Ποιησεις Ομηρου […] Opus utrumque Homeri Iliados et Odysseae.

Basel, per Ioan. Hervagium, 1551.


Small folio. 2 parts in 1, separate t-ps, pp. (xx) 394 [i.e., 410] (ii), 314 (ii). Greek letter, occasional Roman, mostly double column. Woodcut printer’s device to t-ps and versos of last, additional engraved portrait of J. Camerarius by P. Galle (late C16) mounted on ffep decorated initials. A handful of gatherings lightly browned, slight marginal foxing, light water stain to upper outer blank corner, another to lower outer blank corner of second half, small ink splash to outer blank margin of e 6 , edges slightly trimmed touching a few marginalia. A good copy in C18 sheep, modern reback, boards worn with some loss. C19 booklabel of John McAllister, C18 bookplate of Bell’s Circulating Library and modern auction record to front pastedown, intermittent C16 Greek and Latin marginalia in red or black ink, ex-libris of Jacob Feilitscher, Jenensis, 1554, and C16 inscription on Greek language to second t-p.

Annotated copy, extra-illustrated with a handsome author’s portrait by P. Galle, of the Greek text of Homer’s ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’. It sought to improve on the Hervagius edition of 1535, which had a critical apparatus based on the ‘scholia’ of Didymus of Alexandria (now believed to date much later). The German humanists Joachim Camerarius (1500-74) and Jakob Micyllus (1503-58), also the authors of Homeric commentaries, revised the 1541 edition and added further material to the Greek-only ‘scholia’ surrounding the text.

This copy sheds light on the teaching of Greek at Jena in the mid-C16. The annotator was Jacob Feilitzscher, registered as a student at the Protestant Academy of Jena (from 1558, a university) in 1548, the year of its foundation (‘Matrikel’, 99). In 1554, he was studying Greek under the Lutheran humanist and former student of Melanchthon, Michael Neander (1529-81), who, after moving from Wittenberg, taught Greek and mathematics at Jena in 1551-72. Neander compiled a ‘Gnomologia Graecolatina’, a collection of ‘sententiae’ in Latin and Greek by major classical authors. Feilitzscher noted a quotation by Neander on the ‘Odyssey’ t-p, on Homer’s use of the Ionic dialect. In the notes, philology is preeminent, with attention to variants, some not listed in the surrounding commentary, as well as Greek synonyms or Latin translations. Feilitzscher noted rhetorical figures (e.g., ‘hysteron proteron’), classical quotations by Ovid, Virgil and Quintilian. In Book 2 of the ‘Iliad’, he glossed ‘the same with the civil wars in Germany’. He also highlighted and annotated scenes with ‘THERSITES’, as well as references to Aristotle’s discussion of Homer in his ‘Poetics’, and to Virgil. In Book 3, he highlighted Hector’s berating of Paris as ‘mad after women’, a ‘beguiler’ who ‘should never have been born’, and added numerous glosses to the subsequent section on the preparation for the battle, Priam’s dialogue with Helen and her dialogue with Paris after his return from the battle. On the passage describing Helen’s appearance on the walls of Troy, he glossed ‘fair among women’ with ‘Maria’, a reference to the Virgin Mary. In Book 4, he highlighted, with an observation on the Homeric relation between human faults and the gods’ will, Athena’s trick on the Trojan Pandarus, as she convinces him to shoot an arrow against Menelaus and thus undo the truce. Feilitzscher added one gloss to the ‘Odyssey’, underlining what Homer presented as the best treatment of guests and strangers, in Book 15.

In the C18, this copy was among the books available at Bell’s Circulating Library, near St Paul’s Church, one of several which rented out books to readers who could not afford to purchase them or to subscribe to a normal library. Whilst most circulating libraries were devoted to fiction and sensationalist novels, some also sold more scientific and scholarly books. Bell advertised that he ‘gives ready money for new and old books’.

In the early C19, this copy was in Philadelphia, in the library of John McAllister Jr. (1786-1877), owner of a renowned firm of optical equipment, and married to Eliza Young, the daughter of the noted printer and bookseller William Young. After his retirement in 1835, McAllister turned into a keen collector of books and mss., assembling a library ‘rich in works of all kinds’ (Watson’s ‘Annals’, 1905 ed.). The library was divided among his children; his son, John Allister, left his portion, increased with further purchases, to the Library Company. ‘The John A. McAllister Collection held by the Library Company has many thousands of items encompassing some of the same classifications as his father’s collection, but few with a provenance to connect them to John McAllister Jr. and his famous library’ (‘The John A. McAllister Collection’, The Library Company). This copy bears John Jr’s bookplate.

Hoffman II, 316; Brunet III, 271; Dibdin II, 50 (footnote). Die Matrikel der Universität Jena. Band I (1944); ‘Michael Neander’, Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie 23 (1886), S.340.


