[In Greek:] TRAGODIAI OKTOKAIDEKA. [then:] TRAGOEDIAE OCTODECIM.

(Basileae: Ioannem Heruagium, 1551). 203 x 130 mm. (8 x 5 1/8"). [464] leaves. Edited by Joannes Oporinus. Second Edition in the original Greek.

VERY FINE CONTEMPORARY BLIND-STAMPED PIGSKIN over bevelled wooden boards BY FROBENIUS HEMPEL FOR JOHANN VON EXTER (panel stamps signed with initials "F H"), covers framed by multiple rules and Spes-Fides-Charitas roll, upper cover with central panel stamp showing David and Bathsheba, with the initials "I E" in a space above the stamp and the date "1557" below it, lower cover with panel depicting Judith and her maid with Holofernes' head; raised bands, spine panels decorated with foliate rolls, ink titling in head panel and on fore edge of text block, two original brass clasps and catches. Front pastedown with modern ink owner's signature of A. Stanley [illegible]; title page with neat ink inscription and ink stamp of M. Ioannes ab Exter, verso of title with an ink stamp of Exter's seal of office, with the motto "Disce mori, disce vivere" ["Learn to die, learn to live"] and the date 1567 (see below); verso of front free endpaper with early Latin inscription regarding the merits of Euripides and Sophocles; occasional early ink marginalia in Latin. Adams E-1033; Dibdin I, 536; Hoffmann II, 68. For the binding: Haebler I, 173 #II; I, 21 #I; I, 173 #IV. Spine and edges somewhat darkened, extremities and joints a little rubbed, a short worm trail to front pastedown, leaves lightly browned, with isolated smudges or rust spots, but still A REALLY EXCELLENT COPY, the leaves clean, fresh, and well-margined, and the binding very well preserved, with the panel stamps in sharp relief.

This is the second collected edition of Euripides in the original language, and the combination here of text, annotations, provenance, and binding present us with a wonderful relic of 16th century humanism, scholarship, and aesthetics. Our edition follows the Aldine printing in 1503, and it is the first of a series of at least five editions of Euripides issued in Basel by Hervagius and/or Johannes Oporinus between 1537 and 1562. The present edition was adjudged to be "very correct" in Edward Harwood's "Biographia Classica" and is called by Dibdin "the most valuable of all the ancient editions of Euripides." Influenced by the new philosophy of Anaxagoras, Euripides (ca. 480-406 B.C.) was a sophisticated thinker who questioned traditional beliefs about the gods, and who as a consequence ended up changing the course of Greek tragedy from that charted by Aeschylus and Sophocles. In the world of Euripides, the gods are not always just, and crime sometimes pays. His characters strike moderns and even post-moderns as painfully true to life. Some of his dramas, such as the "Bacchae" and "Medea," end with shocking bloodshed, while others, such as "Helen" and "Alcestis," have happy endings, and point the way to the New Comedy of Menander. Our copy was bound in pigskin by Frobenius Hempel, identified by the Bavarian State Library's bookbinding database EBDB as the so-called "Wittenberg Master," known to have worked from 1549 until his death in 1575. The Protestant Reformation had made Wittenberg a center of book production as well as the home of Lutheranism, so it is no surprise that a learned Lutheran theologian like Joannes ab (or Johann von) Exter would have his books bound there. Exter was the spiritual leader of the Church of Lippe as well as General Superintendent of Detmold from 1566 to 1599. He must have been an erudite and well-to-do man: he read Greek well, as he has not only commented on the text here, but also corrected the printed Greek text in a couple of places. The Lippe Landesbibliothek in Detmold still holds 13 incunabula from his collection (mostly theological texts), all finely bound in blind-stamped calf or pigskin. Our volume is remarkably well preserved, the binding with its original hardware and with the intricate details in the panel stamps clearly visible. We can see a partially-clothed Bathsheba bathing with the assistance of her maid, while the lustful David watches from a tower, pointing to a map of the battle that will send Uriah to his death. On the lower cover, Judith triumphantly deposits the head of Holofernes into a sack held open by her smirking maid.
(ST12884)