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. Propertii libri quatuor elegiaci; cum suis commentarii, vz. Cyllaenii Veronensis in Tibullum; Parthenii & Palladii in Catullum, & Philippi Beroaldi in Propertium. Habes insuper emendations in ipsum Catullum per Hieronymum Avancium Veronensem.

Venice: Guilielmo de Fontaneto. Montisferrati, 1520


Folio: 30.5 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 tanned sheep, ruled and tooled in blind. Mild toning, occasional light marginal soiling or staining, 2 bifolia (r2/7, s3/6) browned, small marginal tear in lower blank margin of leaf s8. Text slightly cockled. Title printed in red and black with a fine woodcut border, attractive woodcut initials.

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

"Antonius 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)

"Girolamo Avanziwas 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.)

"Avanzi 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.

"Avanzi's most important achievement was the first Aldine edition of Catullus. The time and circumstances were right. The vulgate of Calfurnio and Partenio, though subject to criticism and corrections, had been essentially unchallenged for twenty years. Avanzi had the materials for a new text, and Aldus had recently begun to publish classical Latin poetry -in fact, his first such work was the Lucretius of 1500, edited by Avanzi [and for which Avanzi supplies four and a half pages of emendations in the 1502 Catullus.] 

"Avanzi's text marked a water-shed in the study of Catullus. After ten years of collating manuscripts and printed editions -and attempting to solve the puzzle of Catullan metrics- Avanzi produced a much-improved text. The growing interest in Catullus at the turn of the century, coupled with the popularity and portability of Aldus' octavo format, made Avanzi's text of Catullus the definitive text of the early sixteenth-century." (Gaisser, ‘Catullus’ in ‘Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum’ Vol. VII)

Sander 7315; Essling 2078; EDIT 16 CNCE 37682