VALLA, Laurentius (1406-57). Opera. Basel: Henricus Petrus, March 1540.
2° (311 x 200mm). 493 leaves (of 516, lacking qq1-4 tt8 10 AA1, containing Valla's denunciation of the Donation of Constantine, excised by an early owner, otherwise collation as Adams). Roman, italic and Greek types, 50 lines and headline, Commentary on the New Testament in double column. Woodcut ornamental and historiated initials, printer's device on title and final verso. (Very lightly browned.)
BINDING: contemporary Augsburg binding for Bonaccorso Grino, blindstamped pigskin over bevelled wooden boards, the sides panelled with roll of religious scenes and, on the front cover, foliate roll, floral tool in spine compartments, remains of two brass fore-edge clasps (a few small stains). Provenance: Bonaccorso Grino (kinsman by marriage of Pillone); Odorico Pillone (edges); Sir Thomas Brooke (bookplate); Berès 128.
VECELLIO FORE-EDGE PAINTING: Valla as a teacher behind a podium lecturing to an audience of two seated youths in rear view, in a panelled room, the author's name lettered vertically and, abbreviated, horizontally. Other edges cream marbled with grey.
FIRST COLLECTED EDITION of the works of the humanist scholar. His De elegantiis Latinae linguae was a highly influential critical study of the Latin language, and the De voluptate extraordinarily recognised human desires in a moral philosophy. Valla's exposure of the Donation of Constantine as false has been excised from this copy, apparently after Vecellio had painted its edges. Written in 1439, it was the first denunciation of the forgery, sparking a debate which continued for centuries and to which the present copy so vividly bears witness. Adams V-152.