Svetonius Tranquillus, Gaius (70-126).
Le vite de’ dodici Cesari... Tradotte in volgar Fiorentino da F. Paolo Del Rosso Cavalier Gerosolomitano. Nuova edizione con le vere effigie de’ Cesari Ed altre illustrazioni.... Venice, Francesco Piacentini, 1738.
Folio (296x215 mm). Printed on blue paper. , XIX, , 377,  pages. Complete with the last blank leaf. Title-page printed in red and black. Half-title within a frame executed and signed by John Baptist Jackson (1701-ca.1780). Woodcut vignette on the title-page, fine cul-de-lampe. Each Vita is introduced by a large woodcut medallion portrait, from the series executed by the Flemish artist Hubert Goltzius (1526-1583). Contemporary vellum, over pasteboards. Spine with five raised bands, double morocco lettering-piece, title and imprint lettered in gilt. Gilt edges. A very fine, wide-margined copy, printed on strong paper, partly uncut.
Provenance: the Venetian senator Giacomo Soranzo (1686-1761; ownership inscription on the recto of the front flyleaf, '1743 Di Giano Soranzo'); the British Consul in Venice Joseph Smith (1682-1770; large ex-libris on the front pastedown; his sale Bibliotheca Smithiana, Venice 1755, p. CCCLVIII, “la stessa, tradotta dal suddetto, con le vere Effigie de' Cesari (cavate da Goltzio) ed altre illustrazioni. Ven. per Francesco Piasentini [sic] 1738. 4. c. gr. turchina. leg. Oll.”). On the rear pastedown a cutting taken from an unidentified sale catalogue 'Splendida copia, una delle poche stampate in carta grigia. Leg. orig. in piena perg. taglio dorato, Con un belliss. Ex-libris di Joseph' Smith, Britisch Consul, ad venice'.
A superb copy, printed on strong blue paper, of this famous historical work, divided into eight books and containing the biographies of twelve Roman emperors, from Julius Caesar to Domitianus.
The well-known artist John Baptist Jackson (1701- ca.1780) is responsible for the fine border framing the half-title. The portraits of Roman Emperors, or “le vere effigie dei Cesari” – as the Venetian printer Piacentini states in his preliminary address – are by anonymous designers and engravers, and closely reproduce the outline of Hubert Goltzius' series of medallions, originally executed in chiaroscuro, which first appeared in the volume Vivae omnium Imperatorum Imagines, published in Antwerp in 1557.
The volume has a very distinguished provenance, having once belonged to Joseph Smith, refined lover of paintings and books, and Canaletto's patron (see no. 232). He spent his life in Venice, and in 1740 was named British Consul of the city. Smith's library was sold at auction in 1755, while his celebrated art collection was purchased by King George III in 1762.
Previously this fine copy of the Le vite de' dodici Cesari had been in the possession of the Venetian patrician and senator of the Serenissima Giacomo Soranzo, one of the greatest collectors of books printed on blue paper.
Brunet v, p. 584; Gamba 1669; Morazzoni, Il libro illustrato veneziano del Settecento, p. 255 (listing only the octavo edition); J. Kainen, J. B. Jackson, 18th Century Master of the Color Woodcut, Washington, D.C.1962, p. 29; F. Vivian, The Consul Smith Collections, Munich 1986; M S. Morrison, “Records of a Bibliophile. The Catalogues of Consul Joseph Smith and some Aspects of his Collecting”, The Book Collector, 43 (1994), pp. 27-54; M. Zorzi, “La stampa, la circolazione del libro”, P. del Negro – P. Preto (eds.), Storia di Venezia, dalle origini alla caduta della Serenissima, VIII, Roma 1998, pp. 801-860; L. Hellinga, “Il Console Joseph Smith Collezionista a Venezia per Il Mercato Inglese”, La Bibliofilia, 102 (2000), pp. 109-121.