Vitae illustrium virorum (ed. Johannes Antonius Campanus). [Rome], Ulrich Han (Udalricus Gallus), [

PLUTARCH of Chareonea (1470].)


Please contact us in advance if you would like to view this book at our Curzon Street shop.

Illuminated opening page with white-vine stem border 'bianchi girari' on three sides extending into the fore-margin, the border incorporates a 9-line initial 'P' in gold and a wreath in each border, the one in the lower margin left blank for a coat-of-arms, the remaining two with rosettes, also four birds are found in the lower border, all in burnished gold, blue, green, purple; 54 further initials in gold, mostly 9 to 11-lines, against intricate white-vine backgrounds infilled with blue, green, and purple, which extend into the margins; 4-line initial in gold infilled with green and purple against a blue background; some rubrication; early manuscript headings and foliation.

Volume 1 (& 24ff of vol. of 2). Large Folio. Binding size: 412 x 295mm. Paper size: 390 x 280mm. 316 of 320ff. (lacking d10 and 3 blanks). [*4 a10 b8 c10 d9(of 10) e10 fg8 h6 i-o10 p8 q10 r12 s10 t3(of 4 -t4 blank) v-y10 z8 aa-cc8 dd12 ee9(of 10 - ee10 blank) gg12 hh10 ii3(of 4 -ii4 blank); A10 B8 C6]. Quires c & d misbound. 45 lines (257 x 160mm), roman type (113R.), spaces left for greek letter.Mid-late 19th century dark brown morocco over bevelled boards by William Townsend and Son, Sheffield, with their blindstamp inside front cover, covers panelled with simple blind fillets and ornamental rolls, spine decorated in the same way, red morocco label, r.e.

Editio princeps of the first of two volumes published in this year of Plutarch's Vitae, a wide-margined copy lavishly illuminated in Rome with a superb opening border and 55 beautiful white vine-stem initials.

"The whole (sixty Vitae ) was on sale at Milan by 27 April 1470 (see E. Motta, 'Pamfilio Castaldi, Antonio Planella, Pietro Ugleimer ed il vescovo d'Aleria', Rivista storica italiana , 1 (1884), 252-72, at 255 note 2)." (Bod-Inc). Complete copies are known but many institutions have only one of the two volumes (see: ISTC). The second volume, lacking its first 25 leaves, may possibly be the copy of volume II found at the Biblioteca Nacional de España (see: Julián Martín Abad, Catálogo Bibliográfico de la Colección de Incunbales de la Biblioteca Nacional de España (2010), pp. 631-2, no. P-156, I-1939) which is also illuminated and has early annotations but was likely separated from the first volume at an early date. A note at the foot of the first page of the first volume appears to suggest that it was on its own when bought in Logrono, northern Spain, by Dean Munor de Suessa in 1632.

Examples are very rare on the market with Anglo/American auctions recording only an incomplete copy of volume I appearing at auction since 1936 when the Sykes-Syston Park-William Morris copy was sold. The present copy was auctioned at Sotheby's 18 November 1918, lot 609, and sold to Francis Edwards for £18.10s. 

This copy of the first volume of Plutarch's Vitae ends with the life of Lucullus unlike most other examples which end with the life of Sertorius. Our volume one, therefore, holds a further 24 leaves and three incipits with initial spaces which are illuminated with three further white vine intials. The three blanks are missing from this copy and also f. d10 which holds only the final 16 lines of the comparison between Lycurgus and Numa on the recto of the leaf, the remainder of the leaf is blank. The leaves have been absent since the seventeenth century at least as the early foliation is continuous. The final leaf C6 is cut down and mounted.

It is rare to find such lavish use of white vine-stem illumination or bianchi girari as very few books of the period printed in Rome or Venice had so many opening initial spaces, one exception being the Sweynheym and Pannartz Pliny of the same year although the Natural History has, in fact, only 37 initial spaces. White vine-stem illumination developed in early fifteenth-century Florence as decoration for humanistic or classical texts, seemingly copied from manuscripts of the classical period which were in reality Italian manuscripts of the twelth century. The style of illumination spread throughout Italy and in the 1460s and 1470s suitable printed books were also decorated in this way before being superseded by woodcut ornaments.Ulrich Han (Udalricus Gallus), a native of Ingolstadt and a citizen of Vienna, was the second printer in Rome. He followed Sweynheym and Pannartz, the first to print in Italy, who had moved to Rome from Subiaco in 1467. Han began printing in 1467 (Turrecremata, Meditationes seu Contemplationes devotissimae ).

Provenance: Near contemporary marginal annotations, plentiful for first 35ff. and intermittent thereafter. Acquisition note at foot of first page of Dom Munor de Suessa, Dean of Albelda-Logrono, 1632, his inscription also at foot of final leaf. 18th century inscription of 'D. Gregorio Lopez Malo' on first page, i.e. Gregorio López de la Torre y Malo (1700-1770), an historian from Molina de Aragón (Guadalajara, central Spain). Annotations to ff. cc1v-cc2r, Life of Gracchi probably in his hand. Two pages of 19th century bibliographical notes cut down and mounted at the end, stating that the volume was acquired in Valencia in 1834. Sold at Sotheby's 18 November 1918, lot 609 to Francis Edwards. Harold Ingrams, CMG, OBE (1897-1973), British Colonial Administrator and author of several books on Arabia (see: ODNB).

Heavy inkstain affecting ff. v1v and v2r and the initial. Some dampstaining, mostly marginal but heavier towards the end, affecting c. 9 initials. Foxed and spotted in places.

HC 13125*. BMC IV, 21. Goff P-830. Bod-Inc P-390.

Stock Code: 47241

close zoom-in zoom-out close zoom