquis in his campaign both at home and abroad, and his narrative of Montrose’s campaign is that of an eye-witness and biographer. It was first published in Amsterdam … 1647. When the Scottish Parliament tried Montrose in abstentia in 1649, Wishart’s book was brought as evidence against him. A bounty was pledged by Parliament and the Church of Scotland for his capture, and he was sentenced in abstentia to be hanged with Wishart’s book around his neck. The sentence was carried out in the following year after Montrose was captured and brought to Edinburgh.” The Wishart Society.

“Les reliures de Le Gascon sont de veritables objets d’art.” Edouard Rouveyre. ‘Connaissances nécessaires à un bibliophile.’ This binding is very similar in style and the tools are nearly identical to a binding attributed to Le Gascon in a Sotheby’s sale at Paris,  2011, sale PF1113, lot 51, the 1595 edition of the works of Montaigne. It shares the same oval centre surrounded by near identical scrolled tools and pointillé work. “The style of Le Gascon, so-called, was in vogue between the years 1640, and 1665” Herbert P. Horne ‘An Essay in the History of Gold-Tooled Bindings’.

The binding is also very similar in design and tools to another binding attributed to Le Gascon in the Tenschert Catalogue ‘Biblia Sacra’ 2004, no. 59, a Greek New Testament. Many of the best binders of the period imitated the work of Le Gascon, who was then at the height of fashion, and if this binding is not by Le Gascon or his atelier, it is by someone who was imitating him as closely as possible. The gilding and use of pointillé tools is particularly fine, the morocco is of the highest quality. As this is a large paper copy in a very rich binding, it was almost certainly made for presentation, though there is no indication of to whom.

A wonderful copy from the extraordinary library of Bolongaro-Crevenna, the francophile Italian merchant from Amsterdam, whose magnificent collection was sold in Paris between 1775 and 1793. This work was in his sale of History books in 1789 lot 6506; see ‘Catalogue des livres de la bibliothèque de M. Pierre Antoine Bologaro-Crevenna … Volume 4” Amsterdam, chez Changuion 1789.


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