Venice: Aldus Manutius and Andreas Torresanus, 1513.
1st Edition. Hardcover. Folio - over 12 - 15" tall. Very Good. Item #003389
September 1513. Two parts in one volume. Folio (306 x 201 mm). , 502, ; 439  pp. Signatures: 112 24 a-z8 aa10 bb-hh8 ii4; A-DD8 EE4, with both blanks, 2/4 and ii4 present. Title in Greek and Latin, main text in Greek. Greek type 3bis: 90, Roman 12:90; 48 lines and headline. Aldine device (Fletcher no. f4) on title and colophon leaf verso at end, capital spaces with guide letters. 17th century calf over thick boards, rebacked before 1876 with brown morocco leather spine, renewed endpapers, dyed edges, spine with 5 raised bands, gilt ruling and lettering, gilt-stamped coat of arms of the Royal Society of London at foot (boards and raised bands rubbed, board edges worn, corners scuffed). Title dust-soiled and spotted, and with edge chipping at head, occasional minor dust-soiling and spotting mostly to outer margins in places, first two gatherings with light brown staining at gutter and top margin, some small, unobtrusive wormholes in first and last leaves, final leaf EE4 attached to final flyleaf. Provenance: Willibald Pirckheimer* (large bookplate by Albrecht Dürer on front pastedown, 171 x 119 mm, with Latin, Hebrew and Greek headline, signed "Liber Bilibaldi Pirckheimer"); Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel; Royal Society of London; Walter Ashburner, Florence (ink stamps to title and some pages elsewhere); Pierre Bergé (bookplate to first flyleaf), a few markings and ink annotations in Greek, in Pirckheimer's own hand. In all a very good, crisp and extremely wide-margined copy printed on strong paper and with important provenance. Visit our website for more information and images! ----
EDITIO PRINCEPS OF PLATO'S WORKS IN GREEK AND WITH IMPORTANT PROVENANCE: The Pirckheimer--Earl of Arundel--Duke of Norfolk--Royal Society--Ashburner-Bergé copy. The Greek text was first printed in Venice by Aldus Manutius in September 1513 as part of the complete works of Plato edited by Marcus Musurus. This edition was also the basis for the Latin translation of the Pseudo-Platonic Demodokos (Dialogi Platonis Axiochus, see Aldus edition, part II p.390ff.) that the humanist Willibald Pirckheimer brought out in Nuremberg in 1523 with the printer Friedrich Peypus. Pirckheimer's teacher of Greek at Padua in 1490 was no other than Marcus Musurus, a Cretan, who edited several Greek Classics for Aldus including Plato's Opera for which "the transmitted text, though by no means perfect, was in a much better state than that of most authors, and therefore did not invite editorial intervention on the same scale. In the Laws Musurus is thought to have made few if any alterations to the text." (N.G. Wilson, p.151).
The works of Plato in general stand at the origin of the Western tradition of scientific inquiry as well as that of philosophical thought. Socrates, by his ceaseless and methodical questioning, reported in the dialogues, laid the foundation of the scientific method. Plato's own enthusiasm for mathematics and astronomy is evident in his works, and he was credited in Antiquity with having promoted the advance of geometry in particular. The Timaeus, which was available to the Latin Middle Ages in the 4th-century translation by Chalcidius, offered a cosmography, a theory of atomism, and a physiology that regarded the brain as the organ of consciousness. Marsilio Ficino's Latin translation of Plato's works was printed in Florence in 1484 and reprinted in Venice in 1491. The Aldine Plato in Greek was dedicated to the new Pope, Leo X. According to Aldus' preface, the edition was made possible by the humanist interests of Leo's father, Lorenzo il Magnifico. Lorenzo had sent Lascaris on a mission to the East. During the journey, Lascaris had discovered manuscripts of Plato on Mount Athos. Aldus refers to these "very old and trustworthy manuscripts." One of the interesting features of this remarkable book is the "Hymn to Plato," a stirring poem, written in a noble and lofty language. "In contents, it constitutes a moving appeal to the spirit of Plato so to inspire the Western European nations with love for the heritage of the ancient Greeks that they will speedily go to the aid of their descendants, whose harsh lot Musurus eloquently portrays in a lamentation on the destruction of liberty ... aside from its literary merit, the poem may also be considered a unique contribution to the historiography of the last phase of the crusade which sought unsuccessfully to rescue the Greek East from the Turkish oppressor." (Geneakoplos). The address to Leo X also contains a review of the geographical discoveries made during the past 30 years, including a reference to America: the Pope is urged to send missionaries to all corners of the earth... and to "other races, discovered a few years ago in the Atlantic ocean by the Spaniards."