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LACTANTIUS. De divinis institutionibus libri septem…Item Tertulliani Apologeticus adversus gentes


OROSIUS. Historiae adversus paganos.

Venice, Octavianus Scotus, 1494 and 1483.


Folio. 2 works in 1, ff. 90, 78 unnumbered ll., a8 b-m6 n4. Roman letter. Orosius, illuminated first initial in gold, blue, red and green, and others rubricated in red and blue, Lactantius with woodcut decorated initials and printer’s device to last leaf of first. Edges dusty, a little mainly marginal finger soiling or spotting, 1: scattered worm holes to lower outer corner of first 3 ll. affecting couple of letters, slight age yellowing, 2: few ll. slightly browned, small worm holes to outer blank margin of last gathering. Very good, well-margined copies in contemporary south German calf over wooden boards, traces of two clasps, lacking centre- and cornerpieces, double blind ruled to a panel design, upper cover: outer border with blind stamped hearts pierced by arrow within lozenges, centre panel with rolls of tendrils, and thistles within lozenges, lower cover: outer border with blind stamped floral tendrils, Virgin and Child within roundel (EBDB w000090, K019) stamped to corners, centre panel with cross-hatching in blind and same stamp of Virgin with Child, raised bands, covers and spine worn, small loss at head and foot, traces of later paper label, ‘Lactantius’ tooled in blind to upper cover, spine lined with C15 (Italian?) ms. (Jacobus à Varazze’s Legenda aurea). C19 bookplates and library stamp to front pastedown and C19 bibliographical information to rear, extensive contemporary Latin marginalia in red in German hands c.1500, authors’ names inked to upper edge.

Extensively annotated copies of Lactantius’s ‘Opera’ (with Tertullian’s ‘Apologeticus’) and Orosius’s ‘Historiae’—three milestones of early Christian theology and historiography. On the first leaf of the second work is a contemporary inscription with instructions to the binder, that the books by Orosius should be bound in half leather for plain reading, without ornaments. Half leather was requested by owners with budget constraints; that Orosius is now bound with a later work, in full leather formerly with brass decorations (and with a lavishly gilt initial), indicates it was shortly acquired by a wealthier owner. It was actually bound at the Augustinian monastery in Nuremberg (as shown by the Mary-with-Child stamp, EBDB w000090, K019), which boasted the most active bindery in the city in 1464-1526 as well as its own printing press.

At the turn of the C16, the Augustinian monastery was a thriving humanist hub, hosting personalities like Regiomontanus, Beheim, Schedel, Pickheimer and Scheurl (Kunzelmann, ‘Geschichte’, III, 275), none of whose hands appear to correspond to that of the annotator in this copy, although Schedel also annotated in red. This was likely part of the monastic library, nearly a quarter of whose books had been printed in Venice (Kyriss, ‘Nürnberger Klostereinbände’, 57); or it may have belonged to a scholar with links to the monastery, even to one of the higher-ranking monks or priors—e.g., Lupf, Pesler or Mantel—who, since the turn of the C16, had been chosen among former university students or lecturers in humanistic studies (Machilek, ‘Klosterhumanismus’, 40-41). 

The annotations were made by a scholar, probably for lectures, as suggested by the ‘ars memoriae’ diagrams on the last leaf of the Lactantius—a table with cells marked alphabetically, each with keywords and leaf number (e.g., ‘P’ has ‘prophets’ and ‘poets’, ‘I’ has ‘Iove and others [deities]’ and ‘idola’). The scholar had a remarkable interest in ‘Christian humanist’ readings and a critique of pagan cults. He was especially keen on the first three books of Lactantius’s (c.250-325AD) ‘Institutiones divinae’ which discussed the typological wisdom of the ancients and their insights or errors concerning the Christian god before the coming of Christ. He glossed passages on theological interpretations of prophets (e.g., sybils), poets (e.g., Ovid, Virgil, Orpheus, Hesiodus), deities (e.g., Apollo, Jove, Juno) or semi-divine figures (e.g., Hercules, Romulus). He annotated passages concerning ancient theories on the philosophical value of poetic invention (‘figmenta poetarum’) and history, e.g., Plato’s interpretation of myth and Euhemerus’s view of classical gods as worthy humans who achieved posthumous veneration. Further glosses were made to passages on the theological and moral wisdom of the ancients in relation to Christian theology. Similarly, the annotations to Tertullian’s (155-240AD) ‘Apologeticus’, a defence of Christianity against pagan cults like Gnosticism, focus on sacrifices, the worship of ‘idola’, ‘simulacra’, the nature of Christ and the devil, the kingdom of God, the Roman religion, and the ‘[mythical] fables and horrendous filthiness of the [ancient] gods’. Orosius’s (375-418AD) ‘Historiae adversus paganos’ was a providentialist world history showing the beneficial effects of Christianity on civilisation. The annotator was interested in the famous initial geographical description of the world, as well as in the development of world history from the ‘vengeance of the Deluge’ (glossed as ‘iusta’) down to the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, the Christian persecutions, ending with Constantine’s reign, with excursion into mythical history (e.g., the Amazons) and symbolic events like plagues and earthquakes.

