[THE COMMENTARIES] QUAE EXTANT. . . . TABULIS AENEIS ORNATA.
(London: Jacob Tonson, 1712). 466 x 290 mm. (18 3/8 x 11 1/2"). 3 p.l., 560 pp.With the supplementary commentaries attributed to Aulus Hirtius and others. Edited and annotated by Samuel Clarke.
Stately contemporary red morocco over thick boards, elegantly gilt, covers with three concentric mitered frames of decorative rolls, outer frame with oblique floral sprays at corners and intricate pyramids of flowers at the center of each side, delicately tooled mandorla in center panel, raised bands, spine compartments elaborately tooled in four different patterns, gilt titling, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt (carefully refurbished and with very expert repairs to headcaps and headbands). With fine headpieces depicting dramatic battle scenes, tailpieces with allegorical or symbolic figures, decorative initials, and 87 IMPRESSIVE ENGRAVED PLATES, including double-page extra engraved title page dated 1710, six double-page maps, and 54 double-page plates, many by C. Huijberts after Mantegna. Front pastedown with engraved armorial bookplate of the Earl of Roden, K. St. P. Lowndes I, 344-45; Brunet I, 1456; ESTC T136730. One corner slightly bumped, a few small stains to leather, intermittent mild browning (as virtually always with this book), occasional minor marginal spots or thumbing, two plates with shallow marginal chip, other trivial imperfections, but A FINE, FRESH COPY internally, with excellent impressions of the engravings, and the beautifully restored, very decorative binding retaining its original magnificence.
This handsomely illustrated edition of the great general's account of the first seven years of the Gallic War, as well as part of the Civil War, is described by Lowndes as "the most sumptuous classical work which [England] has produced." The text comprises the only extant work of Julius Caesar (102? - 44 B.C.), soldier, emperor, orator, poet, and historian whose name is foremost among leaders in the ancient world. Written largely as a justification of Caesar's military policy, the "Commentaries" are famous for their simplicity, succinctness, and purity of diction: they are called by J. W. Mackail "the model and despair of later historians." First printed in 1513, the account begins with Caesar's firsthand description of Rome's war for Gaul, written in straightforward prose that has made it a staple of Latin language instruction. It is followed by Caesar's comments on the 49-48 B.C. civil war he fought against Pompey and the Senate. The remaining works on his military campaigns in Alexandria and Asia, Africa, and the Iberian peninsula were not written by Caesar; the Alexandrine account is attributed to Aulus Hirtius (ca. 90-43 B.C.), Caesar's legate, and scholars speculate that the two final works were composed by, in Macaulay's words, "a sturdy old centurion who fought better than he wrote." Our famous edition was edited and annotated by Samuel Clarke (1675-1729), and was praised by Joseph Addison in "The Spectator" (May 1712) as having "passed thro' the Hands of one of the most accurate, learned and judicious Writers this Age has produced. The Beauty of the Paper, of the Character, and of the several Cuts with which this noble Work is illustrated, make . . . it the finest Book that I have ever seen; and is a true Instance of the English Genius." The splendid engravings illustrate the places, people, battles, and even beasts encountered, our copy fortunately including the not infrequently harvested double-page plate of a ferocious bison. The imposing binding here is an excellent example of fine English workmanship of the period. Our volume was once in the library of Robert Jocelyn, 3rd Earl of Roden (1788-1870), Knight of St. Patrick, Irish peer, Tory politician, and ardent supporter of the Protestant cause in Ireland. (ST16336)