COMOEDIAE MULTO MAJORE, QUAM HACTENUS UNQUAM, VIGILANTIA REPURGATAE.

(Lugduni [Lyon]: Sébastien Gryphe, 1546). 123 x 73 mm. (4 7/8 x 2 7/8"). 331, [1] pp., [1] leaf (blank).

FINE CONTEMPORARY CALF, GILT AND PAINTED IN THE GROLIERESQUE STYLE, covers with interlacing strapwork painted in green and white and outlined in gilt, surrounded by azured gilt foliage highlighted with red paint, central arabesque in gilt and red, white, and black paint, head of spine raised à la grecque, raised bands, spine compartments with single gilt cloverleaf, gilt titling, all edges gilt (expert repairs to joints and corners). Printer's griffin device on title page. Text ruled in red. Foot of title page with traces of effaced ownership inscription. USTC 149534. For the binding: Clavreuil, "Jean Grolier à la Bibliothèque nationale de France," Paris, 2012, no. 35. A little crackling to leather, paint lightly rubbed in spots, but the beautifully restored binding lustrous, with well-preserved decoration; a touch of soiling to title page, isolated mild foxing, other trivial defects, but still a fine copy internally, clean and fresh with comfortable margins.

This is a pocket-sized scholarly edition of the "Comedies" of Terence, printed by a leading Lyon workshop and bound in the emerging entrelac style, probably in Paris or Lyon. Nixon notes in his work on 16th century gold-tooled bindings that in the mid-1500s, "printers in Lyon were specialising in the small octavo or duodecimo, which was often very handsomely bound in gold-tooled calf with painted interlaces." For many years, it was assumed that the books had been bound in the city of their printing, but further research has determined that many were bound in Paris, where the bibliophiles Jean Grolier and Thomas Wootton kept several ateliers busy producing bindings in the entrelac style. Our binding has similarities to work done by Gomar (or Gommar) Estienne (d. 1556), who was director of the Atelier de Fontainebleau from 1545 to 1552 and was the king's binder from 1547-51. Estienne used azured (hatched) tools and often employed the à la grecque spine. One of the bindings he did for Jean Grolier, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, uses a heart-shaped tool with three sections painted in contrasting colors that is very like the one on our covers, and the binding has a similar overall design to the present item (see http://reliures.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cdt9x5zc/ and Clavreuil no. 35). The six extant plays of the Roman Terence (ca. 195/185 – ca. 159? B.C.) were the ancestors of drawing room and modern situation comedies, featuring crusty fathers, rebellious sons, and impertinent slaves whose machinations solve the playwright's intricate complications of plot. The plays were popular throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
(ST15918)