PLINIUS SECUNDUS, GAIUS. Historia naturale...tradocta di lingua latina in fiorentina per Christophoro Landino. Venice: Nicolaus Jenson 1476.
Royal folio, 416 x 279mm. (16 3/8 x 11in.), early nineteenth-century Italian patterned red morocco, covers with gilt border around an inner border, richly gilt with a variety of ornamental tools, spine in seven compartments, gilt-lettered in three, the rest gilt tooled, turn-ins with broad gilt border around an inner frame of gilt paper cutwork over blue paper, doublures and free endpages of light blue watered silk, g.e., by Gregorio Chiari, with his ticket; head and foot of spine, joints, edges and corners worn, a few scratches on covers, fols. 1/2, 1/5 and 1/6 each with small patch on verso at lower margin, added sewing guards, fols. 1/3 and 27/6 with small marginal tears, the first repaired, fols. 9/8, 12/6-7, 21/5-8, 30/8-9 and 37/2 with minor stains, fol. 43/9 with patch to lower blank corner, a few leaves browned, some minor dampstaining and a few marginal stains.
Collation: [1-21 22-26 27-35 36 (36/10+1) 37 38 39 40-41 42 43 ]. Contents: 1/1 blank, 1/2r-5r: translator's dedication, Christophoro Landino to Ferrante, King of Naples, 1/5r blank, 1/6r-7v: preface, 1/7v-3/1r: table of contents, 3/1v blank, 3/2r-43/9v: text, 43/10 blank. 413 leaves (of 415, lacks first and final blank leaves), without signatures or foliation. Types: 115(111)R; 115Gk. 50 lines. Capital spaces with guide letters. Text with none of the variants in quires 11, 12, and 34 noted by Hain, fol. 42/3 with the spelling "Schisto" in the heading of ch. XX. Some contemporary ink foliation preserved. Ruled and underlined in red throughout; headline book numbers, paragraph marks, ornamental line fillers and two-line initials all supplied in alternating red and blue penwork, text capitals mostly heightened with yellow throughout; fol. 1/2 illuminated with a full page-border of flower sprays and stylized leaves in blue, green and pink with silver (oxidized) and gold, a female figure in the fore-border, an erased coat-of-arms in the lower border, incorporating a 6-line initial D in blue with maroon floral infill on a gold ground, fol. 1/6 with a similarly decorated three-quarter border incorporating a 13-line initial D in maroon with blue and white floral infill on a gold ground; the remaining 36 large initial capitals (two 13-line, one 12-line, 27 11-line, 5 10-line and two 6-line) supplied in fine red and blue brushwork with intricate penwork infill, in red, pink, mauve or black with marginal extensions, occasional grotesque faces, the illumination executed in Bruges (see below).
First Edition in Italian, and first edition in the vernacular, of Pliny the elder's only extant work. This was the first important scientific text to appear in print (Venice 1469). Pliny's encyclopaedic compilation was derived from some 2000 books (according to its author) and it was widely studied throughout Antiquity, the Middle Ages and into Modern times. A desire to observe the eruption of Vesuvius at close quarters led to Pliny's death at Castellamare at the age of fifty-six. This translation, which has been called the most influential edition published by Jenson, was commissioned by members of the Florentine banking family of the Strozzi, who evidently saw commercial possibilities in the distribution of vernacular literature and luxury books. Early in 1476 their accounts record a payment of 731 ducats "for the 86 bales of paper they provided to print the vernacular Pliny" and another of 50 florins to the translator. The Strozzi also made use of their commercial connections and agents to distribute the book throughout Italy and Europe; their accounts record a shipment to Bruges and London in August 1476 that included eight copies of this edition, as well as copies of Jenson's 1472 Latin Pliny and other books (M. Lowry, Nicholas Jenson [Oxford, 1991]).
H 13105; IGI 7893; Proctor 4099; BMC V 176 (IC19694); Lowry 48; Goff P-801.
ILLUMINATION AND PROVENANCE
Many copies of Jenson's Latin and Italian editions of Pliny were illuminated in Italy with historiated initials based on the medieval tradition or executed in a new classicizing style (L. Armstrong, "The Illustration of Pliny's Historia Naturalis in Venetian Manuscripts and Early Printing" in J.B. Trapp, ed., Manuscripts in the Fifty Years After the Invention of Printing [London, 1983], pp. 97-105). The illumination of the present copy -- described in the Pinelli catalogue as "esemplare di maravigliosa nitidezza" -- was probably executed in Bruges. The borders on 1/2r and 1/6r are in a style found in Franco-Flemish manuscripts of c. 1465-1480. The two initials on these pages resemble initials found in incunables illuminated in Bruges in the 1460s, e.g. the Doheny copy of the 1462 Fust and Schoeffer Bible (Christie's New York, 22 October 1987, lot 5, and ibid., pp. 291-293, and the Pierpont Morgan Library's vellum copy of the Gutenberg Bible (PML 13, 818). Both the present copy of Pliny and the Doheny Fust and Schoeffer Bible are completely ruled in red and highlight the small printed capitals in the text with yellow wash. The Pliny also offers a series of exceptionally large and fine pen-work initials flourished in patterns found in Bruges work of the late fifteenth century.
Later provenance (verso of first front endleaf):
Cutting from De Bure, Bibliographie instructive (Paris 1764), no. 1472 [recte 1471].
Bookplate of Comte D. Boutourlin (sale catalogue, Paris 1839, no. 535). No. 156 (in red ink)
Leather book label of E.P. Goldschmidt (A Catalogue of One Hundred Early Printed Books Mostly in Their Original Bindings [his cat. I, 1923], no. 86, described as the Pinelli copy [J. Morelli, Bibliotheca Maphaei Pinelli Veneti, Venice 1787, vol. 4, no. 416; sale, 1789, no. 1121]).
Juan Carlos Ahumada, bookplate; the present owner.