[Title in Greek, then]: ISOCRATIS ATHENIENSIS RHETORIS ORATIONES ET EPISTOLAE.

(Venice: Imprimebat Petrus Nicolinus Sabiensis & socii, sumptum vero faciebat Melchior Sessa, 1549). 156 x 88 mm. (6 1/8 x 3 1/2"). 276 leaves.

Contemporary stiff vellum, raised bands, ink titling on spine, flowered endpapers. With Sessa's distinctive cat-and-mouse device on title page, historiated initials. Hoffmann II, 472; Schweiger I, 181. Crack to three-quarters of front joint, extremities rubbed, vellum a little soiled and with tiny hole to rear board, hinge open at title page, exposing stitching, first quire a little proud, two historiated initials blotted out with ink, affecting a few words on verso and on facing page, occasional ink smudges or mild foxing, but an excellent, unsophisticated copy despite its imperfections, the text generally clean and fresh with comfortable margins.

This volume, described by Hoffmann as "a shining edition," contains the 21 extant complete and confidently ascribed speeches of the celebrated Attic orator and rhetorician Isocrates (436-338 B.C.), as well as five of his letters that were written to friends concerning the political questions of the day. Eight of the orations "were written for judicial purposes in civil cases, and intended to serve as models for this species of oratory; all the others are political discourses or show speeches, intended to be read by a large public: they are particularly characterised by the ethical element on which his political views are based." (Smith) The long-lived Isocrates presided over a school of rhetoric in Athens for many decades. A shy man, he seldom spoke in public, but aired his political views in published speeches. He deplored the quarrelsomeness of the Greeks, and appealed to Philip of Macedon to lead them in a conquest of the Persian Empire, an undertaking realized by Philip's son Alexander. The Sessa family were prominent Venetian printers, publishers, and booksellers for more than a century, with various family members active in the trade from 1502 to 1617. Our volume was published by Melchior Sessa the elder (fl. 1505-62), who often collaborated with the Nicolini de Sabbio press, especially on Greek editions. The Sessas were one of the first firms to make effective use of branding: their cat insignia was not only used in their printer's device, but was mentioned in privileges granting printing rights to Melchiorre and Marchio Sessa ("librer de la gatta," "libraro della gatta," and "domino … della gatta"), and in directions to the firm's bookstore ("a la libraria della gatta").
(CBJ1749)