VALLA, Laurentius (1406-57). Elegantiae linguae latinae. -De ego mei tui sui. Venice: Nicolaus Jenson, 1471.
Half-sheet royal 4° (330 x 204mm). Collation: [1-612.10.10 712 814 9-1010 1112 128 136 14-1810 198 208] (1/1r blank, 1/1v dedicatory letter to Joannes Tortellius, 1/3r Elegantiae linguae latinae, 18/6r De ego mei tui sui, 19/6v colophon, 19/7-8 blank, 20/1r index). 202 leaves. 39 lines. Type: 1:115R, spaces for Greek. Illuminated by a contemporary north Italian artist, 11 burnished gold or silver six-line initials on green, blue and pink ground with white-vine decoration and white dots opening the preface, each book, and the De ego mei tui sui, preface with three-sided interlace border in red and green with white dots on silver ground, 2-line initials alternating in red and blue, chapter numbers, book numbers in headline, and paragraph marks in red, MS guide-letters. Two pinholes per leaf, occasional contemporary quiring visible. (Washed, removing some blue decoration, silver oxidised, initials to bks. IV and V possibly re-touched, small wormholes in first quire and from quire 17 to end, those in first and final quire filled, small stains in final 2 leaves, first and final leaves lightly browned, discreetly repaired marginal tear in 6/6.) Red morocco, narrow roll-tooled border on sides, spine lettered in 2 compartments and gilt, gilt edges, by J. Clarke, signed on front flyleaf (spine faded). Provenance: early inscription removed from second leaf, foliation and page references in index added in an early hand, red chapter numbering corrected from chapter CXXXVIII, probably by the same hand.
SECOND EDITION of Valla's great examination of the Latin language, which, as the standard guide to the language, became a foundation text of Renaissance humanism. Having grown out of the study of grammar and rhetoric, humanism had as it original aims the recovery of Latin texts and the restoration of good Latin, particularly the 'pure' style of the golden age of the Roman empire as represented by Cicero. Valla's Elegantiae linguae latinae subjected Latin to a critical analysis, which became a model for linguistic studies of the Renaissance. It was printed 59 times from its first edition in 1471 to 1536 (cf. Wilson, From Byzantium to Italy, p.75). Despite the large number of editions, copies of the Elegantiae linguae latinae are very rare on the market, and only nine copies of 15th-century editions (including only one of Jenson's and one [imperfect] of Lignamine's 1471 editions) have been sold at auction in the past 25 years. HCR 15802; BMC V, 171 (IB. 19625-6); CIBN V-37; IGI 10082; Goff V-51.