HOMER (?8th century B.C.). Opera, in Greek. Edited by Demetrius Chalcondylas (1423-1511). Florence: [Printer of Virgil (C 6061), perhaps Bartolommeo di Libri, and] Demetrius Damilas for the brothers Bernardus and Nerius Nerlius (with the financial support of Giovanni Acciaiuoli), 9 December 1488 [but not published before 13 January 1488/89, date of the dedication].
2 volumes, median 2° (325 x 235mm). Collation: [Vol. I:] A-D8 E10 (A1r Bernardo Nerli's dedicatory letter to Piero de' Medici in Latin, A1v editor's preface in Greek, A3r Herodotus' life of Homer, B1r Plutarch's life of Homer, E7v Dio Cassius' oration on Homer, E9v-10 blank); 2A-Z ET \\j8 \\a8 (Iliad). 250 leaves. [Vol. II:] AA-ZZ8 ETET6 (AA1r Odyssey, XX2r Batrachomyomachia, XX6r Hymns to Apollo, ETET5v colophon in Greek, ETET6 blank). 189 leaves (of 190, without final blank). 39 lines. Types: text 121Gk (recast by Damilas on a larger body, with the addition of a few sorts, from the same matrices as Paravisinus type 1:117Gk), dedication 96R (Di Libri type 1), signatures 110R (Printer of Benignus type 1). 10-, 8-, 3- and 2-line initial spaces. Dark olive crushed morocco by Marius Michel, olive morocco doublures with a semé of fleurs-de-lis, vellum flyleaves, gilt edges (very minor scuffing); modern half-morocco solander box. Provenance: occasional notes in a contemporary humanist hand (washed) -- Lyons, University library (stamp and 1843 release stamp) -- Constantine Radoulesco (booklabel, monogram stamp) -- H. Bradley Martin (bookplate, sale Sotheby's NY, 14 June 1900, lot 3355) -- J.R. Ritman, Amsterdam (Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica bookplate; sale Sotheby's, 5 December 2001, lot 60).
EDITIO PRINCEPS of all texts, with the exception of Batrachomyomachia, which was printed earlier in a Greek-Latin edition. THE FLORENCE HOMER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FIRST EDITION IN GREEK LITERATURE. Its editor, Chalcondylas, had enjoyed the patronage of the humanist Cardinal Bessarion at Rome before arriving in Florence in 1475. He was considered the leading scholar of his day, and counted among his pupils Thomas Linacre, Pico, Politian, and the future pope Leo X. A fresco in Santa Maria Novella in Florence by Ghirlandaio pictures him, together with Ficino, Landino and Politian. In preparing his text Chalcondylas consulted Eustathius' monumental 12th-century commentary, which enabled him to clarify uncertain readings in the Iliad and the Odyssey, but he warns in his preface that the texts of the Hymns and of the Batrachomyomachia still leave much to be desired.
Earlier castings of the Homer type, whose design may have been modelled on Michael Apostolis' script (see N. Barker, Greek Script & Type pp. 28-31), had been used by Damilas and Paravisinus for the Lascaris' Erotemata (Milan 1476), the first book printed entirely in Greek, and by Bonus Accursius for his first editions of Aesop and Crastonus. Damilas took the matrices and perhaps the punches with him to Florence, where he recast the type for the Homer, adding several new sorts; it was subsequently used in only three other works. (Cf. Proctor, The Printing of Greek in the 15th Century, pp. 66-69, and R. Ridolfi, La Stampa in Firenze nel secolo XV, chapter 7.) HCR 8772; BMC VI, 678 (IB. 27657); CIBN H-173; IGI 4795; Flodr, Homerus I; PMM 31; Goff H-300.