CATO, Dionysius (234-149 B.C., attributed to). Disticha moralia, and other works. Translated by M. Planudes. Commentary by Desiderius Erasmus. Basel: Johann Froben, June 1526.
8° (168 x 108mm). Woodcut printer's device on title, larger version on final verso, white-on-black initials. (Stained, marginal hole in title.)
BINDING: Parisian binding by anonymous binder c.1526-33 for Jean Grolier; gold-tooled dark brown calf over pasteboard, plain edges, vellum pastedowns, flyleaves removed (rebacked, rather crackled, repairs at corners and along some board edges). Les richesses de la Bibliophilie Belge, Brussels, 1948, no. 27; Austin 93.4; Hobson/Culot2 23.
PROVENANCE: Jean Grolier (ownership inscription below colophon: 'Io. Grolierii Lugdunen[sis] et amicorum.', and on rear pastedown: 'Grolierii et amicorum') -- Nicolaus Buschetius (16th-century 'et amicorum' ownership inscription on front pastedown) -- Mathieu Le Tur (16th-century gift inscription on front pastedown) -- J. Buxinus (16/17th-century title inscription) -- Delécluze 'le jeune' -- A. de Fouer -- Nicolas Pare -- [inscription erased from title] -- George Michelmore & Co., London booksellers (cat. 2 [c. 1920], no. 39) -- sale New York, Anderson Galleries, 5 March 1923, lot 97 -- sale Sotheby's, 10 April 1924, lot 330, ill. -- sale Sotheby's, 27 April 1927, lot 599 -- sale Paris, Georges Andrieux, expert, 24 June 1931, lot 37 -- Wright -- Grace Whitney Hoff (booklabel; catalogue, Paris, 1933, no. 29) -- Arthur Rau, Paris bookseller -- sale Paris, 13 May 1956, lot 18 -- Charles Vander Elst (booklabel; sale Monaco, 13 June 1985, lot 47).
ONE OF ONLY ABOUT 25 EXTANT BOOKS FROM GROLIER'S FIRST FRENCH LIBRARY. As Nixon ('Wingfield and Grolier') first posited and Hobson has since elucidated (Renaissance Book Collecting), Jean Grolier (1479-1565) formed three distinct libraries: one at Milan, which was mostly lost by 1519; one at Paris, lost through a forced sale in 1536; and a final library at Paris formed from 1538 to his death in 1565. The numerous near-contemporary inscriptions by subsequent owners of the Cato attest to its circulation outside Grolier's library after the 1536 sale.
It is chiefly on the third and final library that Grolier's fame as the greatest of all bibliophiles and patrons of bookbinding rests, since it is on those books that he had his name, 'et amicorum' ownership formula, and motto tooled on the covers. Before 1538 Grolier wrote his ownership formula inside his books; in the present Cato he wrote it once below the colophon and again on the rear vellum pastedown. Vellum pastedowns are another characteristic of Grolier books, suggesting that he liked the slightly concave appearance of the boards which resulted from the pull of the vellum (Nixon, PML, p. 115). The anonymous shop which bound the Cato bound two other extant books for Grolier: a 1523 Erasmus in the Bibliothèque Universitaire, Tours, and a 1532 Wittekind in the British Library (Austin 187.1 and 553.1). Although its tools are similar to the Mendoza Binder and others, Guignard distinguished it as a separate shop (Guignard, 'Premières reliures parisiennes à décor doré. De l'atelier des reliures Louis XII à l'aterlier du Maître d'Estienne ou de Simon Vostre à Pierre Roffet', Humanisme actif. Mélanges d'art et de littérature offerts à Julien Cain, Paris, 1968, pp. 229-249; Hobson, Renaissance Book Collecting, app. 1, III, e. Not in Adams; BLSTC, 16th-century German, p. 188.