*The important woodcut bookplate of Willibald Pirckheimer (1470-1530), one of the earliest known and the first to feature Hebrew characters, was executed by Albrecht Dürer around 1503 (ref. Meder 280-1). It shows the marriage coat of arms of Pirckheimer and his wife Crescentia, a born Rieter. Above the two inclined shields in the shape of a stylized tart, showing on the one hand an uprooted birch and on the other a double-tailed siren, a stinging helmet rises frontally with a swinging helmet cover made of acanthus leaves. The torso of a bearded man with three birch leaves in his hair serves as a crest. The structure is supported by two winged putti. The frame is formed by cornucopia, a garland held by geniuses with an animal skull hanging in the middle, and a putti fight. In addition to the imprinted ownership notice that closes the woodcut at the bottom, the dedication "SIBI ET AMICIS.P." is integrated into the representation. A separate wooden stick is here applied above to add the script that contains "Fear of God is the origin of wisdom" in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The bookplate was preserved and laid down on the new pastedown at the time the book was rebound on behalf of the Royal Society. It has minor loss by worming from previous boards and a torn lower right corner with loss of the final 3 letters of Pirckheimer's name. Pirckheimer, a German humanist, citizen of Nuremberg and close friend and patron of Albrecht Dürer, was one of the greatest book collectors of his time. He had no son and his heirs were his sister, Barbara Straeubing and his daughters. His sister died in 1560 and the splendid library came into the possession of Willibald Imhoff, who had married Pirckheimer's eldest daughter. In May 1636, at that time on an Embassy to the Emperor at Vienna, Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel, purchased Pirckheimer's library during his stay in Nuremberg ("The chief event of Lord Arundel's stay at Nuremberg, was undoubtedly his purchase of the famous Dirkheimer Library" (M. Hervey, The Life Correspondence & Collections of Thomas Howard Earl of Arundel, p.364)).
In 1667, through John Evelyn's efforts the library was presented to the fledgling Royal Society by the Earl's grandson, Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk. In 1873 the Royal Society sold off some of the duplicate books to Bernard Quaritch and disposed of the remainder on 4 May 1925 at Sotheby's auction in London, where our copy was sold to Frankfurt am Main based rare booksellers Joseph Baer & Co (lot 165). The company probably sold it to Walter Ashburner in Florence. Walter Ashburner (1864-1936), born in Boston, MA, studied Classics at Balliol College, Oxford from 1883 to 1887 and, after graduation, became a fellow of Merton College. In 1903 he retired and moved to Florence where he was one of those instrumental in the establishment of the British Institute of Florence in 1917. He returned to Oxford in 1926 as Professor of Jurisprudence but was forced to resign for reasons of health and returned to Florence where he died in February 1936. While in Italy, Ashburner pursued his academic interests, publishing a notable edition of Rhodian sea law in 1909 and a facsimile reproduction of an important Aristotle manuscript in 1927. He had a great love of books, particularly early printed works, and built an important collection, which was auctioned by Hoepli in Lucerne in 1938. Our copy however must have taken a different way as it is not included in the catalog of that sale. (Source: Univ. of Leeds special collections online resources).
LITERATURE: Norman 1714; PMM 27 (rem.); Ahmanson-Murphy 114; Clemons and Fletcher 17; Renouard Alde, 62:4; see Lowry, The World of Aldus Manutius, p.205; Wilson, From Byzantium to Italy, pp.151-2; Geanakoplos, Greek Scholars in Venice. Studies in the Dissemination of Greek Learning from Byzantium to Western Europe, 1962; Meder, Dürer-Katalog, 280-1; Sotheby's catalogue of valuable printed books sold by order of The President and Council of the Royal Society, May 4, 1925.
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