Glasgow Incunabula Project update (6/12/13)

About a year ago we blogged about the first volume to be printed in Venice by Aldus Manutius. I return to this most celebrated of printers today, with a later book from his press that we hold in three copies.


Bc225_tpAnother work in Greek, the Epistolae diversorum philosophorum, oratorum, rhetorum sex et viginti is a collection of the correspondence of various Greek philosophers and orators, including Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Apollonius and Pythagoras (although much of the authorship is now cited as “pseudo”). Published in two parts in 1499, it was edited by Marcus Musurus who collaborated with Aldus in producing a number of first printed editions of Greek texts, and who was later appointed as Professor of Greek language at the University of Padua. Other examples of works he edited can be traced using our authors/editors/translators index.

Our first copy of this work has belonged to the University of Glasgow since at least the end of the 18th century. Its details are found in the 1791 library catalogue produced by Archibald Arthur, but we have no further information on how or when it was first acquired.

Bl9-g.15-16 copy: modern binding

Bl9-g.15-16 copy: modern binding

Given the curriculum of the University at this time, with its emphasis on philosophy and the classics, the acquisition of this work is hardly a surprise; although there are no annotations, the volume was rebound in the 1960s replacing its 18th century covering – presumably having become dilapidated following generations of use by students at Glasgow.

William Hunter owned the other two copies found here today. As a collector with a particular interest in Greek works (especially Aldines it would seem), this is also unsurprising.

We know that he acquired one of these copies in 1776 at the sale of César de Missy (1703-1775), who was a German New Testament scholar and minister of the French chapel in the Savoy, London. This was an important sale for Hunter in building up his Greek collection; as well as printed works, he managed to secure eleven manuscripts from this library. Prior to de Missy, we know that this copy belonged to the Jesuits of Padua thanks to an inscription on its opening page, but the name of another early owner remains elusive.

Bb.2.29 copy: title-page of Part II with ownership inscriptions

Bb.2.29 copy: title-page of Part II with ownership inscriptions

There is an inscription in Greek that we cannot fully read, although it does seem to incorporate the name Georgios: “[…] γεωργιου […]”. There are frequent marginal annotations in Greek, as well as partial foliation, irregular pagination and an incomplete manuscript index provided in this same 15th/16th century hand. Obviously an early and intensive reader of this text, we would be grateful if anyone can help us decipher this inscription further.

Bb.2.29 copy: Jesuits inscription and partially read Greek inscription

Bb.2.29 copy: Jesuits inscription and partially read Greek inscription

The de Missy copy is imperfect, however – consisting only of Part II. Perhaps another library now has the counterpart, with further notes and inscriptions by “Georgios”? And perhaps it was in order to gain completeness that Hunter purchased his second copy of this work, which has survived in both parts. Unfortunately, since we have no further information on when or how he acquired this set, this sadly must remain as speculation!

These are the latest ten books to be added to the project website:

Categories: Special Collections

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