Stanley’s Aeschylus

Aeschylus (525/4-456 B.C.); Stanley, Thomas (1625-1678), editor.

[Works in Greek], Aeschyli traoediae septem: cum scholiis Græcis omnibus; deperditorum dramatum fragmentis, versione & commentario Thomæ Stanleii.

London: Typis Jacobi Flesher: prostant verò apud Cornelium Bee, M DC LXIII. 1663


Folio: 31.8 x 20.1 cm [32], 886 p. Collation: (a)2, (b)-(g)2, A-Z2, 2A-9Z2, 10A-10P2

FIRST EDITION of Thomas Stanley’s celebrated edition of Aeschylus & THE FIRST EDITION OF AESCHYLUS PRINTED IN ENGLAND. Stanley’s edition, important for the editor’s work on Aeschylean metrics, was the true successor to Henri Estienne’s edition of 1557. His commentary was, according to Schreiber, the first to be worthy of mention after Estienne’s. “It was far superior to all its predecessors… It has served in its turn as the great source of illustrations for all the subsequent editions of Aeschylus. It was described by Bentley as a ‘noble edition’; it was republished in 1743 and afterwards revised by Porson.” (Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship)

FIRST EDITION. This copy is bound in its original speckled calf binding. The boards are paneled in compartments and feature decorative tools at the corners. The spine and board edges are tooled in gold, with ornamental tools, gilt, in each compartment. The boards are in very good condition, with wear to the edges and some minor scuffing. The leather of the hinges is desiccated, resulting in a very weak upper hinge and the loosening of the front board (this will probably need to be rebacked.) The text of this copy is in excellent condition with only a few minor rust spots and blemishes. The leaves are creamy white; the margins are broad and devoid of marginalia. The edges of the text block are stained red. The title page is printed in red and black. The Greek text of the tragedies and the Latin translation are printed on facing pages.

In his “Early Printed Editions of Aeschylus (1518-1664)”, J.A. Gruys gives a detailed account of Stanley’s working method, beginning with an examination of the extant manuscript materials, and vindicates Stanley from Fraenkel’s charges that Stanley’s edition relied too heavily on the work of the scholar John Pearson and that Stanley himself was a scholar of much meaner abilities. Gruys demonstrates that Stanley’s work on Aeschylus began in the mid-1650s and that, while he shared materials (manuscript collations, variants in printed editions, etc.) with Pearson, the two men worked separately on the edition until about 1659, when Stanley acquired Pearson’s notes. Stanley did in fact use almost all of Pearson’s material in his edition. Yet, Gruys argues, the result is the fruit of a collaboration between equals, a result that Frankel himself called “The first substantial contribution made by English scholarship to the study of Greek poetry.”

“Stanley’s edition rounds off more than 150 years of work on Aeschylus; moreover, for more than a hundred years, it was the last independent edition, and almost the only work to be published that dealt with the text and explanation… That it was the standard edition from the late seventeenth-century to the early nineteenth is evident from De Pauw’s and Butler’s reprints of 1745 and 1809-1816.” (Gruys)

“The merits of this celebrated edition are sufficiently known. Morhof, Fabricius, and Harles have all stated its excellences: the labours of every preceding commentator, the fragments of the lost dramas, with the Greek scholia, are embodied in it. It is also one of the scarcest of the famous folio English classics. De Bure, No. 2538, observes that when Pauw gave out a proposal for printing an edition of Aeschylus, the work of Stanley sunk in value: but when Pauw’s edition actually appeared, the learned were disappointed, and Stanley’s edition rose in price and estimation. There are two dates, 1663 and 1664, but Harles says it is the same edition.”(Dibdin, 2nd ed.)

Aeschylus' "Prometheus Bound" and Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus":

By the time she set herself to writing Frankenstein, Aeschylus’ “Prometheus Bound” had already been a subject of inquiry for others in her circle, in particular Byron, who asked Percy Shelley to translate Aeschylus’ play for him, and Percy Shelley himself, who was writing his drama “Prometheus Unbound”, which Shelley began by 1818, the year in which his wife Mary published Frankenstein.

Mary Shelley’s reasons for titling her book “Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus” are complex. But some of the main parallels are quite clear: Victor Frankenstein gives life to inanimate matter, just as Prometheus had made the first human from lifeless clay. Frankenstein’s hubristic act (coopting God’s power to bestow life) leads to tragic results, echoing Prometheus’ transgression against Zeus (giving the divine gift of fire to humanity) and the suffering that it causes.

Wing A684