Vipera, Giovanni Mercurio (1426-1527).
De divino et vero numine apologeticon. Rome, Marcellus Silber, 1514-1515. (bound with:) Idem. De disciplinarum virtutumque Laudibus opusculum. Rome, Etienne Guillery, 14 September 1515. (bound with:) Idem. Orationes. Rome, Etienne Guillery and Ercole Nani, 30 September 1514. (bound with:) Idem. Oratio [de justiciae laudibus]. [Rome, Johannes Beplin, ca. 1513].
Four works in one volume, 4° (198x130 mm). I. Six parts. Collation: a-b4, c6; a-d4; a-b4, c6 ; a-c4; a-b4, c6; a-f4.  leaves. Roman type. Each part with separate title-page within a fine woodcut compartment of floral design on black ground. II. Collation: A-T4.  leaves. Roman and gothic type. Title-page within woodcut border on black ground from the celebrated del Tuppo Aesop of 1485. Blank spaces for capitals, with printed guide letters. III. Collation: A-H4.  leaves. Roman type. One woodcut decorated initial on fol. A1v. IV. [a]4.  leaves. Roman type. Title-page within a beautiful portico on white ground, two rounded pillars at sides and long tassels hanging down from a flat-topped entablature (slightly trimmed at the upper panel).
Sixteenth century brown calf over pasteboards, likely executed by a Spanish binder. Covers within blind fillets, floral tool at each corner. At the centre, an unidentified coat of arms in gilt, with the Roman numerals 'XVI' and initials 'CJ'. Neatly rebacked in the nineteenth century, gilt-tooled spine with five raised double bands; title lettered in gold. Covers slightly rubbed. A very fine copy, ruled in red throughout. Minor foxing and browning in places. Early manuscript index on front flyleaf of the volume.
Provenance: early illegible signature on the upper margin of the first title-page; Charles Spencer, Earl of Sunderland (1674-1722; see Bibliotheca Sunderlandiana. Sale Catalogue of the truly important and very extensive library of printed books known as the Sunderland or Blenheim library, 1 December 1881, lot 13036, 'woodcut titles, old calf with arms on sides'); the English politician Charles Butler, esq. of Warren Wood Hatfield (1821-1910; ex-libris; his sale at Sotheby's 29 May 1911, The first portion of the extensive and valuable library of the late Charles Butler, esq. of Warren Wood, Hatfield, and Connaught Place); Arthur & Charlotte Vershbow, acquired from Lathrop C. Harper, 1973 (see The Collection of Arthur & Charlotte Vershbow, Christie's New York 2013, lot 340).
A fine miscellaneous volume, containing four very rare Roman editions. Vipera of Benevento was a learned man and for many years auditor at the Papal Court. He was slain by a plundering soldier in the Sack of Rome in 1527. Most of his writings are short orations, all beautifully printed by the most renowned Roman presses of the time, especially by the French printer Etienne Guillery, who, between 1510 and 1514/15, printed in partnership with Ercole Nani from Bologna. The final edition issued by the firm 'Magister Stephanus et Magister Hercules socii' was precisely Vipera's Orationes, in 1514-1515.
For the title-page of the second work bound here, De disciplinarum virtutumque Laudibus opusculum, Guillery used a woodcut border that included the figures of Hercules and Antaeus in the upper panel, a scene which is a reverse copy of the border used by Francesco del Tuppo for his famous Aesop issued in Naples in 1485 (see A. M. Hind, An Introduction to a History of Woodcut, II, pp. 405-407). The title-border was also used by the French printer for the Suma de arithmetica by Juan de Ortega, likewise published in 1515. The last work bound in the volume was probably issued by the enigmatic printer Johannes Beplin, who printed mostly anonymously, and possibly for other printers active in Rome. His production is limited to bulls, orations, and other short texts.
The volume is presented in a handsome near contemporary binding with interesting but unidentified arms, possibly executed by a Spanish bookbinder. In a letter dated August 1945, Geoffrey Dudley Hobson writes that various people called 'Jacobs' in the Spanish Netherlands used very similar arms. It has not been possible to discover the identity of its earliest owner, but the subsequent provenance is highly distinguished: the earliest recorded owner of this fine volume was Charles Spencer, Earl of Sunderland. The extensive Bibliotheca Sunderlandiana was sold in London in 1881.
I. Tinto Annali, no. 111; Sander 7629. II. Adams V-843; Mortimer Italian, 542; Isaacs 12088; Sander 7631; F. Barberi, Tipografi romani del Cinquecento, p. 52. III. Isaacs 12159. IV. Adams V-847; STC Italian 729; Isaacs 12159; Sander 7635. For the activity of the printer Etienne Guillery, see Norton, Italian Printers, pp. 98-100; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 58.