A most curious miscellany - N. G. Wilson

Aesopus (5th century BC).

Habentur hoc volumine haec, videlicet. Vita & fabellae Aesopi cum interpretatione Latina... Gabriae Fabellae tres & quadraginta ex trimetris iambis, praeter ultimam ex scazonte, cum latina interpretatione.... Venice, Aldo Manuzio, October 1505.

Aesopus (5th century BC) Habentur hoc volumine haec, videlicet. Vita & fabellae Aesopi cum interpretatione Latina... Gabriae Fabellae tres & quadraginta ex trimetris iambis, praeter ultimam ex scazonte, cum latina interpretatione.... Aldo Manuzio, October 1505.

Folio (266x172 mm). Collation: a8, A8, B10, b8, c8, C8, D10, d8, e-h8, i6, k-ξ8, o4 (the first quires a, A, b, B, c, C, d, and D contain text in Greek and Latin, which were printed on separate sheets that were designed to be interleaved, with the Greek text facing the Latin and vice versa). 150 leaves in all: [17] leaves, 48 paginated leaves comprising Greek text, interleaved with unnumbered leaves of Latin text, 41 leaves numbered as pages 59-141 (a few numbering errors), 43 leaves numbered as columns 1-172, [1] leaf. Greek and roman type. Woodcut Aldine device on the recto of the first leaf, larger framed woodcut device on the final verso. Blank spaces for capitals, with printed guide letters. Early nineteenth-century vellum, over pasteboards. Smooth spine with running stitches, title in gilt (partly abraded) on green morocco lettering-piece. Marbled pastedowns. A very good copy, slightly browned and soiled in places. Some bibliographical annotations on the first front flyleaf, among others 'Libri rarissimi exemplar pulcherrimum'. Pencilled notes by Bernard Quaritch on the rear pastedown.

Provenance: Henry Philip Hope (1774-1839; see Catalogue of the... library of Henry P. Hope, esq. Among which is a... rare... collection of canon and civil law... Which will be sold by auction, by Leigh and Sotheby... February 18, 1813, and seventeen following days, London 1813, lot 1584, “Esopi Vita et Fabulae, Gr. very fair Venet. ap. Ald.”; see also the note on the front flyleaf 'Hope's Sale 1813' £8.0.0.'); Porkington Library of John Ralph Ormsby-Gore, Lord Harlech (1816-1876; ex-libris on the front pastedown); Kenneth Rapoport (ex-libris on front pastedown).

The rare first Aldine edition of the Fabulae, supplemented with a Latin translation and the fictitious life of Aesop ascribed to Planudes, likewise in Greek and Latin. “This edition may be considered among the rarer and more beautiful productions of the Aldine Press” (Dibdin, Introduction, I, p. 247).

The volume also contains the text, in both languages, of the forty three fables by the second-century writer Babrius (or Gabrias, as Aldus erroneously calls him), and the Greek text only of writings by Phurnutus or Cornutus, Palaephatus, and Heraclides Ponticus, along with the Hieroglyphica by Horapollo, the proverbs by Tarrhaeus and Didymus, and the Apologus Aesopi de Cassita apud Gellium, all of which appear here in their first editions: this Aldine edition is thus rightly defined by N. G. Wilson as “a most curious miscellany” (From Byzanthium to Italy, p. 143).

The Aldine Aesop follows the 1481 edition princeps printed in Milan by Bonus Accursius, but it includes five additional fables that had remained unpublished.

The edition is the only work printed by Aldus to have parallel text in Latin and Greek indicating the popularity of the Fables as a schoolbook during the Renaissance. The Greek and Latin text is interleaved to aid those readers who knew Latin but not Greek. The texts are also separable: the pages printed in Greek are numbered sequentially, and there are copies in which the Aesopus Graecus is found bound together without the Latin translation. The title-page of the 1505 Aldine edition points up this particular feature, stating that the Fables are presented “cum interpretatione latina, ita tamen ut separari a graeco possit pro unius cuiusque arbitrio”.

Especially noteworthy among the short supplementary texts included in the Aldine of 1505 is the princeps of the Hieroglyphica, traditionally ascribed to the enigmatic Horapollo. The Hieroglyphica was enormously popular and represents the only surviving treatise from antiquity on those Egyptian hieroglyphics which fascinated so many Renaissance philosophers, poets, and painters.

Adams A-278; STC Italian 8; Renouard Alde, 49.6; Ahmanson-Murphy 93; Hoffmann I, p. 63; Staikos, The Greek Editions of Aldus Manutius and his Greek Collaborators (1495-1515), New Castle, DE 2016, 46; N. G. Wilson, From Byzantium to Italy, Baltimore 1993, pp. 143-144; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 51.

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