A remarkable, fascinating witness to the circulation of humanist scholarship in late medieval northern Europe, on the eve of the Reformation.

  1. I) Not in BMC XV.
  2. II) BMC XV, p. 278. Brunet IV, 237 (mentioned); Graesse VI, 51: ‘the second counterfeit’ of Hermann Levilapis’s 1475 edition, with revised verse before the registrum. E. Kyriss, Nürnberg Kloistereinbände der Jahre 1433 bis 1525 (Erlagen, 1940); A. Kunzelmann, Geschichte der Deutschen Augustiner-Eremiten (Wurzburg, 1972), vol. 3; F. Machilek, ‘Klosterhumanismus in Nürnberg um 1500’, Mitteilungen des Vereins für Geschichte der Stadt Nürnberg 64 (1977), 10-45; J.H. Overfield, Humanism and Scholasticism in Late Medieval Germany (Princeton, 1984).


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DOLCE, Lodovico


La Hecuba, Tragedia.

Venice, Gabriele Giolito, 1543 [with]

Didone, Tragedia.

Venice, in casa haer. Aldo I Manuzio, 1547


FIRST EDITIONS. 8vo. Two works in one, ff. 47, 42, separate t-p to each, first with blind stamp of Wigan Public Library (sold). Printer’s device to titlepages and recto of last. Occasional very light age browning, outer margins of titlepages and a few ll. a bit thumbed, slight marginal foxing to a couple of gatherings, the odd small marginal mark. A very good, well-margined copy in C18 red morocco, marbled pastedowns, covers bordered with gilt dentelles and palmettes, centrepiece with gilt arms of Doge Marco Foscarini to covers, fronds surrounding, coronet above. Spine in six compartments, gilt double-ruled dentelle border, cornerpieces and acorn tools to each, joints a bit worn and cracked at head, minor loss to corners. Bookplate of Sir Philip Mansfield and C19 label ‘G FS 3’ to front pastedown, C19 bibliographical inscriptions in ink tracing the copy to William Beckford’s library to verso of first and in pencil to recto of second front ep, the odd early annotation.

The handsome binding was produced for the bibliophile Marco Foscarini (1696-1763), a poet and diplomat who served as 117th Doge of Venice between 1762 and 1763, when his office was cut short by illness and death. The binding is an almost exact match with Folger PA6278 A3 1575, dated 1761, except for the gilt cornerpieces on the spine and decoration on the raised bands.

The provenance can be traced to William Thomas Beckford (1760-1844), famous author of an important Gothic novel, ‘Vathek’ (1786). A great art collector, Beckford amassed an enormous library at Fonthill Abbey. This copy was part of the Hamilton Palace sale run by Sotheby’s in 1883 (n.708).

Very good copies of the first editions of these two important Renaissance tragedies in Italian. Lodovico Dolce (c.1508-68) was a Venetian humanist and prolific author of essays, historical biographies of classical and contemporary writers, dozens of translations and editions of classics, and literary works of all genres. In the 1540s and 1550s, Dolce wrote several successful verse tragedies in the vernacular on subjects adapted from the works of classical authors. Following the example of ancient drama, the tragic world of the protagonists is populated by shadows of murdered characters, unreliable and often absent gods and a ‘choir’ lamenting the evils of fate. Inspired by Euripides’s namesake play, translated into the vernacular by Matteo Bandello in 1539, ‘Hecuba’ tells the story of King Priam’s wife, once Queen of Troy and now enslaved by the Greek victors, and her revenge for the death of her son Polydorus. It was published by Gabriele Giolito, with whom Dolce collaborated as editor and translator for some time. ‘Didone’ narrates the Queen of Carthage’s star-crossed love for Aeneas and her tragic death, famously told in Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’. In the dedicatory letter, Paolo Manuzio explained how he had wanted to be the first to publish the play so that people could enjoy reading it as much as he had enjoyed performing in it as a boy in the role of Ascanius (Cupid’s clever disguise).

I) USTC 827058; BM STC It. p. 239; Brunet II, 791; Annali di Giolito I, 51. Catalogue of…the Beckford Library (London, 1882).
II) USTC 827065; Rénouard 141:8; BM STC It. p. 220; Brunet II, 791.


