"NO LITERATURE HAS ANYTHING TO COMPARE WITH THESE COMEDIES": 1498 EDITIO PRINCEPS OF ARISTOPHANES' COMEDIES, ONE OF THE FIRST PRODUCTIONS OF ALDUS MANUTIUS RENOWNED VENETIAN PRESS—A SPLENDID INCUNABLE FOLIO, BEAUTIFULLY BOUND
ARISTOPHANES. Aristophanis Comoediae Novem. (Venice: Aldus Manutius, 15 July, 1498). Folio (9 by 12-1/2 inches), 18th-century full polished calf, elaborately gilt-decorated spine, raised bands, red and green morocco spine labels, marbled endpapers and edges; ff. 348. Housed in a custom cloth slipcase. $70,000.
Editio princeps (first edition) of nine of Aristophanes' eleven extant comedies, edited and with scholarly notes by Marcus Musurus and finely printed by the renowned Venetian printing pioneer Aldus Manutius—one of the first productions of his recently established press—including The Acharnians, The Knights, The Clouds, The Wasps, Peace, The Birds, The Frogs, Wealth, and Thesmophoriazusae or The Women Celebrating the Thesmophoria. A lovely incunable folio volume, very handsomely bound. "Belle et rare" (Brunet).
"In marked contrast with Nicolas Jenson, who was primarily a craftsman, stands the second great Venetian in printing history, Aldus Manutius, who was first and foremost a scholar. Aldus turned to printing as a means to an end, his main interest being focused on the buyer and user of his books. Himself a profound scholar, imbued with the spirit of the Renaissance, he never lost faith in his conviction that books should be made so as to be read and he never faltered in his missionary zeal to put what he considered the best books into the hands of the largest possible number of readers. The ingenuity with which he developed methods for achieving these results and the success he won by them have set him apart as the first great publisher who created a demand for an entirely new form of book… He was a student at the universities in Rome and in Ferrara and became an enthusiast for the recently rediscovered masterpieces of ancient Greek literature, now brought in manuscripts to Italy by Greek refugees from Constantinople… In 1490, in his fortieth year, Aldus went to Venice prepared to establish a printing office primarily for the printing of the Greek classics… Up to July, 1499, 18 out of 30 titles from his press were Greek texts or Greek grammars and dictionaries" (McMurtrie, The Book, 205).
"The greatest writer of Greek comedy… [Plato] says that the Graces, looking for an enduring shrine, found it in the soul of Aristophanes. He unites understanding, feeling and fancy in a degree possessed by few poets of antiquity… No literature has anything to compare with these comedies" (Peck, 127-28). Aldus had intended to include a tenth play, Lysistrata, in this collection, but was unable to find a manuscript containing the complete text. "Aristophanes, edited by Marcus Musurus in 1498, was recommended by Aldus as a guide to pure spoke Attic Greek, not for any literary or even comic quality—though Musurus spoke of it as light relief from a diet of Aristotle. Aldus' preface to the edition insists on the absolute necessity of Greek for access to the disciplines of rhetoric and dialectic, mathematics and medicine, and all branches of philosophy" (Davies/The British Library, Aldus Manutius, 26). "Première et belle édition… Les Scolies sont dans cette importante et belle édition imprimées bein plus correctement que dans le reimpression faite à Florence 1515" [First and beautiful edition… The Scoliae are in this important and beautiful edition printed much more correctly than in the reprint made in Florence 1515] (Renouard). Text in Greek. Aldus Manutius' famed printer's symbol—the entwined dolphin and anchor—did not appear in an Aldine volume until 1499. Hain-Copinger *1656. Proctor 5566. Goff A-958. Brunet, 451. Infrequent owner ink marginalia in Greek, penned in a neat hand.
Text clean and fine. A bit of light wear to spine head. A beautifully bound copy of this rare and desirable incunable, the editio princeps of "the father of comedy."