Classical and Humanistic Works of Geography and Ethnography Espousing a Flat Earth and Romanophilia


(Basel: Robert Winter, 1536; Basel: Thomas Platter, 1538). 185 x 105 mm. (6 1/2 x 4"). 24 p.l., 407 pp.; 18 p.l., 357 [i.e., 257].

EXCELLENT CONTEMPORARY BLIND-STAMPED CALF OVER BEVELLED WOODEN BOARDS, BY THE BRESLAUER MASTER H. B. (rolls initialed and dated 1540), covers framed by roll featuring Christ with the Arma Christi, Christ as Salvador Mundi, and the Crucifixion with a kneeling figure, central panel with roll showing the four Evangelists, upper cover with author name above the central panel and the date [15]40 below, raised bands, spine panels with foliate roll, remnants of brass clasps. Front pastedown with early ink owner inscription; title page with ink inscription of the Breslau Cathedral crossed out. First work: VD16 M 2317; Adams M-1061; Schweiger II, 608; Graesse V, 401. Second Work: VD16 P 4177, not in Adams or Graesse. For the binding: Haebler I, 39, no. 2 and 6. One corner chipped, tiny chip to head of front joints, extremities a little rubbed, leather on spine a bit crackled, a couple of tiny holes and a small patch of lost patina from insect activity, isolated faint foxing, otherwise a very pleasing copy, quite clean and fresh internally in a sound, unsophisticated binding with rolls showing in high relief.

This collection of classical and humanist geographical texts was bound by the artisan who is known as H. B., someone active in Breslau in the second quarter of the 16th century who bound books for the library of the Protestant reformer Johann Hess. Haebler first finds evidence of H. B.'s activity in 1525, and he notes that the binder used stamps dated 1536 or 1540, which he speculates were important years in H. B.'s life. Scholars have been unable to determine the identity of H. B., beyond his work for Hess and the Saxon State Library. According to Haebler, H. B. often added the date of the binding to the front cover, as he has done here. H. B. seems to have ceased work by 1559; Haebler notes that another binder added his own initials (P. L.) to one of H. B.'s rolls, and changed its date from 1536 to 1559. Written in the first century A.D. by the first Roman geographer, the first treatise here is the only work in classical Latin wholly on geography. The text is largely a list of place names, but it is enlivened by occasional details, such as the information that the Thracians do not know the use of wine, but sit about the fire, eating seeds that induce a certain hilarity. The author Pomponius, a flat earth proponent, postulated the theory of a vast ocean stretching southward from Egypt, thus dividing the world-disc into two, the southern portion containing an undiscovered continent. The book was printed as early as 1471, but the first well-edited version was by Vadianus (published originally in Basel in 1522). In addition to "De Situ Orbis," this volume contains the "Memorabilia" of Solinus Polyhistor, and the "Cosmographica" of Aethicus. The geography of Solinus, who lived in the third century, includes ethnographical material, and is based largely on Pliny. The third work here is a "useful handbook" to the antiquities and topography of ancient Rome, by Julius Pomponius Laetus (1425-98), a man Sandys describes as "the leading spirit among the Roman humanists," and someone for whom "contemplation of the ruins of ancient Rome was a perpetual delight." He founded the Academmia Romana, where he attempted to recreate life as lived in classical Rome.