A Rare Venetian Incunabulum- In A Contemporary Landshut Binding

Cicero, Marcus Tullius (106-43 B.C.E.)

De officiis. Commentary by Petrus Marsus. Laelius, sive de amicitia. Commentary by Omnibonus Leonicenus; Cato maior, sive de senectute. Commentary by Martinus Phileticus; Paradoxa Stoicorum.

Venice: Bernardinus Benalius, about 1488


Super-chancery folio: 30.9 x 21.1 cm. a-r8, s-t6, u-z8 180 lvs. 59 lines of commentary surrounding the text. Types 110 (106) R.; 80 R. (first state); 80 Greek. Roman type with occasional Greek, several woodcut capitals, initial spaces.

A fine copy, rubricated in red and blue, in contemporary blind-stamped quarter calf over wooden boards from a Landshut workshop [Kyriss 165, plate 331, figs. 2-4, 6], spine restored. Metal clasps with inscription. Quires a-f and x-z with scattered wormholes very slightly affecting text, one quire browned, quire z with light marginal dampstain. This edition of Cicero marks one of the early uses of Benalius's commentary and small text type [80R], here in its first state.

Provenance: Martinus Angerwerth (early name on a1r and lettered on top edge) – Fridericus Heckell de Gunzenhausen (inscription on a1r) – contemporary marginalia – 22 lines of Latin text in a contemporary hand on the front pastedown.

This edition of Cicero’s “On Duties”, “On Friendship”, “On Old Age”, and the “Paradoxes of the Stoics” features the commentaries of the Renaissance humanists Pietro Marsi (1442-1512), Ognibene da Lonigo (1412-1474), and Martino Filetico (1430?-1490?).

Written around 40 B.C.E. and addressed to his son Marcus, Cicero’s "De Officiis’ may be considered Cicero’s philosophical testament. “The political character of ‘De Officiis’ is clear, as is its didactic spirit and its concern for ambitious youth to enter public life. In codifying the code of conduct of the Roman governing class, under pressure of fear for the survival of the res publica, Cicero may have thought particularly of the numerous new senators admitted by Caesar and Antony. He might have decided to teach them how to conduct themselves at the top level of Roman society.”(Griffin)

"The three books into which the ‘De Officiis’ is divided deal, respectively, with the honorable, the useful, and the conflict between them. To have his program of moral philosophy accepted, Cicero needed to overcome much resistance. Roman culture was traditionally averse to philosophical, speculative thought, in which it saw an undue avoidance of duties towards the state and the community. The task Cicero took on was precisely that of demonstrating how, in profoundly altered times, the performance of those duties was not possible unless the philosophical thought of the Greeks had first been absorbed and reflected upon. In the Stoic Greek philosopher Panaetius (c. 185-110 B.C.E.), who had been able to furnish the Roman aristocrats with a model of life firmly rooted in their national usages, he was able to find a stable point of reference for a discourse that could move easily between theoretical thought and the enunciation of precepts valid for everyday life.”(Gian Biagio Conte, Latin Literature: A History)

ISTC ic00604000; HR 5270; GW 6958; BMC V, 372; BSB-Ink C-366; Goff C-604. 

7 North American copies: Harvard, Huntington, Hollins Univ., LC, Illinois, Walters, Yale.