2 Pliny's Natural history printed Aldus' son / Virtual Fair 106


Description: Pliny's Natural history, beautifully printed by Aldus's son Paulus Manutius

PLINIUS SECUNDUS, Gaius (PLINY the elder).
Naturalis historiae libri trigintaseptem, … Castigationies Sigismundi Gelenii.

Venice, Paulus Manutius, 1559. 2 parts in 1 volume. Folio in 8s and 6s. 17th-century(?) limp sheepskin parchment, sewn on 3 leather thongs, author's name lettered in ink at head of spine. With 2 title-pages, each with the same woodcut device (Aldus's dolphin and anchor, in a wreath of leaves and fruits, with the name "Aldus" set in roman capitals), and woodcut historiated initials (2 series). With the main text set in italic type. [6] pp., [22], 976 cols., 1 p., [70] cols.; [132] pp.

Including: CAMERS, Johann. Index in C. Plinii Secundi Naturalem historiam, …
Venice, Paulus Manutius, 1558.

First Aldine folio edition of Pliny's Natural history, corrected and published by Aldus's son Paulus Manutius (Paolo Manuzio). The two earlier Aldine editions appeared in 1536 and 1540, both in octavo format. The present edition is a far more ambitious, luxurious and beautiful production and includes the Castigationes … in … Pliniani … by Sigmund Gelen (Sigismundus Gelenius), which had first been published separately, at Paris in 1536; the extensive index by Johann Camers (with its own title-page, dated 1558), first published separately in Vienna in 1513; and six pages of preliminaries.Pliny's Natural history is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire to the modern day and purports to cover the entire field of ancient knowledge, based on the best authorities available at the time. It encompasses the fields of botany, zoology, astronomy, geology and mineralogy as well as the exploitation of those resources. It remains a standard work for the Roman period and the advances in technology and understanding of natural phenomena at the time. Pliny's accounts of some technical advances are the only sources for those inventions, such as hushing (using water to wash away soil) in mining technology or the use of water mills for crushing or grinding grain. Archaeological excavations have confirmed much of what he wrote. Chapter 32 of book 6 gives the first detailed account of the regions around the Gulf, including what are now Qatar, the Emirates and Oman (
Paulus Manutius's presswork is excellent, showing the freshly cast, mostly French types and the woodcut initials at their best. The main text is set in a lovely italic by Pierre Haultin (Vervliet 273, first used in 1557, also by Paulus Manutius) with Peter Schoefferthe younger's 8 mm roman capitals used as initials (in addition to the larger woodcut initials).
The front paste-down shows an extraordinary watermark, unlike any we have found in the literature. It is an enormous quartered coat of arms (19.5 x 13 cm!) with crossed flags below. If it reads from the underside (which seems to be the mould side) the two bearings at the foot would be a rampant lion dexter and a bendy field sinister, which might suggest Brabant and Burgundy in the foot of many Habsburg arms. But the lion appears to have a bend through it (like Namur rather than Brabant) and the bendy field has no bordure. Moreover, the lower sinister quarter is divided per fess, with the bendy field below and an asymmetrical escutcheon(?) above. The bearings in the upper half are difficult to make out. There are decorations on both sides of the arms and fleurs-de-lis in its crown, perhaps with a bend above the crown. There is a sceptre next to the arms on the dexter side.

With contemporary owner's name "Ascanii Peroni de Populo" on the title-page, the first part struck through and replaced with a later name. With worm holes in the first 3 and last 3 leaves, mostly in the gutter margin except for the last leaf, but otherwise in good condition. The holes in the gutter margin of the title-page have been restored, the title-page is slightly browned, and there is a water stain in the upper outside corner of the second half. Lovely first Aldine folio edition of a great classic.
Adams P1575; Aldine Press 575; BMC STC Italian, p. 526; Edit 16 CNCE 28055; USTC 849936; cf. PMM 5 (1469 edition).
  • Number: 1060114
  • Dealer: Speculum Orbis Nauticum