Key Ancient Texts, Issued by one of the Great Scholar-Printers of the Renaissance


([Paris]: Jodocus Badius Ascensius, 1524, 1525). 285 x 197 mm. (11 1/4 x 7 3/4"). [8], 136, [6] leaves; [6], 112, 9 leaves. Two separately published works in one volume. First work edited and with commentary by Josse Badius and Aegidius Maerius. Fifth Badius Edition of the first work; Third Badius Edition of the second work.

19th century dun-colored half calf over brown buckram, raised bands, spine panels with blind-stamped leaf ornament, red morocco label, marbled endpapers. Title pages of both works with printer's printing press device and architectural frame, both with criblé initials. Second work with 18 woodcuts, consisting of a map of the known world including the (vaguely defined) Americas, one large woodcut, eight small woodcuts (a couple of these repeated), and seven diagrams. First work: Renouard II, 466; USTC 145662. Second work: Renouard III, 55; USTC 184497. Leather a little rubbed, a couple of minor smudges to cloth, margins trimmed a bit close with occasional grazing of headlines, isolated trivial inkstains, otherwise an excellent copy, clean and crisp internally, in a solid, inoffensive binding.

These are two typical productions of the press operated by the French humanist scholar Jodocus Badius Ascensius, or Josse Bade (1462-1535), who, like the great Aldus Manutius, was known for his editions of classical writers annotated with his own commentary. As Paul White notes in "Jodocus Badius Ascensius: Commentary, Commerce and Print in the Renaissance," Badius "played a central role in the flourishing of humanism and print culture in the French Renaissance." In four decades of printing, Badius issued more than 1,000 books, including multiple editions of both works offered here; his Aulus first appeared in 1511, and the Macrobius in 1515. First printed in 1469, "Attic Nights," the only surviving work by the Roman grammarian Aulus Gellius (ca. 125 - ca. 180), is a vast and charming collection of information gleaned from conversation and reading, a compilation containing observations about grammar, history, philosophy, and many other subjects, the whole of considerable value to us not only for the feeling of the times it conveys, but also for the numerous excerpts it contains from the works of lost ancient authors. The second work includes the two major productions of Macrobius, "In Somnium Scipionis" and the "Saturnalia," first printed by Nicholas Jenson in Venice in 1472. Little is known about the author's life, but from his writings, we conclude that Macrobius was a pagan Neoplatonist living about the year 400, one of a band of scholarly holdouts against the triumph of Christianity. The first work, inspired by a passage in Cicero's "Republic," is a treasure of information on the astronomy and philosophy of late antiquity, and greatly esteemed throughout the Middle Ages. The second work comprises the report of conversations during the winter Roman holiday from which the title is taken; the text includes mythology, a collection of witty sayings of the ancients, medical lore, and interpretations of Virgil, all of which are valuable to modern scholars. This second work also has particular value because it quotes a variety of earlier authors of lost texts. As was customary, our Macrobius includes the "De die Natali" by Censorinus. Beside discoursing on birthdays, this work presents much useful information on ancient astrology and chronology.