(Venetiis: In Aedibvs Aldi, et Andreae Asvlani Soceri, 1522). 171 x 102 mm. (6 3/4 x 4"). 12 p.l., 282,  leaves.Edited by Franciscus Asulanus. First Aldine Edition.
Contemporary brown calf, covers with double gilt rule border, raised bands, spine gilt in compartments with central fleuron, gilt titling. Aldine anchor device on title and final leaf. Renouard 96:8; Schweiger II, 17; STC Italian, p. 59; Brunet I, 523. Covers with a dozen small areas of abrasion or lost patina from insect activity, tiny wormhole to rear joint, corners and edges just a bit rubbed, but the binding quite solid and not without appeal. Tiny wormhole to upper outer corner of most leaves (not affecting text), but AN EXTRAORDINARILY FINE COPY INTERNALLY, the text unusually bright as well as entirely smooth, clean, and fresh.
This collection of commentaries on various Ciceronian orations is the best-known work of the first century writer Asconius, the most important ancient commentator on Cicero. These commentaries were discovered by Poggio Bracciolini, a Florentine delegate to the council of Constance, in the monastery of St. Gall in 1416. The manuscript had numerous gaps and illegible portions, apparently the result of the wretched conditions under which it was stored. Smith says, "Indeed the account given of the place where the monks had deposited their literary treasures is sufficient to account fully for such imperfections, for it is represented to have been 'a most foul and dark dungeon at the bottom of a tower, into which not even criminals convicted of capital offences would have been thrust down.'" The work was first printed in 1477 in Venice and was issued twice more (in Florence in 1519 and Paris in 1520) before this Aldine imprint. In the words of Harry George Fletcher III in his "New Aldine Studies," our editor Franciscus Asulanus (Italian name: Gian Francesco Torresani, of Asola) "was largely responsible for the regular operation of the Press after Aldus' death" in 1515 until at least mid-century; "he sought, as part of this, to do much of the editing himself, with predictable results for one without Aldus' skills in scholarship and in choosing editors." Franciscus found himself in his position because he was the brother-in-law of Aldus, who in 1505 had married Franciscus' sister Maria. This union not only brought together the Aldus and Torresano families, but also united two great printing firms, since Franciscus' father, Andrea, had purchased the press of Nicholas Jenson, surely the greatest name in 15th century Italian printing. After 1505, the names of Aldus and Torresano appeared, as here, on Aldine title pages, and after 1515, Andrea, Franciscus, and another brother, Federico, conducted the firm's business while Aldus' offspring were still young. The three earlier editions of Asconius are all quite rare. The present copy is unusually fresh and bright, with no signs of actual use. (ST12693)