PHARSALIA.

(Venice: Nicolaus Battibovis, 13 May 1486). 315 x 210 mm. (12 3/8 x 8 1/4"). [186] leaves. 25 lines surrounded by 57 lines of commentary, both in roman type. With commentary of Omnibonus Leonicenus.

Contemporary Venetian blind-stamped calf, covers with multiple frames enclosing central panel with geometric design formed by small floral tools, upper cover with early vellum supralibros featuring a naïve hand-drawn melusine beneath a motto banner, the initials R. P. below it, raised bands, ink lettering to tail edge of text block, fragments of late 15th century Italian antiphonary leaves used as pastedowns. With two intricate brown ink initials. Occasional ink marginalia in a contemporary hand. Goff L-302; BMC V, 405; ISTC il00302000. Unsophisticated binding somewhat rubbed and worn, a couple of small chips to ends of joints, leather lacking from tips of upper corners, clasps and straps lacking, but the binding solid and the vellum label nicely preserved, about ten quires with minor stains along gutter, minor foxing (never offensive), occasional stains, including two- to three-inch stains on three pages touching but not obscuring text, a couple of tiny rust spots affecting a letter or two, otherwise a very good specimen with no serious defects, the leaves quite crisp, the margins comfortable.

This is an excellent incunabular edition of the greatest Latin epic apart from the "Aeneid," chronicling the civil war between Caesar and Pompey; the defeat of the latter's forces at the Battle of Pharsalus marked the beginning of the end of the Roman republic. The Spanish-born Lucan (39-65 A.D.) was the nephew of Stoic philosopher Seneca, and was educated in Rome and Athens. A precocious literary talent, he attracted the favor of Nero at the age of 21, but the volatile emperor soon turned against him, and banned his poems from public performance. The oppression he faced under Nero colored the tone of "Pharsalia." Britannica notes, "As the poem proceeds, the poet?s republicanism becomes more marked, no doubt because as Nero?s tyranny grew, along with Lucan?s hatred of him, he looked back with longing to the old Roman Republic. It has been said that Cato is the real hero of the epic, and certainly the best of Lucan?s own Stoicism appears in the noble courage of his Cato in continuing the hopeless struggle after Pompey had failed." Where the "Aeneid" brims with optimism for the future glories of Rome, "Pharsalia" is far bleaker and filled with foreboding. Lucan was so provoked by the outrages of Nero that he felt compelled to take action beyond literature, and he joined Piso's conspiracy to assassinate the emperor. The plot was discovered, and Lucan was compelled to commit suicide. This is the only known imprint of Nicolaus Battibovis, printed on the same press as three classical works (Ovid, Tibullus, and Perius Flaccus) issued by his kinsman Antonius the previous year. BMC notes that Nicolaus was especially unlucky with his Lucan, as it appeared on the market just after a well-received edition printed by Jacobus Britannicus in Brescia. Our printing is scarce in the marketplace, with auction records finding just five other complete copies in the past 40 years, all in unfortunate condition. While we have been unable to identify the arms on the supralibros, Fox-Davies notes that the two-tailed mermaid is more frequent in German heraldry.
(ST15227)

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PJP Catalog: BOS19BF.040

PHARSALIA. INCUNABULA, MARCUS ANNAEUS LUCANUS.
PHARSALIA.
PHARSALIA.
PHARSALIA.

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