"AND NOW FORTUNATA BEGAN TO DANCE": FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF PETRONIUS' SATYRICON, 1694
PETRONIUS ARBITER, Titus. The Satyr of Titus Petronius Arbiter, a Roman Knight. With Its Fragments, Recover'd at Belgrade. London: Samuel Briscoe, 1694. Octavo, contemporary full dark brown calf rebacked with original spine laid down. $6800.
First edition in English of The Satyricon, translated by William Burnaby, in contemporary calf.
The Satyricon was composed in Latin in the first century A.D. Classical scholars often describe it as a "Roman novel," without necessarily implying continuity with the modern novel. (It is one of the two most extensive examples of the Roman novel, the other being the fully extant Metamorphoses of Apuleius.) The Satyricon has also served as a reliable source for the reconstruction of lower class life during the early Roman Empire; Petronius' characters, most of them laypeople, talk about the theatre of ancient Rome, the amphitheater, and the circus. "The adventures of a certain Encolpius and his companions in the south of Italy, chiefly in Puteoli or its environs, are made a vehicle for exposing the false taste and vices of the age. Unfortunately the vices of the personages introduced are depicted with such fidelity that we are perpetually disgusted by the obscenity of the descriptions" (Peck, 1220). While the text is interrupted by frequent gaps, 141 sections of consecutive narrative have been preserved. It is speculated that the original composition was approximately 1000 pages.
Playwright and translator William Burnaby (1673-1706), together with an anonymous collaborator, gave his translation an "idiomatic restoration flavor" (ODNB). The "fragments" filling in the lacunae that were reportedly found at Belgrade and printed in the present edition are actually a forgery by François Nodot (1650-1710). Though the forgery was soon suspected, texts and translation of the Satyricon continued to incorporate Nodot's supplements until the early 20th century. With publisher's four-page catalogue at rear. Harris, 114. BMC 20, 157. Bookplate of American lawyer and book collector Robert S. Pirie.
Text generally clean, expert restoration to contemporary calf. A very good copy with a nice provenance. Scarce.