Foscolo’s 'divine Plutarchus'

Plutarchus (ca. 45-120).

Plutarchi Chaeronensis quae extant opera, cum Latina interpretatione. Ex vetustis codicibus plurima nunc primùm emendata sunt, vt ex Henr. Stephani annotationibus intelliges: quibus & suam quorundam libellorum interpretationem adiunxit. Aemylii Probi De vita excellentium imperatorum liber. [Geneva], Henri Estienne, 1572.

Plutarchus (ca. 45-120) Plutarchi Chaeronensis quae extant opera, cum Latina interpretatione. Ex vetustis codicibus plurima nunc primùm emendata sunt, vt ex Henr. Stephani annotationibus intelliges: quibus & suam quorundam libellorum interpretationem adiunxit. Aemylii Probi De vita excellentium imperatorum liber. Henri Estienne, 1572.

Seven volumes, 8° (174x105 mm). I. Collation: *8, a-z8, Aa-Cc8. 16, 778, 2 of [6] pages, lacking the blank Cc7 and Cc8, but complete with the blank Cc6. II. Collation: aa-zz8, AA-PP8. [2], 781-1381, 3 of [5] pages, lacking the blank PP8, but complete with the blank PP7. III. Collation: aaa-zzz8, AAA-YYY8. [2], 1389-2101, 3 of [5] pages, lacking the blank YYY8, but complete with the blank YYY7. IV. Collation: a-z8, A-M8, N10; 579, [1] pages. V. Collation: a6, b8, Cc-Zz8, aA-rR8. [2], 583-1213, [3] pages. VI. Collation: Aa-Zz8, Aaa-Vvv8, Xxx10. [2], 1219-1923, [1] pages. VII. Collation: [A]-[M]8, [N]6, [O]-[Z]8, [AA]-[FF]8, [GG]4. 467, [1] pages. Complete with fol. [N]6 blank. The set comprises only the Greek portion of the edition, and therefore does not include the volumes containing the Latin translation of Plutarch's work. For this reason, volume VII includes – as in most of the recorded copies – the Appendix, but not the final Index rerum et verborum. Greek, roman, and italic type. Woodcut printer's device on the title-page of the first volume. Woodcut decorated initials and headpieces. Eighteenth-century uniform binding, vellum over pasteboards. Smooth spine, divided into compartments by gilt fillets; title and volume numbering in gold on double green morocco lettering-piece. A set in good condition, leaves uniformly browned, some foxing. A pale spot to the upper margin of the first leaf of text in each volume due to an ownership inscription that was later erased.

Provenance: the Italian poet Ugo Foscolo (1778-1827; white wax-stamp with the initials 'L.F.' on the front pastedown of the first volume; a loose paper slip is inserted in the same volume, bearing the hand written note 'N. 1552 du Catalogue de la Bibliothèque du Monsignor Foscolo vendu par autorité de justice de la Depositeria urbana pas le Ministere de libre Agazzi. La 1ere vente devais avoir lieu le 4 xmbre 1843 mais enfait la vente n'a eu lieu qu'en 1844 et le N. 1552 n'a été vendu qu'à la vacation en date du 22 mars 1844'). In Foscolo's own hand the emendations on fols. Aa2r and Aa8 of the sixth volume, and some underlining in red pencil.

An exceptional set of the first complete edition of Plutarch's works, edited by Henri Estienne “avec correction et elegance” (Renouard), and once owned by the outstanding Italian poet and patriot Ugo Foscolo. The seven-volume set includes only the Greek part of Estienne's publication, supplemented with his Appendix.

Foscolo's interest in the 'divine Plutarchus' was already evident in his famous epistolary novel Le ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis (see no. 258), in which Plutarch's works are the beloved reading of the main character. Foscolo began to write the Discorsi sopra gli uomini illustri di Plutarco at the beginning of the nineteenth century; of this work, only the Proemio or Preface – dated 1 January 1801 – was completed. On 25 July of the same year he was appointed director of an office in Milan created to put into writing the military code of the Cisalpine Republic, which had been established in 1797; on 3 August he was moved to the fourth section of this office and charged with the writing of disciplinary and penal rules. For this purpose, in a letter addressed on 7 August to the Minister of War, Vincenzo Lancetti, Foscolo requested some books, which he considered necessary for his writing, among others “Plutarco. Vite degli uomini illustri”, i.e., Plutarch's Parallel Lives. The missing publication date forbids certain identification of the Plutarch edition which was later supplied by Lancetti, and the subsequent course of Foscolo's private library is very complex. His collection was bought by his friend Quirina Mocenni Magiotti in 1816, when Foscolo decided to self-exile himself in London, and it later came mostly into the possession of the Biblioteca Marucelliana in Florence: among the books recorded in the Florentine library is the Italian-language edition of Vite di Plutarco volgarizzate da Girolamo Pompei, printed in Verona between 1772 and 1773. The volumes of this Italian Plutarch bear the ownership inscription 'Ugo Foscolo Firenze M.DCCC.I'. It is known that Foscolo sejourned in Florence until 25 March 1801; therefore, the Veronese publication cannot be the edition given to Foscolo in Milan after 7 August 1801, the date of his letter to Vincenzo Lancetti. The copy given by him on that occasion may thus actually be the set of volumes described here.

Renouard Estienne 134.2; Schreiber Estienne, 179; Schweiger I, 259; G. Gambarin, Scritti letterari e politici: dal 1796 al 1808, U. Foscolo, Edizione Nazionale, Firenze 1972, vol. VI, pp. LXIII-LXIV; La biblioteca fiorentina del Foscolo nella Biblioteca Marucelliana. Premessa di L. Caretti; introduzione, catalogo, appendice di G. Nicoletti. Firenze [1978]; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 148.

$ 8.200
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