Ovid’s Metamorphoses in 16th c. England. One of the First Books Printed at Cambridge & A Source for Sandys’ Ovid

Ovidius Naso, Publius (43 BCE-17 CE); Sabinus [Schuler], Georg (1508-1560)

Fabularum Ouidii interpretatio, ethica, physica, et historica, tradita in Academia Regiomontana à Georgio Sabino, & in vnum collecta & edita studio & industria T.T. Accessit etiam ex natalis comitis mythologijs de fabularum vtilitate, varietate, partibus & scriptoribus, deq́[ue] apologorum, fabularum, ænorumq́[ue] differentia, tractatio. Cum indice verborum & rerum præcipuarum in Ouidio & Sabino comprehensarum

Cambridge: ex officina Thomæ Thomæ celeberrimæ Academiæ Cantabrigiensis typographi, 1584


Octavo: [16], 407, 410-589, 600-638, [14] p. Collation: [par.]8, A-Qq8, Rr8


Bound in modern quarter green calf and corners with cloth boards. A fine copy internally, the text of Ovid’s poem is printed in italic type. Sabinus’ commentary is in Roman.

This is the sole edition of Georg Sabinus’ “Fabularum Ovidii Interpretatio” (“Interpretation of the Fables of Ovid”) printed in England. First published in 1554, Sabinus’ work was printed independently of Ovid’s poem but for this edition, the editor Thomas Thomas (1553-1588), Cambridge’s first University Printer (famously described in a Marprelate tract as ‘that puritan Cambridge printer’), added the complete text of the “Metamorphoses.”

George Sandys, who translated Ovid’s poem into English in the early 17th c., relied on Sabinus’ work while writing the commentary that accompanied his translation. And although Sandys consulted other commentators in the course of his works, “it is Sabinus who is the controlling influence on Sandys’ commentary”(Cummings, Dictionaries and Commentaries, p. 106)

Thomas Thomas, The Cambridge University Press, & Ovid:

“On May 3, 1583, Thomas Thomas, a former fellow of King’s College, succeeded John Kingston as University Printer (Kingston had been appointed University Printer in 1576 but never published a book.) Though neither a printer nor a publisher by trade, Thomas had recently married the widow of a local bookbinder and, subsequently, commenced to establish a printing house in Cambridge. Immediately, Thomas found himself faced with hostility from London’s Company of Stationers… Irate members of London’s book trade, who felt that Thomas was infringing upon their rights, apparently seized his ‘presse and furniture.’ On June 14, 1583, officials at Cambridge were forced to appeal to Lord Burghley for aid [and] with the assistance of Burghley, matters were arranged in Cambridge’s favor. From 1584 to 1588, Thomas printed approximately 20 books. Upon his death in 1588, records show that Thomas had remaining only ‘26 Ovides w. Sabinus com. in quiers in the garret and 2 in the shoppe in quiers, & 1 bounde in leather in the garret.’”(Reid, “Ovidian Bibliofictions and the Tudor Book”, p. 184-185)

STC (2nd ed.), 18951; ESTC S113837. Further reading: McKitterick, "A History of Cambridge University Press", Ch. 5. "Thomas Thomas, That Puritan Printer", p. 71-108