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The Two Noble Kinsmen Presented at the Blackfriars by the Kings Maiesties Servants, with Great Applause.

London, Thomas Cotes, for John Waterson, 1634.


FIRST EDITION, 4to. pp. (ii), 88, (ii). pi1(=N2), B-M4, N1. Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut printer’s device on title, typographical headpiece and opening initial, Selbourne library stamp just touching text on verso of title and H2 recto, note on front endpaper “Halliwell’s Sale. May 1856. Lot 331. William Tite,” with note in another hand “This binding cost me £1.18.0.” Light age yellowing, title fractionally dusty, small rust hole to G4 touching two letters, signature letter of B3 just shaved in lower margin, very small repairs to gutter of title, small hole repaired in blank margin of M2, blank outer corner repaired on last two leaves. A very good, crisp copy in fine C19th red morocco by Bedford, covers bordered with double gilt rule, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, fleurons gilt to centres, edges gilt ruled, inner dentelles richly gilt, all edges red, extremities fractionally rubbed.

Exceptionally rare and important first edition, the only quarto edition, printed by Thomas Cotes who was also the printer of Fletcher’s ‘The Faithful Shepherdess’ (1629) and Shakespeare’s ‘Poems’ (1640). The play had not been included in the first folio of 1623, and did not find its way into the subsequent Shakespeare folios; but the quarto edition became the basis of the 1679 Beaumont and Fletcher folio text. The title states that it was ‘written by the memorable worthies of their time; Mr. Iohn Fletcher, and Mr. William Shakespeare. Gent,’ and modern scholarship has identified Shakespeare as the author of act I, act II scene 1, and act V.

Fletcher collaborated regularly with Beaumont, however this collaborative work between Fletcher and Shakespeare is unique. Based on Chaucer’s ‘Knight’s Tale,’ it was produced in either 1613 or 1614. ‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’ is set in ancient Greece during a war between Athens and Thebes. The narrative follows the title characters, Palamon and Arcite, noble youths whose friendship is destroyed by their mutual love for the beautiful Emilia. The subplot deals with the love and eventual madness of the Gaoler’s Daughter, who falls hopelessly in love with Palamon. The play also has echoes of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ as two of the major characters, Theseus and Hippolyta, also appear in the earlier play. The Rivals, a popular adaptation of the play by William D’Avenant, appeared in 1668 and 1669.

“The titlepage of The Two Noble Kinsmen states that it was ‘written by the memorable worthies of their time; Mr. Iohn Fletcher, and Mr. William Shakespeare. Gent’. Shakespeare has been identified as the author of act I, act II scene 1, and act V. The play was created in 1613 or 1614. The morris dance in act III scene 5 is related to the second antimasque dance in Francis Beaumont’s The Masque of the Inner Temple and Grayes Inne. The masque was performed as part of the wedding celebrations for James I’s daughter Elizabeth and Frederick, Elector Palatine on 20 February 1613. The name of Palamon, one of the principal characters in The Two Noble Kinsmen, is referred to in Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair, first performed on 31 October 1614.The title-page of the quarto states that The Two Noble Kinsmen was ‘presented at the Blackfriars by the Kings Maiesties servants.’ A reference to ‘our losses’ in the play’s prologue suggests that it was written after the Globe burnt down on 29 June 1613. So it was perhaps written specifically for the Blackfriars playhouse. The Two Noble Kinsmen may have been considered for performance at court in 1619-1620. The inclusion of the names of two hired men (Tucke and Curtis) in the quarto’s stage directions suggests another revival in 1625-1626, when both were with the King’s Men. It has been suggested that the roles of Palamon and Arcite were originally played by John Lowin and Richard Burbage. The much younger actors Nathan Field and Joseph Taylor may have been intended for the roles in the 1619-1620 performances. (The) quarto, 1634 is thought to have been printed from a scribal transcript, to which revisions were made for performances in 1613-1614 and a revival in 1625-1626.” British Library, “Shakespeare Quartos.”

This copy is presumably the one offered in the Tite sale in 1874, also in red morocco by Bedford., lot 2762, which was sold to Hazlitt. William Carew Hazlitt (1834-1913) was a bibliographer and Shakespeare collector, grandson of the essayist William Hazlitt. Hazlitt published extensively on early English literature and in 1878 Mr. Huth engaged W.C. Hazlitt and F.S. Ellis to catalog his collection, the former cataloging English works, and the latter foreign. Hazlitt was also an assiduous collector and gathered in the course of his lifetime an impressive library of Shakespeare works and source texts, the basis for his Shakespeare’s Library, published in six volumes in 1887, an early and important edition of the works. The collection, itself of great literary importance, was sold in New York, 1918.

