Venice, Aldus Manutius, February 1495


EDITIO PRINCEPS, Folio, 140 unnumbered ll, AA8 BB8 ΓC8 ΔD8 EE6 ZF6 ΘG6 ZZζζ10 AAαα8 BBββ8 ΓΓγγ8 ΔΔδδ8 EEεε6 αa8 βb8 γc10 δd8 εe8. Greek and Roman letter, woodcut initials and headpieces. Contemporary ms marginal Latin translation in a very neat hand of the Golden Song of Pythagoras and the Moral Precepts of Phocylides on ΔΔδδ8-ΕΕεε5. T-p and verso of last a little dusty, a very good, clean, copy with very wide margins, in beautiful contemporary calf over wooden boards, covers ruled, five borders surrounding a central panel. The borders alternate between repeated intricate designs formed by a single tool repeated – first, a cross, second, a curved and studded X shape, and third an acanthus-leaf – and widely spaced double-cross single tool designs. Central panel of three blind-ruled lozenges, double-cross design inside and outside the lozenges. The volume originally had four large metal clasps, two at the side and at top and bottom; gaps filled with a much smaller cross design, probably contemporary with the gilt dentelle outer border (c1600), edges and corners with small old repairs in 19th-century calf, rebacked to match, four raised bands, blind ruled. Some small wormholes to front and back covers. A very handsome and unusual Italian binding, similar to that of a Cicero ms ascribed to Naples, now in the Vatican.

FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE of this hugely important collection of Greek works, including the EDITIO PRINCEPS of Theocritus’ Idylls 19-30, Hesiod’s Theogony, [Hesiod’s] Shield of Heracles, Theognis’ Elegiacs, [Pythagoras’] Carmina Aurea, and [Phocylides’] Poema Admonitorium; the first Greek edition of Cato’s Distichs; the second edition of Theocritus’ Idylls 1-18 and Hesiod’s Works and Days (editio princeps Milan, 1480). The second issue of the present edition has reset text in the two outermost sheets of quire Z F, and all of Θ G; near the end of printing missing lines of Megara (attributed to Theocritus) were rediscovered in a manuscript and added. Thus, the verso of the last leaf of Θ G is blank in this present copy, as per Renouard. Aldus Manutius dedicated the work to his former teacher, Battista Guarino, professor at Ferrara, whom Manutius addresses in his epistolary dedication as ‘quidem aetate nostra Socrates’.

The combination of Greek texts printed in this compendium is interesting and, to modern eyes at least, surprising. It opens with the thirty hexameter Idylls of Theocritus, a Hellenistic poet writing in Alexandria at the Ptolemaic court (cf. Idylls 16 and 17). Theocritus is most famous as the ‘inventor’ of pastoral poetry (Virgil imitated the ‘bucolic’ Idylls 1-11 in his Eclogues), but, taken as a collection, the Idylls present pastoral, epic, romantic and realistic tropes, all with a characteristically Hellenistic lightness of touch (though a third or so of the Idylls are probably spurious). Not only does this volume embody for the first time all thirty Idylls together in print, it includes the editio princeps of Hesiod’s Theogony, the didactic poem, in epic hexameters, telling of the birth of the gods, and the ecphrastic Shield of Heracles, attributed to Hesiod in antiquity. With these narrative hexameters are a number of didactic Greek works, providing moral instruction as well as educational value. These encompass the Sententiae Elegiacae of Theognis – again, the editio princeps – an archaic poet whose lyric couplets provided gnomic maxims, and the first printed Greek translation of Cato’s Distichs: one of the most popular Medieval Latin school texts, the Distichs give practical and moral advice for leading a good life (e.g. ‘Be oft awake: from too much sleep abstain./ For vice from sloth doth ever nurture gain’). Most interesting in this copy in particular are the Aurea Carmina, attributed to Pythagoras, and Phocylides’ Poema admonitorum. The former consists of 71 hexameter lines of moral exhortations which, though adhering to Pythagorean philosophy, are believed to be fourth or fifth-century A.D.; the latter, a Hellenistic collection of Jewish moral teachings, also in hexameters, falsely attributed to the archaic poet Phocylides (cf. Walters, The Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides, pp 8-11): ‘Love of money is the mother of all evil. Gold and silver are always a lure for men’, 43-44. Fascinatingly, in the wide margins of the pages containing these two poems, their Latin translations have been painstakingly transcribed in a neat, clear humanist hand. Since the final ms letters of some lines on these pages have been cropped, and re-added beneath in the same hand, they were written before the book was bound – perhaps while it was still in its original wrappers. Why the annotator – doubtless the original owner – chose these two poems in particular remains a mystery; perhaps he felt the moral teachings especially applicable. Remarkably, the translations follow the 1494 Lascaris, the very first book issued by Aldus, and presumably were transcribed in the present copy for ease of reference.

