Cosmographia sive de situ orbis habitabilis. [transl. Antonius Beccaria]
PERIEGETES Dionysius (1477)
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First page with ornamental woodcut border (cropped at head and foot), with coat-of-arms painted at foot and initial supplied in gold. 5-line initials, white on black.
4to (183 x 150mm). 41 ff. unnumbered (lacking final blank leaf). Vellum over pasteboard, with gilt lettering on spine, red edges (vellum brittle; spine chipped with minor worming and crack to lower joint, chipping to head of lower board, wear to corners, and discoloration of vellum).
Venice, Erhard Ratdolt, Bernhard Maler and Peter Löslein,
Important, first separately printed edition, in Latin prose translation, of Dionysius Periegetes’ popular geographical account of the known earth –three continents, the ocean, the Mediterranean, Libya, Europe, ‘islands’ and Asia – in pseudo-epic style. This Latin translation of the text preceded the original Greek (Ferrara, 1512). In this edition Veronese humanist Antonio Beccaria updated and expanded the work in his translation, adding information that would not have been known by Dionysius at the time of writing.
There is little surviving record of Dionysius, called Periegetes (’the guide’) himself; hailing from Alexandria, acrostic clues in the poem refer to Emperor Hadrian and suggest that the poet-scholar was writing in the first half of the second century AD.
The border on the first page of this volume typifies the woodcut designs of Augsburg-born printer Erhart Ratdolt. His technique from 1477 of framing the first page of text within arabesque, woodcut margins was ‘the first use of the woodcut as a decoration or illustration sufficient in itself that had been produced in Venice’ (Lowry).
Provenance: No. on front paste-down of Maggs’ ‘Ancient, Medieval and Modern’ catalogue (April, 1980). Annotations in brown ink throughout (some loss due to trimming).
Some loss due to close trimming. Head and outer margin of first page repaired and extended. Portion of border in pen facsimile, significant repairs to gutter and foot of final leaf. Worming of final 30 leaves, with light foxing and staining throughout.
M. Lowry, Nicholas Jenson and the Rise of Venetian Publishing in Renaissance Europe (Oxford, 1991). GKW, 8426. ISTC id00253000. Bod-Inc, D-099. GW 8426. Hain *6226; Goff D-253. BMC V 244.
Stock Code: 227673