First editions of Shakespeare quartos have always been the holy grail of bibliophiles and collectors of British literature, immensely sought after as the high water marks of British culture and world literature, especially as these ephemeral printings appear so rarely on the market. They are considerably rarer than the folios. A handsome copy of this wonderful and rare work with distinguished provenance.

ESTC S106283 STC 11075. Greg II, 492(a); Pforzheimer 899.


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Comoediae Novem.

Venice, Apud Aldum, 1498.


EDITIO PRINCEPS. Folio. 346 unnumbered leaves, lacking two blanks. Text in Aldus’ large Greek type 146, 41 lines of scholia surrounding in smaller (type114), Aldus’ preface in Roman. Woodcut strap-work initials in two sizes and headpieces. Early Greek marginalia in brown ink mostly to first quarter of volume. Title page very slightly soiled and strengthened at gutter, two leaves slightly browned (probably damp at printing), couple of minor marginal tears, last leaf with small old marginal repairs, strengthened at gutter, slightly soiled on verso. A very good copy, crisp, clean and well margined in C17 vellum over boards C18 mottling, gilt red morocco labels and gilt thistle motif on spine, C19 ms. bibl. notes on front pastedown, Walter Hirst’s charming bookplate and Sir Thomas Philip’s pencilled shelf mark beneath, earlier ink lettering (press mark?) on rear pastedown, Quaritch pencil note beneath.

A very handsome copy of the beautiful first printed edition of Aristophanes comprising the first nine plays (10 and 11 were not published till 1525) and one of the chef d’oeuvres of Aldus’ early Greek press. The editor was Marcus Musurus, the celebrated Greek humanist, who also contributed an excellent preface on the reasons for studying Greek and the stylistic beauty of Aristophanes. Aldus founded his career on the publication of Greek texts, the first printer to do so, with this type designed and cast on new principles which he perfected over a period of five years. To his scholarly care we owe more of the editiones principes of the major Greek classics than to any other printer and the Aristophanes, texturally and artistically, was one of his finest achievements.

Aristophanes was the greatest of the Athenian comic dramatists and one of her greatest poets. For richness and fertility of imagination probably only Shakespeare is comparable and Aristophanes’ direct influence on English literature was considerable; the comedies of Jonson, Middleton and Fielding derive from him. Apart from constituting one of the surviving glories of hellenic culture Aristophanes’ comedies are an invaluable source for its social history. His surviving plays, out of a probable forty or fifty, provide us with an accurate if satirical commentary on the political, religious, sexual, economical and domestic life of Athens over a period of thirty six years. His changes in style and content match the concurrent constitutional and social changes in the State itself. The plays’ themes are invariably contemporary, a mocking mirror to the condition of the city. This edition has the benefit of the scholia of Thomas Magister, John Tzetzes and Demetrius Triclinus themselves incorporating much of the more ancient commentaries of Appolonius, Callimaches, Didymus and others, which were superseded in later editions by much newer but also much inferior work.

“Première et belle édition (…) Les Scolies sont dans cette importante et belle édition imprimées bien plus correctement que dans la reimpression faite à Florence 1525” Renouard, 16:3.

“Premiere édition belle et rare” Brunet I 451.

BMC V 559. GW, 2333. Goff, A-958. Sander I 580. Essling I 2,2 1163.


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Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. Published according to the true originall copies

London by Tho Cotes, for Robert Allot, 1632.

Price on request

Folio, pp. (xx) 303 (i) 232, 419 (i). Text in double column, prefatory matter single, Roman and Italic letter. Ionic head and shoulders English portrait of Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout on title page in unusually fine impression (the author’s best known representation), woodcut initials and headpieces. Address “To the Reader (by Ben Jonson)” inlaid on blank. Lower outer corner of first three leaves slightly soiled. Wine (?) stain to blank outer corner of next three, reappearing very occasionally in text, a few marginal tears and spots, light age yellowing, last leaf dusty. A very good, clean, well margined copy (fuller than Pforzheimers and the same width) in handsome late c. 17 calf spine with gilt compartments, morocco label, arms of the Second Duke of Newcastle, gilt stamped in central panel on covers, joints repaired, directions to binder on rear pastedown, (c17?) autograph of Thomas Wright in red chalk on fore margin of t1, autograph of Edward Filmer (1717) at head of fly and address to reader, and of Viscount Mersey (1938) on fly. In folding box.

A handsome and important copy of the second folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays in the first variant issue and the second authoritative version of the Shakespearian canon. Published 16 years after the authors death, it differs very significantly from the quartos, and is largely reproduced from the first volume (1623). It is from this version of the text that all modern versions derive. Were one asked to nominate the two most important works in the English language, culturally, historically, and linguistically, the Shakespeare folio and the King James Bible would be the obvious choices. As Printing and the Mind of Man 122 (on the first folio) puts it, “the magic of Shakespeare’s poetry is potent only in his own tongue; but the great theatrical scenes, the great dramatic figures are universal. Hamlet’s doubts, the doomed love of Romeo and Juliet, Brutus’ dilemma, the Falstafian image, the characters of Jago, Petruchio, and Lady Macbeth are part of the fabric of western (and not only western) civilisation….they are more real to us than the history books.”

