The First Illustrated Edition of 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.)

Al. Tibullus elegiarum libri quatuor: una cum Val. Catulli epigrammatis; nec non & Sex. Pro-pertii libri quatuor elegiaci; cum suis commentarii, vz. Cyllaenii Veronensis in Tibullum; Parthenii & Palladii in Catullum, & Philippi Beroaldi in Propertium

Venice: Guilielmo de Fontaneto. Montisferrati, 1520


Folio: 30 x 21 cm. Collation: aa4, a-c8, d10, e-k8, l6, m10, n-x8, y10 (final blank lacking.)


This edition features three large woodcut scenes, one at the beginning of each author's poems. The first, which appears at the beginning of Tibullus' poems, shows a poet being crowned by two muses. The second illustrates the opening of Catullus' first poem. It shows the poet (identified by his laurel crown) handing a copy of his "elegant little book" (lepidus novus libellus) to a messenger who in turn to brings it to its intended recipient, Cornelius. The woodcut that introduces Propertius' poems shows a man being welcomed by Euterpe, the muse of lyric poetry. In the background stands Erato, the muse of love poetry. 

A very good copy in later stiff parchment, a bit bowed, spine discreetly repaired. With a contemporary ownership inscription "Jo. Pa[ul?]I Zanelli et amicorum" on the title page and scattered annotations throughout. Title (lightly stained) printed in red and black with a fine woodcut border, attractive woodcut initials. A few minor blemishes, 3 leaves strengthened at gutter, 5 leaves browned, last few leaves with light dampstain. One of the manuscript annotations (leaf m1) refers the reader to Erasmus' "Adages."

With the commentaries of Bernardinus Cyllenius on Tibullus; Antonius Parthenius and Palladius Fuscus on Catullus, Philippus Beroaldus on Propertius; and Emendationes of Hieronymus Avantius on Lucretius, Catullus, the Priapeia, and Statius' Silvae.


"Parthenius’ commentary is not only the first but also the most important of the fifteenth-century commentaries on Catullus. He made significant improvements to the text and explained Catullan style and usage with parallels from a wide range of ancient authors, both Greek and Latin, including among others, Cicero, Vergil, Martial, Pliny Ovid, Lucretius, Donatus, Homer, and Sappho. He was also interested in interpreting the poems and successfully emended and explained several that had previously seemed pointless. The commentary was hailed in verse by several of Parthenius’ fellow citizens and other contemporaries, including Iacobus Iuliarius and Hieronymus Bononius.” (Gaiser)