Fine Books and Manuscripts

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View full screen - View 1 of Lot 176. Herodotus | With "the most splendid of all the examples of decorative art applied to books" of the period.

Herodotus | With "the most splendid of all the examples of decorative art applied to books" of the period

Lot Closed

December 16, 09:55 PM GMT


12,000 - 18,000 USD

Lot Details



Historiae. Herodoti Halicarnasei libri novem, translated by Laurentius Valla, edited by Antonius Mancinellus. Venice: Johannes and Gregoriius de Gregoriis, de Forlivio, 8 March [after 30 March], 1494

Folio (316 x 210 mm). Title-page with elaborate woodcut border, initial spaces with letter guides, nice large margins, the letter of Mancinellus to Nicolaus Rubeus at the end of the preliminaries dated 'tertio Cal. Aprilis' (30 March 1494); woodcut just shaved at head and with a nearly imperceptible repair at the head of the fawn, very minor marginal worming not affecting text, abrasion to verso of d5 costing one letter of the marginal notes, s5 shaved at fore-margin, upper corner of t3 chipped, small open tear at inner margin to k5, scattered foxing, early ink annotations. In full 19th-century vellum, spine gilt lettered; front hinge slightly split at head.

This edition is preceded only by those of 1474 (Venice: Jacobus Rubeus) and 1475 (Rome: Arnoldus Pannartz), but this is the only edition that contains the elaborate woodcut border, which is celebrated as being one of the finest of the 15th century.

"The brothers De Gregoriis who published Ketham's Fasciculo appear to have devoted particular attention to the production of woodcuts; to judge from the number and variety of the works of their press, which display artistic embellishment. A Latin translation of Herodotus (Hain 8472) brought out by them in 1494, has its first page adorned with a magnificent woodcut border, consisting of rich pilaster-forms, printed in white relief on a black ground. Beneath, there is a picturesque illustration, engraved in strong simple outlines, the subject of which is not recognisable, and may perhaps represent a misconception of some antique compositions. In the upper corner, beside the initial letter, Herodotus is seen sitting at a table, while Apollo places a laurel crown upon his head. This is probably the most splendid of all the examples of decorative art applied to books at that period. In the unsurpassed elegance of its architectural construction, and the flawless perfection with which the wood-engraver rendered the design, it can be compared with nothing but the finest specimens of inlaid work. The effect produced by this beautiful woodcut, with its simple elements of white and black, is such as to bring it into successful rivalry with the most brilliant miniature illumination. We find the same border used again (but without the figures of Herodotus and Apollo) in an edition of St. Jerome's works printed in 1497-98 (Hain 8581)" (Lippmann).


Goff H90; ISTC ih00090000; Polain B 1887


Maurice Burrus (bookplate)