The First Printing of the Most Influential Ancient Greek Poetic Text of the Renaissance


(Lutetiae [Paris]: Apud Henricum Stephanum, 1554; Paris: Apud Thomam Richardum, 1555). 198 x 135 mm. (7 3/4 x 5 1/4"). 4 p.l., 110 pp., [1] leaf (blank); 24 leaves. Two separately published works in one volume. First work: Translated and edited, with notes and commentary, by Henri Estienne. Second work: Translated by Helias Andreas [Élie André]. First work: EDITIO PRINCEPS; Second Work: First Complete Latin Translation.

Fine retrospective reddish-brown goatskin in the style of the period by Philip Dusel, French fillet frame on covers, raised bands, spine compartments formed by double gilt rules (endpapers raised, exposing laced-in boards, as an imitation of an antique binding). Estienne device on title page of first work; Richard's device on title of second. First work: Renouard 115:1; Schreiber 139; Dibdin I, 258; Adams A-1001; Brunet I, 250. Second work: Schweiger I, 26; Adams A-1002. Recently and very expertly washed and resized, some leaves with very faint browning, otherwise bright and fresh as well as entirely clean, in a convincing new period-style binding.

The first book to be published by Henri Estienne, the initial work here is the original printing of an important collection of classical lyric poetry, described by Dibdin as "a beautiful and rare edition." According to Schreiber, this collection of Greek poems written in imitation of the sixth century poet Anacreon "became the most influential 'ancient' Greek poetic text during the Renaissance, and Estienne's editio princeps virtually caused a poetic revolution." One of the greatest of the scholar-printers of the 15th and 16th centuries, Henri Estienne (1528 or 1531-91) found these poems in two old manuscripts, compiled the collection, and did the Latin translation. The work became the first project released under Henri's imprint by his father Robert's press; Schreiber believes the presswork was done by Guillaume Morel rather than by Henri himself, as it used three sizes of Claude Garamond's lovely and renowned "grecs du roi" type. The second work here includes additional odes not in the Estienne edition, and is thus the first complete Latin translation of the "Anacreontia." It is a rare work: OCLC finds just two copies in North America, while ABPC and RBH record three copies, all bound, as here, with the 1554 Estienne.

Keywords: Estienne