The First Illustrated Martial bound with A Catullus Incunable

Catullus, Gaius Valerius (ca. 84- ca. 54 B.C.); Tibullus (ca. 50- ca. 18 B.C.); Propertius, Sextus. (ca. 49- ca. 16 B.C.); Martial [Marcus Valerius Martialis] (c. 40 - ca. 104 A.D.)

Tibullus, Catullus & Propertius cu[m] commento. Venice: Bonetus Locatellus for Octavianus Scotus, 5 December 1491 [Bound with] Epigrammata cum Do. Chal. ac Geo. Me. Commentariis

Venice: Venice: Philippus Pincius (Filippo Pinzi), 1510


Folio: 31 x 21.5 cm. I. (Catullus) [158] lvs. Collation: A-c8, d-e6, f-s8, t-x6 (lacking blank leaf x6). II. (Martial) CLXI lvs. Collation: A-T8, V10 (lacking blank V10)


A wonderful sammelband, bound in contemporary, blind-tooled Italian half-calf and beveled wooden boards with some defects (lacking clasps, losses to leather at head and foot of spine and at extremities, loss to wood along leading edge of upper board, boards wormed) but still (and partly due to this) very pleasing. Manuscript waste visible in the gutters of the boards. Internally, these copies are wonderfully fresh and crisp with just minor cosmetic faults (in the first work: tiny wormholes in the first few signatures and elsewhere as a short trail in the inner blank margins, sometimes touching the text but only slightly occ. marginal stains. In the second work: a few other insignificant wormholes and minor staining in the lower margin.) Both are broad-margined copies.


The book is illustrated with 15 woodcuts, beginning with a scene showing five seated figures writing, the central three identified as Martial and his commentators Domizio Calderini (1447-1478) and Giorgio Merula (ca. 1430-1494). The text proper is illustrated by 15 woodcuts, one for each of the 14 books of epigrams, and an additional woodcut in Bk. V. Each woodcut illustrates a scene from the book that it introduces. The first woodcut shows the Colosseum; the third shows the Etruscan haruspex preparing a sacrifice, the eleventh shows Priscus (with his Mollosian hounds) accepting a book of poetry from Martial, etc.


Printed by Bonetus Locatellus for Ottaviano Scoto, this edition comprises all the poems of the Roman elegiac poets Catullus, Propertius and Tibullus, together with the commentaries of (respectively) Antonio Partenio (1456-1506), Filippo Beroaldo the Elder (1453-1505) and Berardino Cillenio (b. ca. 1450) of Verona.

The commentary of Parthenius is particularly important. His work was “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)

I. Goff T-372; Hain 4763; Proctor 5029; BMC V, 439; Literature: Julia Craig Gaiser, “Catullus” in “Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum”, Vol. VII). II. EDIT 16, CNCE 34895