A very fine copy with beautiful binding of an incunabular compendium of important Greek texts, offering a fascinating insight into contemporary tensions between Humanist and Medieval approaches to learning, combining the editiones principes of important Greek authors with works that were central to moral and educational learning in the Middles Ages.

BMC V 554 (IB. 24402-8); BMC STC It. C15 667; Renouard 5:3 “cette édition est très rare”; HC 15477; CIBN T-101; Hoffmann III, 373; Essling 888; Sander 7235; Goff T-144. For binding, cf. De Marinis I pl 9, 114.


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VARRO, M. Terentius

De Lingua Latina

Parma, [printer of the Jerome, Epistolae], 11th December 1480


Folio, ff. (iv) 46. Roman letter, a little Greek, guide letters, spaces blank. Extensive early marginalia in at least two early hands (one contemp) throughout, final blank page filled with annotations in Italian (c.1600); uniform light age browning, waterstains to edges of some ll., mostly marginal but slightly affecting the text in places, ancient marginal ink splashes to a couple of ll. A very interesting, not unattractive and well margined copy, if well used at an early date. In modern vellum over boards.

A rare edition from an almost equally rare press; the identity of the printer is unknown, the style of his Greek type may indicate he came from Venice; the total known output of the press is only six titles, however the layout and typeface are handsome and accomplished.

An early edition of Varro’s pioneering work on Latin grammar (including inflexion and syntax) or more accurately of books V to X (of 25) which are all that have come down to us. It was regarded as a work of considerable importance by no lesser authorities than Cicero (the dedicatee), Quintilian and St Augustine, who wonders at the author’s learning in the De Civ. Dei, book VI; the text was edited for the press by Pompinius Laetus and Francisus Rolandellus and first printed in that form by an unknown press in Venice in 1478. It has a comprehensive index. “Varro’s treatise is the earliest extant Roman work on grammar. This great work, which was finished before Cicero’s death in 43 BC, owes much to the stoic teaching of Aelius Stilo, and also to that of a later grammarian who combined the Stoic and Alexandrian traditions. The first three of the surviving books are on Etymology, book V being on names of places, VI on terms denoting time and VII on poetic expressions. To ourselves the value of these books lies in their citations from the Latin poets, and not in their marvellous etymologies. The next three books are concerned with the controversy on Analogy and Anomaly: VIII on the arguments against Analogy, IX on those against Anomaly and X on Varro’s own view of Analogy”, Sandys I p.179. Of Varro’s vast literary output his three books ‘De Rustica’ is the only other survivor.

BMC.VIII p.942. Hain 11903 (3) Goff N267 (4 copies)


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PROCOPIUS of Caesarea

Arcana Historia, qui est liber nonus Historiarum

Lyon, J. Jullieron for A. Brugiotti, 1623


FIRST EDITION. folio. pp (xii), xxiii (i), 135 (i), 142, (xx). Roman and Greek letter in double column. Title in red and black, engraved device of sun with motto “Flammis Ipse Suis”, fine floriated woodcut initials and headpieces, grotesque tail-pieces, eight small engravings in text, early French ms note on fly concerning Theodora, early shelf-marks on pastedown. Light age yellowing, the odd marginal spot. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in slightly later French calf over boards, covers bordered with double gilt rule, spine with raised bands gilt in compartments, ‘MI’ within hexagram gilt in each, a.e.r., upper joint and head and tail of spine worn.

