BESSARION (1395-1472, Cardinal). Adversus calumniatorem Platonis. Translated from Greek into Latin by the author and Nicolaus PERROTUS (1429-1480). -Correctio librorum Platonis de legibus Georgio Trapezuntio interprete. -De natura et arte adversus Georgium Trapezuntium. Rome: Conradus Sweynheym and Arnoldus Pannartz, [before 28 August 1469].
Median 2o (332 x 230 mm). Collation: [18 26 3-1710 1812 19-2010 2112 2210 23-248] blank, 1/2r table, 3/2r Book I, 5/3r Book II,Book III,Book IV,v Correctio librorum Platonis, 23/2r De natura et arte, 24/6v colophon, 24/7-8 blank). 234 leaves. 38 lines. Types: 2:115R, 3:116Gr. One 10- and five 7-line initial spaces. Six large white-vine initials filled with blue, green and mauve, the first initial with a partial border consisting of colored leaves and gold balls on fine brown stems. Unrubricated. (Intermittent dampstain to upper margins, occasional minor foxing.)
Binding: contemporary North-European, perhaps Austrian, blind-tooled goatskin over wooden boards, tooled with quintuple fillets to a series of concentric rectangular frames filled with oblong and square stamps including scrolling foliage, two running stags, addorsed birds, and IHS symbol within a sunburst, the tools not in Kyriss or Schwenke-Sammlung; vellum endleaves, original paper sewing guards, evidence of four clasps (skillfully rebacked, old paper reinforcement to inner front hinge, discreet repairs, some wear).
Provenance: contemporary marginalia -- title lettered on fore-edge -- Vienna, Hofbibliothek: inkstamps; released as a duplicate in 1949 -- [Sotheby's 24 June 1958, lot 533, to Maggs] -- Eric Sexton (1902-1980): Incun. 78, bookplates; sale, Christie's New York, 8 April l981, lot 142 (to Lathrop Harper).
FIRST EDITION of all texts and the only incunable edition. Sweynheym and Pannartz, Italy's first printers, established a press at Subiaco in 1464. In 1467 they moved to Rome, possibly with the encouragement of Cardinal Bessarion, whose close associate Giovanni Andrea de' Bussi served as editor to the press. In Rome, between 1467 and 1473, they printed 48 books, most of them editions of substantial classical or patristic texts. The roman type they adopted when they began printing in Rome is the one used in this edition of Bessarion, together with a Greek type which replaced the Greek fount which had been used at Subiaco. According to a list of the press's output published in the preface to its 1472 edition of Nicholas of Lyra, three hundred copies of Bessarion's work were printed. The publication was announced in Bussi's preface to the February 1469 edition of Apuleius, and the terminus ante quem for the date of the edition is established by a reference to it in a letter from George of Trebizond to Bessarion dated 28 August 1469 (cf. ISTC).
Bessarion, a Greek cleric born in Trebizond and educated in the schools of the late Byzantine Empire, came to Italy in connection with the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-1439), which had been convened to bring about the formal reunion of the Catholic and Orthodox churches as a prerequisite for sending western aid to defend Byzantium against the Turks. After the council, to which he contributed many of the theological arguments supporting union, Bessarion settled in Italy, where he was soon made a cardinal and was twice considered seriously as a candidate for the papacy. Adversus calumniatorem Platonis was written in response to a work by his contemporary George of Trebizond (1395-1484), also a Greek settled in Italy, who had attacked Plato and his teachings in a work entitled Comparatio philosophorum Platonis et Aristotelis, completed in 1458. Bessarion's reply to George countered his specific arguments and pointed out his mistakes of translation and interpretation. It also went significantly beyond this to offer a broad defense of Plato based on the Fathers of the Church and the Neoplatonic philosophers of late Antiquity. The work opened a new stage in the interpretation of Plato's dialogues in the West, and was a major contribution to Renaissance Platonism. Presented as Books V and VI of this edition are two other works by Bessarion: his critique of George of Trebizond's translation of Plato's Laws, and his response to George's critique of Gemistos Plethon, who had been Bessarion's teacher.
No copy of this edition has appeared at auction since the present copy was sold in 1981. HC 3004*; BMC IV, 7 (IB. 17126); BSB-Ink. B-404; CIBN B-357; GW 4183; Harvard/Walsh 1286-87; Goff B-518.