The Exceptionally Beautiful Botfield Copy of the First Appearance of Plutarch's "Moralia," Covering Newlywed Advice, Flatterer Detection, and Much More about Greco-Roman Society


(Venetiis [Venice]: In aedibus Aldi & Andreae Asulani Soceti, March 1509). 295 x 185 mm. (11 3/4 x 7 1/4"). 8 p.l., 1050 pp., [1] leaf.With a preface in Greek by editor Demetrios Doukas. EDITIO PRINCEPS.

Stately 19th century red pebble-grain morocco, gilt, covers with plain and dot rule border, frame of floral and dogtooth rolls, oblique floral cornerpieces, central panel with Aldine anchor and dolphin device at center, raised bands, spines luxuriantly gilt in compartments with complex floral mandorla at center, curling cornerpieces, gilt titling, turn-ins with floral gilt roll, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. In red morocco-lipped slipcase. With Aldine printer's device on title and final page. Ahmanson-Murphy I, 84; Kallendorf-Wells 92; Renouard 1509/1; EDIT16 37429. Upper cover with short dark line and a couple of small smudges, extremities lightly rubbed, leaves lightly washed and pressed in keeping with bibliophilic fashion at time of binding but AN EXTRAORDINARILY BEAUTIFUL COPY--ENTIRELY CLEAN, FRESH, AND BRIGHT INTERNALLY--IN A MOST ATTRACTIVE 19TH CENTURY BINDING.

This is the outstanding Botfield copy of the first appearance in print of Plutarch's "Moralia" or "Moral Philosophy," a collection of essays dealing with such diverse topics as the role played by fortune, exile, animal intelligence, health, advice for newlyweds, the education of children, benefitting from one's enemies, the value of having few or many friends, how to recognize a flatterer, and many other topics which give scholars insight into Greco-Roman society and obscure cults. The value of the collection is enhanced by the fact that Plutarch borrows liberally from lost Greek works, some of which would otherwise be unknown to us. While lesser-known than the author's "Parallel Lives" of the Greeks and Romans, the moral essays formed nearly half of his output, and were highly influential on later essayists, including Montaigne and Pope.

Perhaps the person most singly responsible for bringing down to us the literary treasures of antiquity, Aldo Manuzio (born Teobaldo Manucci, commonly called by his Latin name Aldus Manutius, 1449-1515) established his press in Venice in 1494, produced a long list of classical works, especially of Greek authors and often in first edition, and began in 1501 a series of portable editions of Latin, Greek, and Italian classics that brought widespread popularity in Italy to works that even those of modest means could afford. When Aldus died, virtually all of the important works from classical Greek had been published, and he himself had been responsible for 27 first editions as printer and often as editor as well. The present first edition was edited by Greek scholar Demetrios Doukas, with assistance from Erasmus and Girolamo Aleandro. The attractive binding celebrates our printer, incorporating his famous dolphin-and-anchor device into the design. The work was likely done for former owner Beriah Botfield (1807-63), Member of Parliament, naturalist, bibliographer, and bibliophile. He collected early printed and color plate books, which he bequeathed to the Marquess of Bath. The book resided in the library at Bath's Longleat estate until death duties forced his heirs to send many possessions to auction. Our copy appeared at Christie's in June 2002, when it fetched a hammer price of £15,000 ($22,260).