The Second Aldine Caesar

Caesar, Gaius Iulius (100-44 B.C.)

Hoc volvmine continentvr haec: Commentariorum de bello Gallico libri VIII. De bello ciuili Pompeiano libri IIII. De bello Alexandrino liber I. De bello Africano liber I. De bello Hispaniensi liber I. Pictura totius Galliae, & Hispaniae secundum C. Caesaris Commentarios. Nomina locorum, urbiumq[ue] & populorum Galliae, & Hispaniae, ut olim dicebantur latine, & nunc dicantur, secundum ordinem alphabeti. Pictura pontis in Rheno. Item Auarici. Alexiae. Vxelloduni. Massiliae.

Venice: In aedibvs Aldi, et Andreae soceri, Mense Ianvario. 1518 [and] Mense Novemb. 1519


Octavo: 16.3 x 10 cm. [16], 296 leaves. Collation: A-B8, a-z8, aa-kk8; ll-oo8. Complete with blank leaves B8 and kk7.

SECOND ALDINE EDITION (first 1513). Edited by Giovanni Giocondo.

Bound in 18th c. stiff vellum, the spine atttractively tooled in gold and with a black leather label, gilt. A tall copy with the occasional smudge or light blemish but overall very nice. With the Aldine anchor and dolphin device on the title page and the versos of leaves kk8 and 008. Illustrated with 7 woodcuts. The first six: the bridge constructed over the Rhine by Caesar in 55, the defenses of Bourges (sacked by Caesar in 52), the city and defenses of Alesia (where Vercingetorix capitulated in 52), the fortress of Uxellodunum, and Marseille, (besieged by Caesar in 49 during the civil war with Pompey,) are based on those first used in the Aldine edition of 1513. The seventh woodcut, a map of Hispania, was first used by the Giunta firm in 1514 in their counterfeit of the 1513 Aldine.

This edition contains Caesar's extant works: the “Commentarii de Bello Gallico”, Caesar’s account of his campaigns in Gaul, covering the period from 58 to 52 B.C.; and the “De Bello Civili”, covering the events of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey in 49 and 48 B.C.. Also included are Book VIII of the "Bellum Gallicum", and the "Bellum Alexandrinum" (appended to the three books of the “Bellum Civili” as Books IV through VII), both attributed to Caesar's lieutenant Aulus Hirtius. The volume concludes with an “index of people and places” by Raimondo Marliani.

Admired for their style (most famously by Cicero) and read by both his supporters and detractors alike in antiquity, Caesar’s Commentarii fell into obscurity in the Middle Ages. A mere thirty manuscripts produced before 1400 have survived. Of these, eighteen contain the “Bellum Gallicum” only; the other twelve contain the texts of all five Bella. The oldest of the first type, preserved in Paris, dates to the first quarter of the ninth century. Of the latter type, the oldest was written in the mid-tenth century and is now in the Laurenziana in Florence.

It was in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that Caesar once again became the focus of intensive study, particularly in Italy, where the question of whether dictatorship or republic was the best model for government was hotly debated. In this debate, Caesar stood as the prime exemplum of the tyrant and Scipio Africanus was promoted as the emblem of the virtus romana of Republican Rome. Caesar’s military genius and skills as a politician were also much studied in this period and into the sixteenth-century.

“The unadorned style of Caesar’s Commentarii, the rejection of rhetorical embellishments characteristic of true historia, the notable reduction of evaluative language- all contribute to the apparent objective, impassive tone of Caesar’s narration. Beneath this impassivity, however, modern criticism has discovered, so it believes, tendentious interpretations and distortions of the events for the purpose of political propaganda.” (Conte, "Latin Literature, A History")

Renouard, p. 88, no. 11; Ahmanson-Murphy, No.’s 185 and 185a