In a Lovely Strapwork Binding Like those that Charmed Jean Grolier and Thomas Wotton


(Lugduni (Lyon): Sébastien Gryphe, 1548). 128 x 74 mm. (5 x 3"). 784 pp., [24] leaves (final blank).

SUPERB CONTEMPORARY BROWN MOROCCO ORNATELY PAINTED AND GILT IN A STRAPWORK STYLE, covers framed in black morocco, central panels stippled in gilt and with intricate interlacing black, gray, and red morocco strapwork surrounding an onlaid black morocco oval with gilt coat of arms at center on the upper cover and an oval containing gilt lettering on lower cover, smooth spine stippled in gilt and inlaid with black morocco guilloche design at head and tail, with intertwined black and gray morocco foliage, ALL EDGES GILT, GAUFFERED, AND PAINTED with a similar entwined design. In a modern chemise trimmed in brown calf and lined with kid, in a matching morocco-lipped slipcase. Printer's griffin device on title page. Baudrier VIII, 225. Joints a little rubbed, four small black ink spots to gilded fore edge, occasional mild browning, and minor smudges, other trivial imperfections, but A CHARMING COPY IN AN ESPECIALLY WELL-PRESERVED STATE, quite clean and fresh internally, in a binding with its paint almost entirely intact (and atypically so).

This pocket-sized scholarly edition of Cicero's most personal letters was printed by a leading workshop in Lyon and then beautifully bound in the emerging entrelac style, probably in that city or in Paris. Apropos to the present volume, 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 these books had been bound in the city of their printing, but further research has determined that many were covered in Paris, where the bibliophiles Jean Grolier and Thomas Wotton kept several ateliers busy producing bindings in the entrelac style. The workmanship here is worthy of the library of an important collector, and the coat of arms on the cover suggests the binding was done for a patron of some standing (though we have been unable to identify the arms). From 1525-56 in Lyon, Sébastien Gryphe (or Gryphius) produced a long series of editions of Classical authors, mostly designed for use by university students. Few Classical authors were more revered than Cicero (106-43 B.C.), whose orations and letters were to have so much influence on rhetoric, composition, and the study of history for many centuries. Our volume contains Cicero's epistles to his younger brother, the soldier Quintus Tullius Cicero, and to Marcus Junius Brutus, the Roman politician who was the most famous of Julius Caesar's assassins, as well as those to his dear, lifelong friend Titus Pomponius Atticus (110-32 B.C). Of the more than 800 genuine extant letters by Cicero, the largest group to a single correspondent are those addressed (during the period 68-44 B.C.) to Atticus. Unlike his other letters, the missives written to Atticus were never intended for publication, and are much more personal in nature. According to the Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, these are the "most interesting" of Cicero's epistles because they "throw a vivid light on Cicero's own character. They show him to have been a man of mercurial temper, impressionable, irresolute, and vain; but fundamentally honest, intelligent, affectionate, and amiable." Dividing his time between business and study, Atticus oversaw a contingent of slaves who copied books that he either sold or put into his own library, and he was frequently consulted for advice, comment, and editorial assistance by Cicero and by other authors prior to the publication of their literary works. The "Letters to Atticus" were not originally circulated until the middle of the first century A.D., long after both men were dead. Cicero's letters to Quintus, Brutus, and Atticus were rediscovered when Petrarch found copies of manuscripts in Verona in 1345. While many early printed editions of Cicero can be found, few volumes have the combination of excellent printing, brilliant binding, and appealing condition seen here.