COMOEDIAE VIGINTI.

(Venice: Melchiorre Sessa and Pietro Ravani, 1518). 306 x 210 mm. (12 x 8 1/4"). [9], 367 leaves lacking aa1, title page, and final blank.

19th century brown morocco-backed marbled paper boards, top and bottom of spine and hinges more recently repaired, raised bands, spine panels with central gilt leaf design, gilt titling. With a great many woodcut initials and 87 woodcuts in the text illustrating scenes from the 20 comedies (some of these woodcuts repeated). Brunet IV, 707; Graesse V, 327; EDIT16 30054; Essling 1725. Boards somewhat scratched, extremities and joints rather worn, small water stain on outer margin affecting first 40 or so leaves (not affecting text), last 150 leaves evenly browned, other trivial internal defects, but in overall excellent condition, the binding sound, and the pages still crisp.

This illustrated Renaissance edition, complete with extensive commentary, of Plautus' famous comedies is of particular interest as it provides us with an uncommon example of illustrations about dramatic art in the early 16th century. The 87 woodcuts within the text were expressly engraved for the present edition; they are larger than, and different from, the illustrations of the 1511 edition, and represent a rare record of the manner of acting at the time, depicting as they do the particular combinations of motions and gestures peculiar to the place and time. Three vignettes (l. LXIII recto, l. LXXX verso and l. CXLIIII recto) are signed by an "L," and Essling (VI, p. 246) identified the artist as Luc'Antonio de'Uberti. Mortimer says that our edition, with its commentary by Saracenus and Valla, "is illustrated more in the tradition of Jean Trechsel's Terence of 1493, with single scene blocks, the characters placed before a series of arches opening to landscape background." The celebrated Roman comic poet Plautus (ca. 254-184 B.C.), who began staging his comedies during the Second Punic War, is the earliest major Roman author whose works survive in significant quantity. His animated and often ribald plays give us a picture of Italian society before Greek influence had polished the rough edges, and his language is an important source of information for the understanding of the development of Latin.
(CBJ1748)

Keywords: Woodcuts