This edition is also notable as containing the first appearance in print of any work of John Milton’s, his prophetic 16-line epitaph on the author that his great lasting monument is “not a starre-y pointing pyramid” but his “unvalued book.”

A very nice association copy. Filmer was a playwright and author, whose tragedy “The Unnatural Brother” was first performed at the theatre in Little Lincoln’s Inn Fields, a place well-known to Shakespeare, whom Filmer much admired. When Collier attacked the English stage (including Shakespeare) in print, Filmer defended both in a sensible and well-written treatise entitled “The Defence of Plays or the Stage Vindicated” (1707) to which Collier was compelled to reply. It was one of the first significant literary controversies immortalised in print.

Henry Clinton, Second Duke of Newcastle (1720 – 1744), was one of the great Whig magnates of his day. Though he played no direct part in politics, his huge influence in so many parliamentary constituencies meant his political support could not be ignored. For his cousin, Sir Henry Clinton, he procured the ill-fated command of the British forces in North America during the Revolution. At Clumber in Nottinghamshire he created one of the most beautiful parks in England. The house there was demolished in 1938, and the present volume sold from the splendid library the previous year along with a great Audubon “America,” and the Lamoignan Hours. Viscount Mersey formed a remarkable collection of important early books during the mid c. 20. Every volume was chosen with care, and he recognised the importance of original condition with appropriate binding long before that became common.

STC 22274 a. Pforzheimer III906. PMM 122 (1st). Greg III pp. 1113-1116. Todd volume V (1952) pp. 81-108.


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Sententiae, id est gnomai.

Geneva, Henri Estienne, 1569.


16mo, pp. (xxxii) 633 (i.e. 635), (v) last blank. Italic, Greek, and Roman letter. Woodcut headpieces, with Shirburn Castle North Library label, armorial bookplate of the Earl of Macclesfield on fly. Late mediaeval rubricated vellum manuscript stubbs at end. Slight water stain to lower outer corner of final ll., fly loose. A very good copy in contemporary English vellum, yapp fore edges. Edges speckled red.

This little book, ‘pusillus liber’ as Estienne terms it in his dedication, contrasting it with his great folio of the epic poets printed in 1566, is nonetheless important in content. It contains sententiae (gnomai in Greek), culled from plays written by Menander et al., promoters of the New Comedy that came into fashion in the third century B.C. In the sixteenth century, such sententiae were collected and cultivated as suitable for quotations in speech and writing, and little collections such as this were very convenient for busy men of affairs; indeed blank pages were left so that further sententiae could be added by the reader, a point made at the end of the section on the playwright Philemon (pp. 316-417).

The work consists of chapters, each devoted to a different New Comedy playwright (Alexis, Apollodorus, Diphilus i.a.), with by far the longest given to Menander, probably because more of his work survived, albeit in fragments, than any of the others. A short biographical introduction by Gregorio Giraldi precedes a list of sententiae taken from each author, the original Greek followed by a Latin translation and explanation. An alphabetical list of subjects, e.g. friendship and drunkenness, are followed by suitable sententiae (for laughter: ‘malum grave est ridere non in tempore’), mostly taken from Menander. Henri Estienne’s own notes on the interpretation of the sententiae follow, with examples from Latin comic playwrights, such as Plautus, author of the Asinaria, some of whom are only known in this fragmentary form. Those from Publius Syrius are again organised by subject.

Greek New Comedy largely differed from the Old Comedy of e.g. Aristophanes by its focus on middle-class Athenian life and the comedy of social errors. The plays are populated by a stock cast of foolish young men, wily slaves, kind-hearted prostitutes, and put-upon fathers. The Roman playwrights Plautus and Terence were responsible for translating the Greek works into Latin. Most of the surviving fragments of New Comedy have come down to us through collections of sententiae such as this; happily some larger fragments have recently been discovered on papyri.

Renouard 132:3. Adams P1694. Brunet II 1080.


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I Lucidi comedia (with) Trinutia Comedia.

Venice, Giovanni Griffio and Pietro Boselli, 1552.


