Naturae historiarum libri XXXVII [Historia Naturalis].
Venice: Johannes Alvisius, 1499.
Hardcover. Folio - over 12 - 15" tall. Very Good. Item #003343
18 May 1499. Chancery folio (302 x 197 mm). 268 unnumbered leaves. 57 lines plus headline, initial spaces, most with printed guides. Types 2:83R, 3:180G. Signatures: a-e8 f6 g-z8 &8 A-I8 K6. Colophon on K6r reads "C. Plynii Secundi de naturali historia libri .xxxvii. Ex castigationes Hermolai Barbari diligentissime Recogniti. Impressi Venetiis per Ioannem Aluisium de Varisio Mediolanensem anno a Natali Cristiano M.CCCCLXXXXIX. die .xviii. Maii." Text upto leaf n5 with large initials painted in red. Bound in 18th century Italian plain vellum, spine reinforced with broad vellum band in early times (vellum soiled and stained, corners worn and bumped), sprinkled edges, original endpapers. Text very little browned (just a few pages stronger), pale waterstaining to outer margins of gathering a and stronger at lower outer corner of final 4 gatherings, few marginal wormholes in first 3 gatherings, title dust-soiled, first gathering working loose, final leaf detached, clean short tear in leaf h4 repaired without loss, a few painted initials with offsetting to opposite page, scattered manuscript annotations of the 16th century in red and black ink (mostly cropped). Provenance: Bibliothèque de l'école Saint-Ange, Saint-Ouen (ink stamps to title and elswhere in text); French collector Nicolas Jouravleff. Very good copy in contemporary binding. ----
LAST INCUNABULUM EDITION of Pliny's Natural History, a re-issue of Benalius' 1497/8 edition, with the text corrected by Hermolaus Barbarus and revised by Johann Baptist Palmarius. It is one of only four books by the Venetian press of Joannes Alvisius (BMC lists a total of 7 books to which this printer contributed, one published in 1501).
In his great encyclopaedia, the Historia naturalis, being the first comprehensive examination of the natural sciences and the arts, Pliny set forth by his own count 20,000 facts compiled from 2,000 different works, all of which he scrupulously cited in his remarkably thorough indices. The 36 books of this vast compilation, the only extant work of more than 100 said to have been composed by Pliny, cover cosmology, mathematics, geography, medicine, zoology, agriculture, botany, history, philosophy, anthropology, mineralogy, and the arts and literature. When Pliny died at the age of 56 while observing the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, the work was still unfinished. The importance of the Historia naturalis for the study of ancient art has somewhat been overshadowed by its renown as the first encyclopaedia of natural history. In fact, the Historia remains a principal source of information on the development of sculpture and painting and the techniques of metalworking and silversmithing in antiquity, topics covered in the last four books. Together with Vitruvius' De architectura, Pliny's work is one of few extant testimonies to the flowering of art criticism and art historical study in the Roman period. References: GW M34317; HC 13104; Pellechet 9368; Polain 3203; BMC V573; Goff P-800.
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