(Parma: In aedibus Palatinis, typis Bodonianis, 1799). 350 x 247 mm. (13 3/4 x 9 5/8"). 1 p.l., ix, [v], 286 pp.
Pleasing 19th century stiff vellum, gilt, by Zaehnsdorf (stamp-signed on verso of front free endpaper), covers with French fillet border, flat spine with lattice-work design, blue morocco label, densely gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt, other edges untrimmed. A Large Paper Copy. Front pastedown with engraved bookplate of Raphael Mauritius Bauer; front free endpaper with bookplate of Stephen D. Winkworth. Brooks 747. Just a hint of soiling to vellum, a couple of preliminary leaves with minor marginal foxing, but A VERY FINE COPY, the text clean, smooth, and bright, the margins vast, and the binding with virtually no signs of wear.
This stately folio printing of the earliest known collection of Classical biographies bears all the hallmarks of a Bodoni imprint: beautiful, creamy paper, elegant typography, and sharp, deeply impressed printing. Giambatista Bodoni (1740-1813) worked for more than 20 years at the Royal press in Parma before obtaining permission to set up his own private press in 1791. Brooks says, "He took his printing in all its branches very seriously, laboured incessantly to perfect his type, had a fine artistic sense, . . . and produced books not only of a very high standard, but also showing a remarkably distinct individuality." Bodoni used the finest quality paper available, and his clear, beautiful types have been envied and copied for many generations. "The result of his labours is a long list of books which . . . reach a very high, many of them the highest, level of technical excellence." Little is known about the life of the Roman historian Cornelius Nepos (ca. 99-24 B.C.) beyond the fact that he was the friend of Cicero, Atticus, and Catullus. A number of lost works by him are mentioned by other ancient writers, some of whom quote brief passages. Of uncertain authorship but generally attributed to Nepos, the present work, in 16 books, comprises lives of famous men, including both distinguished Romans and foreigners, biographies that served for many generations as material for Latin school books because of the purity of their language. Although unreliable chronologically, the "Vitae" contains significant information not elsewhere available. The binding here matches the printing in its restrained grace, and comes from one of the longest-lived English workshops. Born in Pest, Hungary, Joseph Zaehnsdorf (1816-86) served his apprenticeship in Stuttgart, worked at a number of European locations as a journeyman, and then settled in London, where he was hired first by Westley and then by Mackenzie before opening his own workshop in 1842. His son and namesake took over the business at age 33, when the senior Joseph died, and the firm flourished under the son's leadership, becoming a leading West End bindery. (CBJ1729)