First edition of this important work by Procopius, (Byzantine Greek historian, secretary to Belisarius, famous general of the Emperor Justinian), his famous ‘Secret History’ which had recently been discovered in the Vatican library and edited for publication by Niccolo Alamanni. The text’s existence was known from contemporary sources which referred to it as the Anekdota but had remained unpublished. It covers roughly the same years as the first seven books of Procopius’ History of Justinian’s Wars and appears to have been written after their appearence, in 550-558. The Palestinian Procopius accompanied Belisarius in his early campaigns in Africa and Italy, and was later made prefect of Constantinople, then capital of the Empire, in 562. His History of the Wars, is an account of the events of his own time, our principal surviving source for the first two thirds of Justinian’s reign and the one of the most important surviving first hand sources of Byzantine history. Unlike his earlier work the ‘Historia Arcana’ was never meant for publication and claims to provide explanations and additions that the author could not insert into the former for fear of retribution. Parts are so vitriolic, not to say pornographic, that for some time translations from Greek were only available into Latin

“The Historia Arcana of Procopius is a puzzling work. The historian himself describes it as a continuation and correction of his eight-book de Bellis, but its tone seems remarkably different from that of the earlier work – polemical, slanderous, even obscene. Nevertheless, the Historia Arcana is useful as a record of opposition to Justinian’s reign, and is the longest and most detailed source for the life of his Empress, Theodora, and that of General Belisarius’ wife, Antoninaa. Historians discussing Theodora and/or Antonina must turn to the Historia Arcana, and they must adopt some working assumptions about the accuracy of Procopius’ black picture of these women.” E. Fisher. ‘Theodora and Antonina in the Historia Arcana’. Niccolò Alamanni was a Roman antiquarian of Greek origin. He was educated in Rome at the Greek college, founded by Gregory XIII, but was ordained according to the Latin rite. He was appointed secretary to Cardinal Borghese, and afterwards made custodian of the Vatican Libray. He is best remembered as the discoverer and first editor of this important history.

BM STC Fr. C17th. p. 447. Brunet IV 897. Graesse. V 455.


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SCHMIDT, Erasmus

Novi Testamenti Jesu Christi graeci, hoc est, originalis linguae tameion [aliis concordantiae] Hactenus usitato correctius, ordinatius, distinctius, plenius,.

Wittenberg, Impensis haeredum Clementis Bergeri bibliopl., ex officina typographica Jobi VVilhelmi Fincelii, 1638


FIRST EDITION. folio. ff. [341]. -1[eng. t-p.], [:]4, A-Z6, 2A-2Z6, 3A-3K6. Last blank. Greek letter in three columns. Printed title in red and black, fine full page engraved architectural title, Evangelists to the sides, putti above with olive branches, scenes from the New Testament in roundels at corners, portrait of the author below, woodcut initials, typographical headpieces, ‘Edw: Gul: Stillingfleet’ and shelf mark in ms. on fly. General paper browning and spotting as usual (poor quality paper), heavier in places. A good copy in contemporary vellum over boards, yapp edges, a.e.r., a little soiled and rubbed.

Rare first edition of this monumental concordance of all the words in the Greek New Testament by the German philologist, theologian and mathematician Erasmus Schmidt, with an appropriate provenance. It comprises an alphabetical arrangement of every word in the the Greek New Testament in which is listed immediately after the series of passages in which it occurs. The work was of great utility to theologians not only in finding particular texts which they wished to consult but especially for ascertaining which passages are really parallel, and thus deducing the accurate meaning and interpretation of each word. The only comparable work to have been published was Henry Estienne’s who completed the concordance started by his father Robert in 1594. That text was so riddled with errors that many have concluded that it cannot have been the work of Henry but to which Estienne added his name and published out of financial necessity. This work by Erasmus Schmidt far surpassed that of Estienne, entirely superseding it, and formed the basis of all subsequent concordances. Schmidt, who taught Greek at the University of Wittenberg felt that a proper understanding of the N.T. could only be gained, not from merely understanding the rules of the structure of words and language, but from the most intimate familiarity with the language and its context. He was the last among the German Hellenists who taught in the manner and spirit of Melanchthon.

Edward William Stillingfleet was the grandson of the great British theologian and scholar of the same name. He was a fellow of Lincoln College Oxford and became a Deacon in 1805 and a priest a year later.

Not in BM STC C17 Ger. or Darlow and Moule. Not in Brunet or Graesse.


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