ERASMUS, Desiderius (Rotterdam 1466, 1467 or 1469-1536 Basel). Adagiorum chiliades quatuor, centuriaeque totidem. Quibus etiam quinta additur imperfecta. Edited by Gianfrancesco Torresani (1498?-1558). Venice: Aldine Press (Andrea Torresani and sons), September 1520.
Aldine 2° (320 x 210mm). Collation: A-B8 C10 (A1r title and device, A1v list of Greek and Latin authors, A2r editor's preface to the reader, verso blank, A3r indices, C10v blank); a-z aa-pp8 (a1r text, pp7r register and colophon, pp7v-8r blank, pp8v printer's woodcut device [Fletcher f6]). 330 leaves. Roman and greek types. Printer's devices illuminated in blue and silver (oxidized), first lines of title and indices heightened in gold, red penwork decoration on liquid-gold initials, executed in Paris for Jean Grolier. (Top margins dampstained, repair to extreme upper blank margin of some 70 leaves.)
PARISIAN BINDING OF C.1540-46 BY JEAN PICARD FOR JEAN GROLIER (Treasurer of France, c.1489-1565): gold-tooled olive morocco over pasteboard, border of a repeated arabesque tool (CdeP 22) and multiple fillets surrounding a design of intersecting ribbons formed by gouges and fillets, containing solid tools CdeP 1, 2, 3, 4, 8a+b, 26, 49a+b, title lettered in centre of front cover, Grolier's "et amicorum" ownership lettered at foot of front cover, his personal motto lettered in centre of back cover, original spine tooled and lettered in the 17th century, gilt edges, original headbands, (binding extensively restored and endpapers renewed for George Hibbert, colour somewhat faded, lettering flaked in places, ties removed). Provenance: Jean Grolier (binding, illumination) -- Count Justin de MacCarthy Reagh (1815 Paris sale, lot 3647, bought at 132 fr. by Thomas Payne the younger for) -- George Hibbert, who commissioned the highly skilful restoration (March 1829 Evans sale, lot 2910, bought at £20 by Payne and Foss plus commission to) -- Beriah Botfield (P. & F. Acquisitions p. 33).
From the vast array of his reading Erasmus built up carefully chosen collections of extracts with commentary, 'not a very accessible work to the modern reader, but one read and re-read a hundred times by Renaissance schoolboys, who discovered in it ancient culture represented by proverbs and quotations, both given in full and set in the context of the history of thought, language and institutions' (Léon-E. Halkin, Erasmus, tr. J. Tonkin, p.46). From 1500 onwards Adages went through numerous editions north and south of the Alps, as Erasmus regularly and substantially added to them. A month after Torresani's edition (the second from the Aldine Press), in October 1520, Froben published a new edition in Basel augmented by Erasmus and edited by Michael Bentinus (c.1495-1527), rendering the Venetian edition obsolete. Gianfrancesco apparently wrote an annoyed letter to the great man, reminding him of his long-standing relations with the Aldine Press. Erasmus's reply survives (Allen, Ep. 1349), proposing further additions and revisions for yet another edition, but the offer was turned down. Renouard 89.2; Vander Haeghen p.2; A. Cataldi Palau, Gian Francesco d'Asola e la Tipografia Aldina 55.
As Anthony Hobson points out, Gabriel Austin's reconstruction and census of the library of Jean Grolier, one of the greatest of all patrons of bookbinding and admirer of Erasmus, in fact records the remains of three collections he formed. They coincide with the vicissitudes of his political career in the service of the French monarchy: 1) Milanese library, mostly lost in 1512 or 1521; 2) First French library, lost through a forced sale in 1536; 3) Final library. After having spent the years 1533-38 in prison, Grolier enjoyed a reversal of fortune and could start to build another humanistic library for himself 'and friends'. In 1540 Torresano chose the bookseller and leading binder, Jean Picard, to be his Paris agent of the Aldine Press; the bookseller had to submit monthly accounts to Grolier as Torresano's friend and representative. Grolier was probably Picard's best client as well, as he bought multiple copies of many Aldine imprints and commissioned numerous luxury bindings from him in the next half-dozen years. He owned at least two copies of the 1520 Adagia, both bound by Picard. Austin 174; Nixon 69; Hobson, Renaissance Book Collectors ch.3 app. 1.