A Remarkably Lovely Venetian Binding Showing Clear Arabic Design Influence


(Venice: Aldus, February 1516). 165 x 90 mm. (6 1/2 x 3 3/4"). 4, [4], 5-8, [4], 9-12, [4], 13-16, [4], 17-20, [4], 21-24, [4], 204 leaves. Volume I, only, of three separately published but related works. Edited by A. Naugerius. Second Aldine Edition.

LOVELY CONTEMPORARY TAN GOATSKIN COVERS, ELABORATELY GILT AND PIERCED IN AN ARABESQUE DESIGN REVEALING GREEN SILK UNDERNEATH, laid onto later (19th century) tan calf, raised bands, spine panels with fleuron composed of acorn and leaf tools, green morocco panel, later endpapers, all edges gilt. In a (slightly worn) modern green cloth box. Ahmanson-Murphy 122; Renouard, p. 78, #9; Dibdin II, 264. A little wear to joints, occasional minor marginal foxing (more prominent on half a dozen leaves), but A VERY FINE COPY, clean, smooth, and rather bright internally, in a beautifully restored binding retaining all of its original charm.

Containing the complete text of Ovid's "Metamorphoses," this volume from the second Aldine edition of the first-century Roman poet's works comes in a strikingly beautiful binding that displays the Eastern influence on European design exerted by Venetian trade in the early 16th century. As S. T. Prideaux explains in the catalogue for the 1891 Burlington Fine Arts Club Exhibition of Bookbindings--at which this item was displayed--"it was in Italy that, as far as Europe is concerned, artistic tooled binding had its rise, and it was the introduction of Arabian art by means of Venetian commerce that gave the initiative. The ornamentation of early Italian binding is largely derived from that of Persian and Arabian Mss. One style, particularly known as 'Venetian,' was obtained directly from the East, and is most familiar to us now on the outside of Persian books." This style was also referred to as an "ajouré" binding, defined by Harrod's Librarians' Glossary as "a style of binding practised in the last third of the 15th century in Venice. It was in the traditional Eastern manner with arabesques, gilding, and cut-out leather, over a coloured background." Apart from its being an example of this type of design, the present binding is characterized by exceptional delicacy and great aesthetic attainment. This second (of three) Aldine editions of Ovid is, in Dibdin's words, "the most valuable for its intrinsic excellence" due to the careful editing of Andreas Naugerius (1483-1529), who Brill notes "made significant improvements to the text and set a standard for subsequent editors." It was the dominant text of Ovid's works for a century and a half.

Keywords: Aldus