Excellent Period Copy of a Secular Work on Orthography, Exploring Greek and Latin from "Abacus" to "Zodiacus"


(Treviso: [Hermannus Liechtenstein] for Michael Manzolus, 2 April, 1477). 311 x 210 mm. (12 1/4 x 8 1/4"). 345 unnumbered leaves, including the final blank (A9 cancelled, as called for). Single column, 44 lines in a refined roman typeface.Edited by Hieronymus Bononius. Third Edition.

Contemporary blind-stamped (Flemish?) calf over thick wooden boards, both covers with a saltire design, the central panel made up of lozenges formed by five parallel rules, the lozenge compartments containing diamond and triangular stamps, the four corners each with a distinctive stamp of a frowning, chinless man (not located in Kyriss or Schunke), original brass catches, remains of clasps, later (19th century?) paper spine label, small portions of the joints once repaired, using tiny amount of glue. With very large and striking opening 15-line initial in blue and pink with much white modelling and tracery, capitals struck with yellow in part of the text, painted red initials throughout, the majority two-line, but several six and even eight-line capitals as well. Front free endpaper with three-line 15th century inscription of the monastery at Saint-Trond (or Sint-Truiden, a Belgian city about midway between Brussels and Liege), the same leaf with later monogram ("GV"?), and with faint (19th century?) ownership stamp of Georges E. A. Vanduzen(?), the last blurred by moisture as the result of the removal of a pasted-over bookplate. Goff T-396; BMC VI, 887 and 891. Leather slightly marked and crackled, tip of lower corner of front board broken off, joints cracked and with general wear, but the binding nevertheless quite sturdy and generally very appealing. Minor soiling here and there, isolated trivial stains, but AN ESPECIALLY ATTRACTIVE COPY INTERNALLY, extremely crisp, generally clean, and (except for a solitary tiny hole on the final two leaves), without any worming.

This is a fresh contemporary copy of an elegantly printed and handsomely decorated secular work on orthography, issued in the 1470s as one of the earliest books from the press of an important Italian printer. First printed in Rome in 1471 and then in Venice the same year, the "Orthographia" addresses the important question of how to write Greek words in Latin. It begins with a discussion of how the various letters in the Roman alphabet should be used to represent both the spelling and the pronunciation of Greek words. A short discussion of diphthongs follows, and then the subsequent bulk of the volume is devoted to an alphabetical listing of the proper latinized spelling of Greek words from "Abacus" to "Zodiacus." This was a popular book, going through several incunabular printings (Goff lists eight), as it became an accepted reference guide for use during the editing of Greek classics for printing in Latin. A native of Arezzo, the humanist Johannes Tortellius (Giovanni Tortelli, 1400-66) studied Greek for many years before coming to Rome at age 47 to serve as librarian to Pope Nicholas V, to whom "Orthographia" is dedicated. He must have been a man of considerable means, because he provided patronage to scholars who had fled from the Byzantine Empire, and he spent lavishly on classical works (books from his personal collection ended up comprising a substantial portion of the early Vatican Library). Although he obviously admired the ancients, Tortelli was also interested in the modern innovations and discoveries of his day: in the discussion of Greek derivation of Latin words, he manages to refer to such new things as the compass, the mechanical clock, and sugar. Born in Cologne, Hermann Liechtenstein (d. 1494) printed in Vicenza between 1475 and 1480 and then in Venice from 1482 until his death. Apparently while still at Vicenza, he is known to have printed four books in Treviso between April and September of 1477, the Tortellius being the first of these. It is suggested that he came to Treviso expressly to print the present book for Michael Manzolus, who was both a publisher (as here) and a printer himself. In his 20 years of printing, Liechtenstein produced a substantial quantity of books, employing both roman and gothic typefaces, depending upon how appropriate they were for the content of the text he was printing. Our stately book is scarce. The British Library Incunabula STC locates four copies in American libraries, and ABPC records just three copies at auction since 1975: a very defective copy in 1979, a copy in 19th century half calf in 2004, and a copy in contemporary pigskin, which sold at the Sexton sale in 1981 for a hammer price of $6,000.

Add to Cart Price: $30,000.00

PJP Catalog: ELIST3.017


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