12mo. Two works in one volume. ff. 41 (i) + 40 (ii), last blank. Italic letter. Charming woodcut printer’s device of a knight riding a bull on titles and on verso of last in both volumes, elegant historiated initials, typographical ornaments. ‘Francesco Mainarri Ferrarese 1765’ manuscript on title page, ‘Mutius’ manuscript in early hand in lower border of all four printer’s devices, ‘A Gio Antonio Balii (?) di Lugo’ on fly, ‘Guilio Magnani’ on blank recto of last. A little light browning in places. Very good copies in mid 17C Italian speckled calf, spine with raised bands ruled in compartments with large fleur de lys gilt, tan morocco label gilt edges speckled blue.

Excellent editions of the only two comedies written by the lawyer, poet, playwright, and monk of the Vallambrosian order, Firenzuola. He studied law in Siena at the turn of the sixteenth century and later wrote with unconcealed bitterness about the years he spent “with great effort and without any pleasure [pursuing the study of] the ill-served laws of the most noble and lively city of Siena”. He seems to have spent most of his University years in the company of like minded students particularly Pietro Aretino to whom he is most indebted in his literary career. Aretino later reminisced fondly about their misspent youth.

Whilst in Rome, in the service of his order, Firenzuola moved in the literary circle that included Pietro Aretino, Frasceso Molza, Paolo Giovio, and the future archbishop Giovanni Casa. He wrote an amusing satirical treaty on orthography in which he argued, in a comic vein, against the proposed introduction into Italian of several Greek letters, a work that was much appreciated by Pope Clement VII and Bembo, and lead a short lived literary fame. His subsequent works met with a lukewarm response in Rome. In 1538, in Prato, he began to write again after a pause of nearly twenty years. His dialogue “On the Beauty of Women” and these two comedies are the fruit of this period.

He died in obscurity but his works were posthumously successful, underwent several editions with critical attention and were translated into French. His two comedies are written in contemporary Tuscan vernacular and are typical of his best work. In prose, their structure, plot and language are fully entrenched in the genre of sixteenth-century Italian erudite theatre. The first play takes its plot and many of its lines and witticisms from Plautus’ Menaechmi. The second borrows its novelistic structure from Cardinal Bibbiena’s play Calandria. Both were performed in Prato at Carnival. An attractive copy of these elegantly printed works.

BM STC It. C16. p. 253-4 Fontanini p. 389 – 390. Not in Gamba.


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Venice, Aldus, 1503.


EDITIO PRINCEPS. 2 volumes 8vo. (242) (216) unnumbered ff. Volume I: Α-Γ⁸, Δ⁴, Ε-Η⁸, Θ⁶, Ι-Λ⁸, Μ⁶, ΝΞ⁸, Ο¹⁰, Π-Ρ⁸, Σ¹⁰, Τ-Υ⁸, Φ⁶, Χ-Ω⁸, ΑΑ-ΒΒ⁸, ΓΓ⁶, ΔΔ-ΖΖ⁸, ΗΗ⁶. Volume II: ΘΘ-ΙΙ⁸, ΚΚ¹⁰, moved from volume I [Lacking (chi)⁴ the register and Aldine device] ΛΛ⁸, ΜΜ¹⁰, ΝΝ-ΟΟ⁸, ΠΠ-ΡΡ⁸, ΣΣ¹⁰, ΤΤ⁸, ΥΥ⁶, ΦΦ-ΧΧ⁸, ΨΨ⁴, ΩΩ⁸, ΑΑΑ-ΒΒΒ⁸, ΓΓΓ⁶, ΔΔΔ-ΖΖΖ⁸, ΗΗΗ⁶, ΘΘΘ-ΚΚΚ⁸, ΛΛΛ⁴. (Δ4, Φ6, ΗΗ6, ΣΣ10 and ΥΥ6 are blanks, all present.) Greek letter. Capital spaces, with guide letters, Aldine dolphin device to verso of last. A fine, clean copy in lovely dark blue straight grained morocco gilt, c.1800 in the style of Bozerian, covers with border of leafy scroll within gilt rules, inner dentelles gilt with Greek key roll, spines richly gilt, yellow silk endpapers, all edges gilt, a little rubbed at extremities.

EDITIO PRINCEPS of eighteen Euripidean plays (though the title page mentions only seventeen), including ‘Rhesus,’ sometimes attributed to Sophocles, but often considered a later addition to the corpus. All the tragedies with the exception of ‘Electra’ are present, as well as the satyr play ‘Cyclops.’ Edited by Aldus, all but four are here published for the first time. Frequently based on myths, Euripides explores a variety of themes in his work, from Xenia and the role of women in Alcestis, to the revenge and betrayal of the cuckolded wife in Medea, to hubris and misogyny in Hippolytus, to the aftermath of the Iliad in Andromache and Trojan Women, and a new take on Odysseus’ dealings with the Cyclopes in ‘Cyclops.’

