MARTIALIS, Marcus Valerius (ca. 40-103/4). Epigrammata. Edited by Georgius Merula (1430/31-1494). Venice: Johannes de Colonia and Johannes Manthen, 1475.
Chancery 2o (269 x 190 mm). Collation: a-r10 (a1r blank, a1v letter from Pliny the Younger to Cornelius Priscus after Martial's death, a2r text, r8r Merula's dedicatory letter to Angelo Adriano, r9v colophon, r10 blank). 170 leaves. 34 lines. Types: 1:110(105)R, 110Gk. 4- to 8-line spaces for initials with printed guide-letters. Opening 10-line initial on a2r finely illuminated in gold with white-vine decoration on a white-dotted red, green and blue ground; otherwise unrubricated. (Occasional very minor staining or light foxing to extreme margins, insignificant worming in gutter margins of quires k-l, tiny wormhole in last 4 leaves catching a couple of letters, small tear in inner margin of p1.)
Binding: contemporary Italian dark brown blind-tooled goatskin over thin wooden boards, sides divided into panels by quintuple fillets, decorated with a variety of angular and curved ropework tools forming three borders: an outer border of angular tools composed to form an interlace design, a central border of curved tools forming a chain of interlocking circles each adorned with a six-petalled fleuron, and an inner border of repeated small hatched bow or ribbon tools; spine tooled with intersecting triple fillets forming a diaper design, remains of two fore-edge clasps: 6 star-shaped nails on front cover, single catchplate remaining on lower cover (lacking clasps and second catchplate, a few small old scrapes or tears to leather, some discreet old restoration to joints); folding cloth case.
Provenance: contemporary inscription on lower pastedown -- Conegliano, Capuchins: 17th or 18th-century inscription on title (Loci Capucinorum Coneglani) -- Bassano, Capuchins: 19th-century inkstamps -- H. R. Creswick, Librarian of Cambridge University: bookplate; sale, Sotheby's London, 26 April, 1982, lot 471 (to Quaritch).
Second Venetian edition of Martial's Epigrams, reprinting Giorgio Merula's edition, published by Vindelinus de Spira ca. 1472. To the twelve books of the Epigrams are joined Martial's earliest extant work, the Spectacula, commemorating the theatrical performances given by Emperor Titus at the new Colosseum, and the Xenia and Apophoreta, collections of couplets written to accompany guest-gifts, mostly food and drink, or gifts taken home from banquets during the Saturnalia. Martial's mordant verses depict with unequalled realism the diverse characters of imperial Rome: "gluttons, drunkards, debauchers, hypocrites of various kinds, a few devoted wives, faithful friends, true poets, and honest critics, hot sausage vendors, [and] Gaul[s]" (Oxford Companion to Classical Literature).
Johann of Cologne and Johannes Manthen of Gerresheim took over the printing material of Manthen's employer Vindelinus de Spira after his declaration of bankruptcy in 1473, becoming within a year the principal rivals to Jenson. Classical literature -- an overproduction of which has been held responsible for the collapse of the Venetian book trade in 1473 -- represented a minor part of their output, which was dominated by juridical texts. Following the deaths of both Johann of Cologne and Jenson in the fall of 1480, Manthen formed a syndicate with the firm of Jenson, publishing under the imprint of "Johannes de Colonia et Nicolaus Jenson et socii" until late 1481, and pursuing the two firms' involvement in sales and distribution to such a point that by 1482 the syndicate abandoned printing in order to focus exclusively on bookselling (cf. Scholderer, "Printing at Venice to the end of 1481," Fifty Essays, p. 86.)
Other than the small bow or ribbon tools, the tools used on this elegant binding and their disposition in concentric panels are of a type, originally based on Islamic models, that had become popular throughout Italy by this period, making localization difficult in the absence of contemporary provenance. A similar design of interlocking circles with fleurons appears on a binding covering a 1472 manuscript of Terence at Padua, attributed by de Marinis to Venice (II:1513, pl. C13), but the tools of that binding do not obviously match those employed here.
A FINE COPY. HC 10812; BMC V, 231 (IB. 20242-43); BSB-Ink. M-193; CIBN M-162; Harvard/Walsh 1682-83; Goff M-300.