The Second Aldine Catullus

Catullus, Gaius Valerius (Ca. 84-Ca.54 B.C.); Tibullus (Ca. 50-Ca.18 B.C.); Propertius, Sextus. (Ca. 49-Ca. 16 B.C.)

Catullus. Tibullus. Propertius.

1515 Venice: In ædibvs Aldi, et Andreæ soceri,


Octavo: 15 x 10 cm. 148, [2] leaves. Collation: A-D8, E10, AA-DD8, EE4, a-i8. With the woodcut Aldine anchor device on the title page and the verso of the final leaf.


Bound in late 18th c. stiff vellum, spine ruled in gold and with black leather label, gilt. Later endpapers. A fine, crisp copy with occasional contemporary metrical annotations in the opening poems and a few light marginal marks later in the text.

The important second Aldine edition of the poems of Catullus, Tibullus and Propertius, co-edited by Girolamo Avanzi (fl. 1500.) and Aldus. The first Aldine Catullus, one of the first of the "libri portatiles", the handy ("forma enchiridii") octavo-sized format that Aldus popularized, appeared in 1502. In his epistle to the reader, Aldus informs us that Avanzi has made further improvements upon the text for this edition.

"Avantius was younger by a generation than all of his Catullan predecessors, and a more careful textual critic than any-with the obvious exception of Poliziano. He was to become a professional editor of Latin poetry, principally for the Venetian printers Johannes Tacuinus and Aldo Manuzio, preparing, inter alia, editions of Catullus, Tibullus, and Propertius (Tacuino, 1500), Lucretius (Aldine, 1500), and the first and second Aldine editions of Catullus (1502; 1515).

"Because Avanzi was more systematic, thorough, and knowledgeable than his predecessors -and because he had the whole printed tradition to work with- he was able to make an enormous contribution to the text of Catullus in the ‘Emendationes’. In addition to a large number of emendations, he made dozens of corrections both to the printed tradition as a whole and to the recent base text of Calfurnio and Partenio. He also made some improvements in the ‘dispositio carminum’, although this was becoming increasingly difficult, since the easy corrections had already been made." (Gaisser, Catullus and His Renaissance Readers. p.52 ff. )

"Avantius is principally interested in textual and metrical problems and only occasionally in interpretation. His emendations are based on the collation of his texts, the work of other scholars, and his own observations of Catullus’ stylistic and metrical practice. He depends much less on parallels from other Latin and Greek authors, which he cites sparingly and selectively…

"The ‘Emendationes’ were [first] published without a text of Catullus, but the second edition, published in 1500, appeared in a volume that included not only Catullus but also Tibullus and Propertius. [...] Avantius used this edition as the basis for his important first Aldine edition of Catullus (1502), and its influence is apparent in his second Aldine (1515)." (Gaisser, ‘Catullus’ in ‘Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum’ Vol. VII)


"Catullus’ name and poetry are traditionally associated with the 'neoteric revolution'; indeed, they are the most important document of it. It is a revolution in literary taste but also a revolution in ethics. While at a time of acute crisis for the Republic the old moral and political values of the 'civitas' are crumbling, personal 'otium' becomes the attractive alternative to communal life, the space in which to devote oneself to culture, poetry, friendship, and love. The small universe of the individual, with its joys and dramas, is identified with the very horizon of existence, and literary activity no longer turns towards epic and tragedy, the genres that speak for the state and its values, but rather toward lyric, towards personal poetry, which is introverted and suitable for embracing and expressing the small events of private life.

"[Catullus’ poetry] achieved a vast and immediate success among cultivated Latin readers. In particular, it exercised a profound influence upon the Augustan poets (with the exception of Horace). Not only the elegists, who regard Catullus as one of their most important literary ancestors, but also the Vergil of the 'Eclogues' and the Dido episode slip irresistibly into the language of Catullus when they combine erotic passion with refined diction and baroque style."


"Propertius has the reputation of being a difficult, sometimes obscure poet. In contrast to the crystalline naturalness of Tibullus, his style is characterized by concentration, density of metaphor, and constant experimentation with new expressive possibilities. The Callimachean inheritance, which is evident in his mythological learning and sophisticated literary consciousness, also manifests itself in the careful pursuit of unusual, often audacious ‘iuncturae’ and of a complex syntactic structure, which is strained and often forced to the point of obscurity. [...] This is the most typical feature of Propertius’ style: abrupt beginning, proceeding by unpredictable movements, by leaps, through images and concepts, not making connections explicit but following a hidden, inner logic. In this form of expression, which mingles irony and pathos, in its harsh elegance, and also in the complexity of the psychological attitudes it portrays, lie the principal reasons for the fascination that Propertius’ poetry has exercised upon the taste of modern readers."


"[Tibullus’] style reveals at every point, and with extraordinary regularity, the effort made towards a writing of extreme care, in which simplicity itself is the laborious result of an artistic choice, or rather the visible sign of a trust in words and their expressive force, without the need for distortions or pathetic intensifications of the discourse. The limpidity of expression seems to be the product of immediacy; the effort of composition remains hidden beneath the smooth surface of an apparently spontaneous writing. [...] The rhythm has a certain light, singable quality, a regular cadence, which often approaches the resonance of rhyme when, with the words distributed in a balanced way between the first and the second half of the pentameter, the sounds that end the second half of the verse echoes the end of the first. This form of expression exerts a conspicuous influence on the technique of the Ovidian couplet. [...]

"‘Terse and elegant’: thus described by Quintilian, who sees in him the classic of Roman elegiac poetry, Tibullus is already admired by the ancients for his style, which is simple and luminous, free and refined. The lexical purity, the fluid movement of the thoughts, harmoniously linked together and without the abrupt swerves of Propertius, the fine, delicate tones, often gently dreaming, the very economy of mythological learning, the light ironic smile-all these qualities give to his poetry the charm of stylistic maturity and expressive naturalness." (Conte, ‘Latin Literature, A History’)

Ahmanson-Murphy, No. 131; Renouard, p. 70; Adams, C-1139