An Italian Humanist Translates Hesiod's Masterpiece - No Copies in North America

Hesiod (fl. ca. 700 B.C.); Della Valle, Niccolò (1444-1473)

Opera et dies (Tr: Nicolaus de Valle). Add: Nicolaus de Valle: Disticha ad Pium II

[Milan: S. Magniagus?,] c. 1483


Quarto: 19.8 x 14.2 cm. [16] lvs. Collation: A-B8 (final leaf blank and present)

SECOND EDITION (1st ed. Rome, 1471).

An excellent, broad-margined copy of this great rarity. With the initial on a1 supplied in red. Bound in modern boards.

Extremely rare. ESTC locates 8 copies worldwide, none in North America, only 2 outside of Italy (Chantilly and Munich).

Hesiod's magnum opus, here in the Latin verse translation (from the Greek) by Italian Niccolò Della Valle (1444-1473). On the verso of the last leaf is Della Valle's dedicatory poem to the great humanist Pope Pius II (Enea Silvio Bartolomeo Piccolomini), in which the poet-translator champions the importance of Greek and boasts that he has 'dared' to translate Hesiod's poem at such a young age.

Completed in 1471, Della Valle's translation of the "Works and Days" is the first "modern" translation of Hesiod's poem, and it was through this Latin version that the epic, with its wealth of moral teaching, folklore, superstition, scenes of pastoral beauty, agrarian wisdom, and mythological tales, became widely available to Renaissance readers. The Greek text was not printed until 1480, and no other translation was printed in the 15th c.

Along with a translation of Homer, Della Valle's Hesiod is the work upon which the poet's fame rests. When Della Valle died at the tragically young age of 29, his father included the words "Iliadem Homeri et Hesioduin heroico carmine in latinum vertit" in the epitaph for his son's tomb in the Roman church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli.

"His contemporaries remembered him as an elegant translator of Hesiod and Homer, praised his ingenuity and erudition and mourned his early death. Porcelli praised him in his elegy of Pius II, as did Gaspare da Verona in the De gestis Pauli secundi, Cortesi in the De hominibus doctis, Giraldi in the De poetis nostrorum temporum, and Valeriano in the De litteratorum infelice."(Treccani)

ISTC ih00136500; GW 12395; IGI VI:4723-A.- BSB-Ink H-227; Not in Goff, BMC, CIBN.