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Fine Books, Western Manuscripts & Works on Paper

Wednesday 25th January 2017: 1:00pm GMT

Phalaris

Lot 6

Phalaris. [Phalaridis tyranni Apollonii Philosophi pythagoraei Epistolae [Graece], Venice, Bartholomaeus Pelusius, Gabriel Bracius de Brisighella, Johannes Bissolus and Benedictus Mangius, 18 June, 1498.

 

Estimate: £10,000 - 15,000

Hammer Price: £10,000

Full Lot Details

Phalaris. [Phalaridis tyranni Apollonii Philosophi pythagoraei Epistolae [Graece], collation: αα-δδ8, εε4, ζζ8, ηη4, θθ10, [58]ff., text in single column, 29 lines, type: 1:109Gk (text), 2:109r (dedicatory epistle and colophon), blank spaces for capitals with printed guide letters, woodcut pine-cone device on verso of final leaf, recto of first leaf slightly browned, scattered minor foxing and a few finger-marks, fine English early 19th-century olive cross-grain morocco, possibly executed by Charles Lewis (1786-1836), covers within gilt multiple fillet border, smooth spine, richly gilt tooled, title and imprint lettered vertically in gilt, cover edges gilt tooled, inner dentelles, gilt edges, a very fine copy, 4to, 210 x 135mm., Venice, Bartholomaeus Pelusius, Gabriel Bracius de Brisighella, Johannes Bissolus and Benedictus Mangius, 18 June, 1498.

The highly praised first edition of the letters originally ascribed to Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas (now Agrigento, in Sicily), who lived in the 6th century BC. The authenticity of this attribution was first brought into question by Richard Bentley in his Dissertation on the Epistles of Phalaris (1697), who proved that the letters bearing Phalaris' name were actually written probably in the 2nd century AD by an unknown sophist.

The collection had a wide manuscript circulation (over 130 manuscripts are recorded, from 10th to 18th century), and its fortune in the Renaissance was remarkable. The text of the Venetian princeps was prepared by Bartholomaeus Pelusius Justinopolitanus, and the volume was printed by the partnership founded by the printer Benedictus Mangius, the punch-cutter Johannes Bissolus, Gabriel Bracius de Brisighella - who previously worked for Aldus Manutius - and Pelusius himself.

"The privilege obtained by Braccius on 7 March 1498 for the printing of the letters of Phalaris and others [...] identifies the printing as 'cum bellissima e nova invenzione'" (N. Barker, Aldus Manutius and the Development of Greek Script & Type, New York 1992, p. 65). In fact, the type used for setting the text is only apparently an imitation of the second Aldine Greek: the Phalaris font is actually 'new', fine and elaborate.

The publication also contains the text of letters by Apollonius de Tyana and pseudo-Brutus, and it is the first of the only two Greek publications from this Venetian partnership, Aesop's Vitae being the other one. Phalaris' letters were included in 1499 in the great collection Epistolae diversorum philosophorum, oratorum, rhetorum, printed by Aldus Manutius.

The pine-cone device on the verso of the last leaf can be found printed with the stalk upwards or downwards: in this copy it is printed stalk upward (cf. BMC V 578).

Provenance: From the library of Beriah Botfield (1807-1863).

Literature: HC* 12871; BMC V 578; IGI 7681; Goff P-545; Flodr, Phalaris 1.

Full Lot Details

Phalaris. [Phalaridis tyranni Apollonii Philosophi pythagoraei Epistolae [Graece], collation: αα-δδ8, εε4, ζζ8, ηη4, θθ10, [58]ff., text in single column, 29 lines, type: 1:109Gk (text), 2:109r (dedicatory epistle and colophon), blank spaces for capitals with printed guide letters, woodcut pine-cone device on verso of final leaf, recto of first leaf slightly browned, scattered minor foxing and a few finger-marks, fine English early 19th-century olive cross-grain morocco, possibly executed by Charles Lewis (1786-1836), covers within gilt multiple fillet border, smooth spine, richly gilt tooled, title and imprint lettered vertically in gilt, cover edges gilt tooled, inner dentelles, gilt edges, a very fine copy, 4to, 210 x 135mm., Venice, Bartholomaeus Pelusius, Gabriel Bracius de Brisighella, Johannes Bissolus and Benedictus Mangius, 18 June, 1498.

The highly praised first edition of the letters originally ascribed to Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas (now Agrigento, in Sicily), who lived in the 6th century BC. The authenticity of this attribution was first brought into question by Richard Bentley in his Dissertation on the Epistles of Phalaris (1697), who proved that the letters bearing Phalaris' name were actually written probably in the 2nd century AD by an unknown sophist.

The collection had a wide manuscript circulation (over 130 manuscripts are recorded, from 10th to 18th century), and its fortune in the Renaissance was remarkable. The text of the Venetian princeps was prepared by Bartholomaeus Pelusius Justinopolitanus, and the volume was printed by the partnership founded by the printer Benedictus Mangius, the punch-cutter Johannes Bissolus, Gabriel Bracius de Brisighella - who previously worked for Aldus Manutius - and Pelusius himself.

"The privilege obtained by Braccius on 7 March 1498 for the printing of the letters of Phalaris and others [...] identifies the printing as 'cum bellissima e nova invenzione'" (N. Barker, Aldus Manutius and the Development of Greek Script & Type, New York 1992, p. 65). In fact, the type used for setting the text is only apparently an imitation of the second Aldine Greek: the Phalaris font is actually 'new', fine and elaborate.

The publication also contains the text of letters by Apollonius de Tyana and pseudo-Brutus, and it is the first of the only two Greek publications from this Venetian partnership, Aesop's Vitae being the other one. Phalaris' letters were included in 1499 in the great collection Epistolae diversorum philosophorum, oratorum, rhetorum, printed by Aldus Manutius.

The pine-cone device on the verso of the last leaf can be found printed with the stalk upwards or downwards: in this copy it is printed stalk upward (cf. BMC V 578).

Provenance: From the library of Beriah Botfield (1807-1863).

Literature: HC* 12871; BMC V 578; IGI 7681; Goff P-545; Flodr, Phalaris 1.