PLINIUS SECUNDUS, Gaius (Pliny the Elder, 23-79). Historia naturalis. Venice: Johannes de Spira, [before 18 September] 1469.
Royal 2° (404 x 281mm). Collation: [110 28 3-910 1012 11-1810 19-208 21-2810 2912 30-3210 338 34-3610] (1/1r introduction, dedication by Pliny to Domitian, 1/2r tables (Book 1), 3/1r Books 2-9, 11/1r Books 10-19, 21/1r Books 20-34, 34/1r Books 35-37, 36/9v colophon, 36/10 blank). 356 leaves. 50 lines, table in two columns. Type 1:110R1. 8- to 17-line initial spaces opening each book, smaller initial spaces and spaces for headings and some Greek. (Some small wormholes, occasional light spotting or browning, light mildew on first leaf, light dampstain at upper margin of first few quires.) Contemporary blindtooled brown goatskin over wooden boards bevelled at inner edge, central lozenge within two borders formed by repeat ropework and other tools, small punched gilt and painted gesso roundels, spine with intersecting blind fillets, 2 (of 4) clasps fastening to 3 (of 4) shaped brass catchplates on lower cover, chased brass centerpiece on each cover, 2 chased brass cornerpieces on lower cover only, a further cornerpiece detached but present, yellow edges, a pair of vellum endleaves, title lettered along fore-edge (somewhat worn, repairs at spine and board edges, leather straps and pastedowns renewed), modern burgundy half morocco solander box. Provenance: occasional contemporary marginal annotations -- Bibliotheca Grimani Giustiniani, Venice -- Mr. Sofia Moretti, sold to a -- private collector (sale Christie's New York, 8 June 1990, lot 302).
FIRST EDITION. By his own account Pliny sets out 20,000 facts derived from 2000 works to comprise his encyclopedia of knowledge, the Historia naturalis. While it certainly covers subjects of the physical world, geography, agriculture, anthropology, mathematics, etc., the Historia naturalis also includes literature and arts. Its description of sculpture and painting as well as of techniques such as chasing in silver make it an important source for the history of ancient art. The extensive tables and indexes provided by Pliny attest to its aim as a universal reference work, and the authority attributed to Pliny in the Middle Ages attests in turn to its continued usefulness. Even up to his death Pliny followed his natural curiosity, preferring to stay and observe the eruption of Vesuvius rather than flee its flames and sulphurous vapours.
ONE OF THE FIRST THREE BOOKS PRINTED AT VENICE. Johannes de Spira, first printer there, had printed two editions of Cicero, this Pliny, and had started work on Augustine's De civitate Dei when he died later in 1469. According to the colophon in the Augustine which was written by his brother and successor, Vindelinus, the Pliny was printed in an edition of 100 copies only and took three months to complete. It was finished by 18 September 1469, when it was mentioned as published in a patent of that date granting Johannes a monopoly for printing in Venice and its environs.
In this copy fo.1 lines 13 and 14 end ...apud me and ... co[n]stitui as in BL copies IC.19507-09, and fo.5r, col.1 line 5 ...vbi nascant\\f as in IC.19506. HC(+Add) 13087; BMC V, 153 (IC. 19506-9); CIBN P-457; Klebs 786.1; IGI 7878; PMM 5; Flodr, Plinius Maior 1; Goff P-786.