MARTIALIS, Marcus Valerius (ca. 40-ca. 104). Epigrammata. Edited by Georgius Merula (1430/31-1494). [Venice:] Vindelinus de Spira, [ca. 1472].
Royal half-sheet 4o (278 x 201 mm). Collation: [1-510 610(6/3+1) 7-910 (1/1r blank, 1/1v C. Caecilius Plinius [the younger, ca.61-ca.112], Epistola to Cornelius Priscus, 1/2r books 1-7, 9/10v blank); 10-1810 (books 8-12, 18/9r Merula, Epistola ad Angelum Adrianum, 18/10v verse colophon by Raphael Zovenzonius [1431-ca.1485])]. 179 leaves (of 181, lacking half-sheet 1/2.9). 32 lines. Type: 1:110R2. 6- to 8-line initial spaces, most with printed guide letters. 6-line roman capitals supplied in red or blue. Contemporary marginal verse numbers supplied in red, early manuscript quiring, manuscript foliation in books 1-5. (Worming affecting text in first and last few quires, short marginal tear in fol. 2/8, a few corners creased, light foxing to outer blank margins, occasional marginal dampstaining.)
Binding: contemporary North Italian blind-tooled brown goatskin over thin wooden boards, the covers panelled with triple blind fillets, a border of straight and curved hatched tools repeated to form a plaited or knotwork effect, enclosing, at corners and top and bottom, triple-outlined semi-circles filled with the same knotwork tooling, the centerpiece a triple-outlined eight-pointed star also filled with interlaced knotwork tools, each cover with the inner two (of four) plain brass bosses, four square chased brass catches with Agnus Dei stamp on lower cover, lacking clasps, later pastedown endleaves, no front free endleaves or flyleaves, 3 flyleaves at back (backstrip and headcaps gone, covers very worn and wormed with substantial loss at corners, a geometrical figure drawn in ink on upper cover); folding cloth case.
Provenance: Nicolaus Gastaldus (contemporary ownership inscriptions, the first, on back flyleaf, stating that he won the book from master Johannes de Bon[?]fante: "Iste liber est meus nicolaus gastaudis qui peto ad ludum magistri Johannis de bonfante qui est bonus homo in sua scientia et in sua gramatica et in suo domo" -- contemporary or 16th-century interlinear and marginal commentary in red ink in a small neat humanist hand (Book I only, including a few notes in Greek) -- ?J. G[?]rueri (16th-century signature on scroll and ?notarial devices including tree and papal keys, etc.) -- several inscriptions on back endleaves in at least three 15th and 16th-century hands, including several drafts or copies of Italian verses, one inscription of "Stefanus" dated 21 April 1526 -- Walter Goldwater (sale, New York, Swann Galleries, 5 December 1985, lot 35).
Third edition, the first edited by Giorgio Merula. To the 12 books of the Epigrams are added the 33 surviving poems of the Spectacula, Martial's first known work, written to celebrate the opening in 80 A.D. of the Colosseum, and the collections of elegiac couplets known as the Xenia and Apophoreta, often treated as books 13 and 14, which consist of mottoes to accompany gifts, either guest-gifts, mainly of food or drink, or the great variety of gifts (ranging from animals to clothes, works of arts, and even slaves), taken home from banquets at the festival of the Saturnalia. Like the Epigrams themselves, these provide invaluable insights into contemporary Roman society.
Previously dated circa 1469-1473, this edition has been dated more closely to circa 1472 on the basis of the state of the typeface. Curt Bhler noted the existence of two states of the first leaf of Merula's letter to Angelus Adrianus (whom he identified as Angelo Probi, Neapolitan ambassador to Venice from ca. 1464 until his death in 1474). After a number of sheets had already been printed, Merula objected to the text as originally set by the compositor, resulting in a cancel leaf 18/9 found in some copies. This copy contains the uncorrected version. (Curt Bhler, "Some early editions of Martial," Humanisme actif: mélanges... offerts à Julien Cain, Paris 1968, II, 199-204.)
The binding, with its 8-pointed star and clasps catching on the lower cover, is characteristic of the early style of Italian bindings inspired by Islamic models (cf. A. Hobson, Humanists and Bookbinders, p. 19). Closely similar hatched "knotwork" tools, direct imitations of Egyptian or Maghreb tools, were used in this period on bindings produced in several Italian cities, notably Florence, Naples and Venice, making it difficult to localize examples based on their tools alone. The lower endpapers bear a Lombard watermark (an 8-petalled flower similar to Briquet 6592 [Bergamo, Milan] and 6588 [Milan]). Nearly identical knotwork borders using apparently the same short stubby straight tools and small curved tools appear on two bindings reproduced by Tammaro de Marinis, the first on a manuscript by Leonardo Grifi, bishop of Gubbio, at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (de Marinis III, 2550, pl. 426, attributed to Milan), the second on a 10th-century manuscript of Boethius, also at the BnF, in a binding of the 1450's signed, in the codex, by the binder, one Jacobus, caretaker (bidello) of the university at Pavia (de Marinis III, 2557B, pl. A2, and pp. 10-11).
A LARGE COPY. H 10809*; BMC V, 164; CIBN M-160; Flodr, Martialis A.1; Harvard/Walsh 1536; IGI 6217; Pr 4055; Goff M-297.