De officiis. Venice, Baptista de Tortis, 12 October

CICERO  (1481.)


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Beautifully rubricated in red with some large penwork initials.

Sm. folio. 177 leaves (lacking first blank). 56 lines of commentary surrounding the text. Late 19th-century vellum over paste-boards, covers with double gilt fillet, flat spine with red leather label and gilt decoration, marbled endpapers, t.e.g. (upper joint split at foot, vellum lightly rubbed). 

An uncommon incunable edition of Cicero’s Offices, and the first edition to have the commentary of the humanist Pietro Marso (1442-1512), who dedicates the work to Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga. Marso tutored Francesco’s younger brother in Mantua, and dedicated later work to his older brother. Laudatory verses in praise of Gonzaga are printed here after the colophon.

Cicero’s hugely influential discussion on moral duty, addressed to his son, was first printed at Mainz by Fust and Schoeffer in 1465/66; an essential component of European schooling in the early modern period, and often in English referred to as ‘Tully’s Offices’, it remains widely read and studied. This edition was printed by Tortis in collaboration with Franciscus de Madiis; a variant colophon names de Madiis explicitly. The following year, in 1482, de Tortis printed an edition of Cicero that contained De Officiis along with De Amicitia and De Senectute, reproducing Marso’s commentary of the first, though it was not a direct, line-for-line reissue of this edition. Of bibliographic interest, the statement of collation and gatherings here is in the form of a half-page list, arranged alphabetically by gathering, in which the first word of the first four leaves of each gathering is provided; e.g. ‘a: prima alba; petri marfi; enim uita; quanquam’, and so on.

Provenance: 1. Exlibris of Charles Sarolea - with ‘in angello cum libello’ - on front endpapers; Charles Louis-Camille Sarole´a (1870-1953), Belgian philologist with a long academic career in the French department at the University of Edinburgh. The size of his library prompted him to purchase the terraced house adjoining his in Edinburgh’s New Town, in the early twentieth century. 2. Bookplate of Charles Watson on front pastedown; the oak leaves with motto ‘florescit’ suggest a link to the Scottish Watson clan.

Only bifoliums K3/K6 and L1/L8 are found unrubricated and may have been supplied from another copy when the volume was rebound. A few minor stains, some damage from nibbling to lower blank margin of first gathering, but generally fresh copy.

BMC V, 321. Goff C-597. HC 5271*. GW 6950. ISTC ic00597000 (listing copies in only 29 holding institutions).

Stock Code: 225214

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