BESSARION (Johannes Basilius of Trebizond, 1395-1472, Cardinal). In calumniatorem Platonis libri quatuor. -Correctio librorum Platonis de legibus Georgio Trapezuntio interprete. -De natura & arte adversus eundem Trapezuntium tractatus. Edited by Aldus Manutius. Venice: Aldus Manutius, July 1503.
Super-chancery 2° (318 x 207mm). Roman type 10:82, greek 3:84. Printer's device on title (Fletcher f1). Initial spaces with guide-letters. (Short marginal tear in final leaf.) 19th-century maroon morocco gilt, Aldine anchor device at centre of both sides, russet glazed endpapers, gilt edges (spine very lightly faded), by R. Storr of Grantham. Provenance: [Jacques de Thou (ascription in Sykes catalogue)]; Sir Mark Masterman Sykes (1771-1823, booklabel, sale Evans, 11 May 1824, lot 469, identifying it as 'Thuanus's copy', £5.15.6 to Pickering); William Henry Smith, Viscount Hambleden (sale Sotheby's 16 July 1945, lot 161, £17 to Foyle).
THE SYKES COPY of the second edition, the first printed by Aldus, of Bessarion's reply to George Trapezuntius's virulent attack on Platonism. Trapezuntius condemned the writings of Plato as heretical and immoral, and upheld Aristotle as the greater philosopher. In reconciling Platonism with Christianity Bessarion turned to Neoplatonic commentators, whose antiquity made them an authoritative source. In calumniatorem Platonis defined the arguments supporting Plato and laid the ground for defining a Platonic theology, which task was taken up by the champion of Renaissance Platonism, Marsilio Ficino.
Bessarion's defense circulated in Greek and Latin manuscripts and was printed in Latin during the author's lifetime in 300 copies. Aldus relates that when part of bk. 3 was already printed, he was brought a much corrected manuscript of Bessarion's work, the Greek text of which is autograph. With that he corrected much that was corrupt in the Rome edition [Sweynheym and Pannartz 1469, GW 4183] and added the accents. The manuscript also contains a summary preceding bk. 3, which oddly cannot be found in the Rome edition; in order to preserve it, he has taken care to print it here. [This note and the summary directly follow the dedication on verso of the title. In order to accommodate them at this late stage in the production Aldus may have reprinted the outermost sheet of the preliminary quire, which is different paper from the stock used for the other sheets in quire a and for the rest of the book.] Aldus's claims to have used an autograph manuscript are suspect, however. The Marciana at Venice, repository of Bessarion's library, contains three manuscripts of the work, at least one of which was definitely in the collection at this time and which had been corrected by the author. 'Not only did Aldus fail to use this source: he printed a draft of the work which differed entirely from that presented by the Venetian codices' (Lowry p. 232). A LARGE, FINE COPY. Isaac 12792; Adams B-833; Dionisotti & Orlandi L; Murphy 58; Sansoviniana 83; Laurenziana 77; R 40:5