CICERO, Marcus Tullius (106-43 B.C.). Epistolae ad familiares. [Venice]: Nicolaus Jenson, 1471.
Royal half-sheet 4o (254 x 184 mm). Collation: [1-310 48 5-810 98 10-1310 148 15-2110] blank, 1/2r text,r colophon,v blank). 203 leaves (of 204, without the first blank). 33 lines. Types: 1:115R; 115Gk. Spaces for initials, some spaces for Greek. Contemporary illumination by a Bohemian artist: opening historiated initial of a bearded Cicero seated with scroll, 16 seven-line initials in green, brick-red, mauve, blue and yellow on contrasting colored grounds, most with floral or foliate modelling, five initials within faceted square frames (one initial [9/7v] apparently unfinished, the modelling of 2 or 3 other initials faded or possibly unfinished, the last initial [21/3r] cropped); 3-line Lombard initials supplied in alternating blue and red, a few flourished, some with manuscript guide letters, two erroneous initials corrected by a second initial in margin; capital highlighting in yellow. (A few letters on 9/2v ?misprinted and touched up in ink, a few minor small stains, occasional very slight showthrough of decoration, minor marginal repair to fol.) Eighteenth-century Alsatian dark blue morocco gilt, sides panelled with triple fillets and floral tools at corners, spine in six compartments, a red morocco lettering-piece in the second, the remainder panelled with flower and star tools, "BRUNCK." stamped at foot of spine, gilt edges, marbled endpapers (minor wear, hinges of central bifolium of each quire reinforced).
Provenance: contemporary marginal notes on 15/4r (cropped) and a few corrections on 11/9r -- unidentified Franciscan Recollect convent: 17th-century inscription (cropped) on first page (Pro. Conv. Rub. FF. Min. Recoll.) -- Richard François Philippe Brunck (1729-1803), Strassburg philologist, editor of Greek texts: binding -- Antoine-Augustin Renouard (1765-1853): 1795 signature at end (not in his 1819 library catalogue or 1854 sale catalogue) -- C. S. Ascherson: bookplate; collection sold to Bernard Quaritch in 1944/45 (undated Quaritch collation mark) -- Albert Ehrman (1890-1969), Broxbourne Library: bookplates and markings; sale, Sotheby's London, 8 May 1978, lot 628 (to Lathrop Harper).
First of two Jenson editions, reprinting the text of the first Sweynheym and Pannartz edition (1469). The writings of Cicero constitute by far the most important single contemporary source for our knowledge of the politics, history, and beliefs of the late Roman Republic, and nowhere are the quotidian details of the period more vividly portrayed than in the sixteen books of his letters to friends and relations. Following several centuries of near-oblivion, a manuscript of the letters (possibly ninth-century, since lost) was "rediscovered" at the Benedictine abbey at Lorsch at the end of the 14th century and brought to Italy. The emergence of the Renaissance Ciceronian ideal, combining a devotion to statesmanship and the cultivation of refined leisure, can be traced in part to the new light shed on Cicero by his intimate letters, which enjoyed enormous popularity throughout the Renaissance, becoming the most frequently copied and printed of all of Cicero's works (see also lot 5, a Renaissance manuscript of this text). Over 60 incunable editions are recorded, the majority printed in Italy; many of the early Venetian editions in particular were widely distributed north of the Alps, as exemplified by the present copy, with its central European decoration. In the 18th century it was acquired by and bound for the noted Hellenist R.F.P. Brunck, whose magnificent collection was seized by the authorities of the ancien régime; some of his greatest treasures then reappeared in Renouard's library.
In a few copies of this edition (as in some other recorded copies of Venetian editions of the 1470s), the first page is decorated with woodcut border-pieces, but these were apparently stamped or printed in a Venetian atelier as a guide to illuminators (cf. Essling 21, BnF copy reproduced).
HCR 5168; BMC V, 169 (IB. 19623a); BSB-Ink. C-325; Essling 21; GW 6806; IGI 2812; Goff C-508.