Maggs Bros Ltd

Comoediae XX. Venice, Lazarus Soardus, 14 August

PLAUTUS Titus Maccius (1511)


Woodcut title-border, full-page woodcut of an actor addressing an audience on aa10v, 316 composite scene woodcuts, and white-on-black printer's device at end, woodcut initials throughout.

Folio (312 x 210mm). CCXXVIII, CLXXXIX ff.(lacks final blank). 18th century calf, covers panelled with blind fillets and a large ornamental roll, spine gilt in compartments, r.e. (light wear to extremities, one or two small wormholes to the spine).

The first illustrated edition of the comedies of Plautus to be printed in Italy.

It is furthermore the most profusely illustrated edition of the early period and a technical masterpiece by the Venetian printer Lazzaro de' Soardi. As noted by Mortimer, the 316 scene illustrations were put together in the manner of Johann Grüninger's Strasbourg Terence illustrations of 1496 by combining separate blocks of up to six figures (who are identified by their names set in type in scrolls blocks above), trees and doorways, the scenes are then filled out by foliate strip borders at the sides and plain rules. Mortimer also notes that there was a certain amount of adjustment of the blocks at the press as comparisons of examples from both issues show certain substitutions or figures that have been transposed.

The work begins with the justly famous full-page Theatre woodcut of the actor addressing the audience in a renaissance theatre which was first used in Soardi's extremely rare 1497 edition of Terence; this influential woodcut is said to have inspired the frontispiece of Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica and provided Renaissance architects with a vision that lent dramatic shape to the permanent anatomy theater in Padua (1594) and to the increasingly spectacular practices of anatomical dissection. The fine woodcut title-border of putti within architectural ornament has a fine lower panel of figures in a sea procession; it first appeared in Tridino's Malermi Bible printed at Venice in 1493. The present copy is the earlier issue described by Mortimer as having a longer title set in gothic letter, rather than roman, withithin two blocks of a scroll unrolled by hands, the same full-page putti border infilled slightly differently, and an additional address on the verso and the conjugate leaf reset. The text has the commentaries of Bernardus Saracenus and Giovanni Pietro Valla which had first been published in 1499.The twenty surviving comedies of Plautus, the first Roman dramatist of whom we have complete extant plays, were rediscovered and widely translated in the Renaissance. They influenced much sixteenth century English comedy and Shakespeare, for example, used the plot of the Menaechmi in the Comedy of Errors .

Occasional faint damp staining to lower outer corners, some marginal brown staining to first and last leaves, light browning to a few leaves, minor worming to lower margins of last leaves, small corner-restoration to HH8.

Mortimer Italian 387 . Sander 5748 and pl. 312-13. Adams P 1481. Essling 1724. Sander 5748.Schweiger II, 762.

Stock Code: 48252

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