A Masterpiece of Venetian Woodcut

(Benedetto Bordone). Lucianus Samosatensis (125–after 180 BC).

Vera historia. Tr: Lilius (Tifernas) Castellanus. Add: De asino aureo; Philosophorum vitae; Scipio; Tyrannus; Scaphidium (Dialogus de funerali pompa); Palinurus; Charon; Diogenes; Terpsion; Hercules; Virtus dea; In amorem; Timon; Sermo de calumnia; Laus muscae. Ed: Benedictus Bordonus; Maephus Vegius: De Felicitate et miseria. Venice, Simon Bevilaqua, for Benedetto Bordone, 25 August 1494.

(Benedetto Bordone). Lucianus Samosatensis (125–after 180 BC) Vera historia. Tr: Lilius (Tifernas) Castellanus. Add: De asino aureo; Philosophorum vitae; Scipio; Tyrannus; Scaphidium (Dialogus de funerali pompa); Palinurus; Charon; Diogenes; Terpsion; Hercules; Virtus dea; In amorem; Timon; Sermo de calumnia; Laus muscae. Ed: Benedictus Bordonus; Maephus Vegius: De Felicitate et miseria. Simon Bevilaqua, for Benedetto Bordone, 25 August 1494.

4° (216x155 mm). Collation: a8, b4, c-g8, h4, i-p8. [112] leaves. Text in one column, 29 lines. Type: 5:110R. White on-black woodcut candelabra border on fol. a2r, by Benedetto Bordone. Blank spaces for capitals, with no guide letters. Later vellum over pasteboards. Smooth spine, title written vertically 'Lucianus Venice Woodcut title-border'. Binding somewhat bumped. A good copy, first leaf lightly soiled, with old repair to the outer blank margin, without any loss. A few small stains, some spots and fingermarks. The lower blank margin of fol. g7 slightly trimmed. A few early marginal and interlinear notes. On the rear pastedown, a cutting taken from an old sale catalogue describing this copy: “Fol. a2 is surrounded by a magnificent woodcut border [...] Such borders are very rare in books of small format. A very fine copy of a rare book, save for the first page, skilfully repaired”. Bibliographical notes on the front pastedown (among these '217x153. BM copy only 204x143'), and on the recto of the front flyleaf. On the rear pastedown, pencilled collation by Bernard Quaritch.

Provenance: the bibliographer Gilbert Richard Redgrave (1844-1941; ex-libris on the front pastedown, and the inscription on the recto of the front flyleaf ‘Ex libris. Gilbert R. Redgrave Thriffwood, Sydenham, London. Sept. 9th. 1914'); Wynne Rice Hugh Jeudwine (1920-1984; ex-libris on the front pastedown; see sale Bloomsbury London, 18 September 1984 Catalogue of the Important Collection of Printed Books formed by the Late W. R. Jeudwine, lot 18); Kenneth Rapoport (ex-libris on the front pastedown).

A fine copy of the rare first book edited by famous Paduan artist Benedetto Bordone (1450/55-1530). This edition represents the first official appearance of Bordone's name in Venice.

On 3 May 1494, Benedictus miniator applied for permission to print a book edited by himself, a Latin translation of Lucian's dialogues. The book was published on 25 August by Simone Bevilaqua (active in Venice between 1492 and 1506) at Bordone's expense, and his name is mentioned in a final address, composed in verse, on fol. p6r, and in the statement of privilege printed on the verso of the same leaf. In the four-verse address, Bordone invites the reader to take this book and relax among the collected stories of Lucian. It is indeed an enjoyable book, featuring widespread texts without scholarly commentaries or notes, printed in a roman type that is easy to read, and in a small quarto format, a practical prelude to the well-known Aldine octavos. The title page is framed within an exquisite woodcut all'antica border on black ground whose design is attributed to Bordone himself. This delicately refined candelabra border is a compendium of decorative motifs from classical antiquity: vases, vine leaves, and foliate branches, with the head of a 'leafy old man' at top and a Roman eagle, horns, and winged animals down below.

This woodcut border was first used, with some variants, in the 1494 Herodotus (see no. 36), and later in the Commentaria in Bibliam by Hieronymus (see no. 40). Single elements of Bordone's decorative vocabulary also find close parallel in headpieces and initials used by Aldus in the years 1495-1498.

This copy was bought in 1914 by Gilbert Richard Redgrave, son of the famous British artist Richard Redgrave and president of the Bibliographical Society of London, as well as co-editor, with Alfred W. Pollard, of A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640. A note on the front flyleaf written in his own hand states: 'All writers on book ornament agree in attributing the splendid border on f. a2 to the same designer as the border of the Herodotus of 1494. These two borders are the most splendid works on the early Venetian press'.

HC 1026; GW M19059; BMC V, 519; IGI 5842; Goff L-329; Flodr Lucianus, 4; Essling 747; Sander 4037; L. Armstrong, “Benedetto Bordon, 'Miniator', and Cartography in Early Sixteenth-Century Venice”, Eadem, Studies of Renaissance Miniaturists in Venice, London 2003, 2, pp. 591-643; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 37.

$ 12.000
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