“It would seem from the preface that only 1000 copies were printed” (Dibdin), making it a set of particular rarity as well as beauty. This collection was the first to unite the disparate manuscripts of Euripides, and therefore formed the foundation for much later study of the tragedies. Much of the lasting importance of Euripides is due to his literary innovations which must have been striking to his contemporaries. He created deus ex machina as a literary device, prominently featured strong women and slaves for the first time, and focused on real people and raw human emotions. His influence can be detected in the works of Joyce, Racine and Corneille.

This copy is deliberately, for aesthetic reasons, incomplete of the register and the Aldine device of the first vol. The binder, most probably at the behest of the owner, wanting to create a uniform size for the two volumes, moved the last play of Volume I to Volume II, and then discarded the register and Aldine printer’s device as this now appeared in the middle of the text, rather than the end of the volume. The binding is very fine and, though unsigned, is undoubtedly the work of Bozerian, perhaps the most fashionable of the late C18th French binders. A beautiful copy of one of the most important of the Aldine Editio Princeps.

BM STC It. C16th p. 239. Dibdin I 524 “frequently found in an imperfect or indifferent condition”. Adams E 1030. Renouard 43:10 “première et rare édition d’Euripide”. Brunet II 1095 “Cette édition est recherchée et les beaux exemplaires se trouvent difficilement.”


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PRYNNE, William

Histrio-Mastix, The Players Scourge, or, Actors Tragaedie…

London, Printed by E. A[llde, A. Mathewes, T. Cotes] and W[illiam]. I[ones]. for Michael Sparke, 1633


FIRST EDITION 4to. pp (xxxiv) 512; ff. 513-568 pp. 545-832 (ii) 831-1006 (xl). Roman and Italic letter, head- and tail-pieces. Slight age yellowing, the odd little waterstain towards end, light and mostly marginal. Tear to head of t.p without loss, two small marginal excisions, ancient repair to blank verso, couple of minor paper flaws to text. Contemp. MS annotations to initial blank, partial contemp. ms. index to final e.ps. A good copy, in handsome contemp. binding of thick dark calf, covers triple ruled in blind, 4 raised bands, decorated bands at head and tail of spine, small repair to former.

FIRST EDITION of a work begun by Prynne in 1624, condemning stage plays as “the very Pompes of the Divell”. The argument for the immorality of theatre is drawn from an exhaustive number of sources which Prynne lists on the title page: Scripture, 55 Synods and Councils, 71 Christian Writers, over 150 Protestants and Papists, and 40 “Heathan Philosophers” and emporers. Prynne apologizes in his introduction for the length of the work, which he claims is absolutely necessary if he is to adequately combat such an “infectious leprosie” that has spread to City, Court and Country. The size of the treatise also relates to the size of the market for printed plays: Prynne reckons generously that over 40,000 had been printed in the past two years, and worse, that they are in better quality than other books: “Shackspeers Plaies are printed in the best Crowne paper, far better than most Bibles”. Ironically, the text is divided into Acts and Scenes. “Despite its unreadability as a whole this book still exercises a very genuine fascination” (Pforzheimer cit. infr.).

William Prynne (1600 – 1669), puritan polemicist and sometime barrister, did not so much live as rage throughout the major political upheavals of 17th century England. “The Cato of this age” at the best of times, “an indefatigable and impertinent scribbler” at the worst, his prolific output ranging from the sinfulness of toasting one’s health to more topical take-downs of Milton, lead Anthony Wood to remark: “I verily believe…he wrote a sheet for every day of his life” (DNB cit. infr.). This work, about a thousand pages longer than Prynne’s usual printed pamphlets, marked the beginning of his notoriety: “For the publication of this work the author was sentenced by the Star-chamber to pay a fine to the King of 5000l. to be degraded from his profession of the law and to lose his ears in the pillory” (Lowndes cit. infr.), reputedly because the publication coincided with the staging of “Shepherd’s Paradise”, in which Queen Henrietta Maria and her ladies featured. Distinct from Prynne’s overall hatred for the theatre, was his seething disapproval of female actors (“imprudent strumpets”). Not one to give up, Prynne continued to write tracts against Laud and episcopacy within prison and without. By the Civil War he was restored to his degree and to Lincoln’s Inn, was an ardent defender of the legality of Parliament, and spearheaded Laud’s prosecution, becoming something of a political figure. During the interregnum he found himself in and out of prison, remaining a key intermediary between politics and the public through his continuous outpouring of pamphlets. After the restoration he lived the rest of his life according to Wood as a very affable keeper of the records and archives in the Tower of London, receiving visitors “with old-fashion compliments such as were used in the reign of King James I”.

STC 20464a “Anr. issue, w. ‘Errataes’ on ***4v”. Pforzheimer II 809. Lowndes 5 p. 1987. DNB XVI 432-37. Not in Groiler.


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