MUSAEUS (attributed to). Opusculum de Herone et Leandro, in Greek and Latin. Venice: Aldus Manutius, Romanus [before November 1495 (Greek) - 1497-1498 (Latin)].
Super-chancery 4° (206 x 152mm). Collation: a10 b12, interleaved (b1r title in Greek and Latin, b1v Greek errata, Musaeus' epitaph in Greek and Latin, a1r address by Aldus in Greek, a1v two epigrams by Marcus Musurus in Greek, b2r Musurus's epigrams in Latin, b2v Latin text, a2r Greek text, b6v Antipatri epigram in Greek, b7r Antipatri in Latin, b7v continuation of Musaeus' text in Latin with Greek text opposite, a10v colophon in Greek, b12r end of text in Latin, b12v blank). 22 leaves. 20 lines. Type: 1:146Greek, 2:114R (leaded to 140), 7:114Greek (Antipatri epigrams). Two woodcut scenes on b6v-7r, woodcut interlace headpiece and initials opening text on b2v and a2r. (Occasional light spotting, tiny hole in final leaf not affecting text.) Olive morocco tooled in gilt and blind, title lettered in gilt on upper cover, Aldine dolphin device on lower cover, single fleuron in spine compartments, gilt edges, by C. Lewis, signed on front flyleaf. Provenance: 19th-century bibliographical note in Italian written on front flyleaf, citing the Loménie de Brienne copy fetching the 'exorbitant' price of 550 French francs in 1792 and quoting Renouard -- Beriah Botfield from Payne and Foss for £21 (P. & F. Acquisitions, p.64).
SECOND EDITION OF THE GREEK TEXT AND FIRST OF THE LATIN, AND ONE OF THE EARLIEST BOOKS PRINTED BY ALDUS MANUTIUS, preceded only by Lascaris's Erotemata and possibly by the Galeomyomachia. The Greek and Latin texts were printed independently as two separate quires at different times -- the Greek before 1 November 1495 and the Latin probably in 1498 -- and interleaved so that the texts run parallel; they were offered together as a biglot edition in Aldus's 1498 list of publications. Although described by some bibliographers (Renouard and, more recently Babcock and Sosower) as the first book printed by Aldus, the Musaeus must on typographical grounds be dated after Lascaris, which was printed in 1494-95; its terminus ante quem can be established from Aldus's prefatory address in Greek, in which he speaks of the Musaeus as a precursor to his Aristotle, the first volume of which was published on 1 November 1495. The Latin text cannot have been printed before 1497, since its roman type shows certain sorts which first appeared in that year. Several copies containing only the Greek text survive, attesting to its separate, earlier availability. Hero and Leander in Greek was first printed together with the Greek Gnomae at Florence by Lorenzo di Alopa; although undated, it belongs to the second half of 1494 or early 1495 (cf. Proctor Greek, p.80).
Musaeus' poem satisfied two of Aldus's ideals for his publishing programme: to foster the study of the Greek language, and thereby to facilitate the study of ancient texts in the original language. Aldus, like Ficino and Lascaris (the editor of the Florentine edition), considered Hero and Leander to be 'the work of the mythical associate of Orpheus, entitled to respect for its exceptional antiquity' (Wilson, p.100). He considered it the source for Ovid's Heroides 18 and 19, and it was not until much later that the poem was recognised as dating from the early Byzantine era (5th century A.D.). In the hands of Aldus, the work also became a didactic tool for the study of Greek, highlighted by the addition of his own word-for-word Latin translation. Marcus Musurus, two of whose epigrams are printed in the volume, is sometimes credited with the Latin translation, but Aldus's autograph printer's copy for it survives in Sélestat (Sicherl, Die Musaios-Ausgabe des Aldus Manutius, in Italia Medioevale e Umanistica 19, 1976, pp.261-76; M.L. Ford, 'Author's Autograph and Printer's Copy', Incunabula, Studies in 15th-century Printed Books, no. 34).
The poem in hexameters tells the story of Leander and Hero, star-crossed lovers living on opposite sides of the Hellespont. The woodcuts in the Aldine edition illustrate its climax when Leander, swimming across the Hellespont to be with Hero, drowns in its currents, and a grief-stricken Hero throws herself to her death. They are the first illustrations published by Aldus.
With MS corrections on pages 3, 5, 6v, 15v and 16 (not on fo.2) made in the Aldine shop as outlined by Bühler ('Aldus Manutius and his First Edition of the Greek Musaeus', Early Books and Manuscripts, 1973, pp.162-9). Renouard found the order of the Latin leaves varies in different copies; in the present copy they are in the order given by Renouard. HC *11653; BMC V, 552 (IA. 24385-7); BSB-Ink M-592; CIBN M-558; IGI 6761; Goff M-880; Babcock and Sosower 44; Ahmanson-Murphy 2 (Greek only); Barker Aldus Manutius and the Development of Greek Script & Type in the 15th century, pp.52, 119; Proctor, Printing of Greek, pp. 94ff.