The Plantin Lucretius – Bound with Two other Philosophical Works

Lucretius, Titus. (94 – ca. 55 B.C.)

De rerum natura libri sex…

Antwerp: Christopher Plantin, 1566


Octavo: 16.7 x 11 cm. 3 works bound as one (See below): I. *8, **8, A-Z8, Aa-Hh8 (Hh8 and present). II. A-G8, H4. III. A-G8.


Bound in 16th c. vellum, gilt, with later monogram “DS” (in both Greek and Latin characters) within an ornate cartouche stamped in gold on both boards, attractive gold-tooling to spine. Scattered light toning in the first work, occ. marginal damp-staining (darker in the margin of leaf K7), a few spots and a couple of holes in the margin of 1 leaf (not affecting text). Ruled in red throughout. Latin and Greek types, decorative initials.

Provenence: The monogram on the binding is tentatively identified as that of the Parisian writer and lawyer Denis de Sallo, Sieur de la Coudraye (1626 – 1669), founder of the first European literary and scientific journal, the Journal des sçavans (later renamed Journal des savants). (OHR - Manuel de l’amateur de reliures armoriées françaises, 1535, 3 and 4.)

The Lucretius is here bound together with two other works dealing with “physical philosophy”: Marcantonio Flaminio’s “Paraphrasis in duodecimum Aristotelis librum de prima philosophia” (Paris, Nicolas Le Riche, 1547) and  Richard de Gorris’ “Tabula, Qua totius Philosophiae partitiones … facillimae ac doctissimae explicationes continentur”. (Lyon, Thibaud Payen, 1560).


This is the second issue (1st 1565) of Plantin’s Lucretius, edited by Hubert van Giffen (1534-1604). “A number of copies were sold with the date of 1565 on the title-page, but very likely to sell them better during the Lent Fair of 1566 at Frankfurt, part of the edition received a title-page with the date of 1566” (Voet). The first issue with the 1565 date survives in very few copies. The edition also includes the Greek text of Epicurus’ “letter to Herodotus”, which summarizes’ Epicurus’ theories of physical science and almost certainly served as a model for Lucretius’ more detailed treatment (p. 235-272); various extracts on Epicurus from the works of Cicero (p. 273-297); and a short Greek extract from Thucydides on the plague of Athens (p. 470-473).

Giffen “plagiarizes”, and enrages, Lambin:

“Giffen printed a neat annotated edition at the Plantin press in 1565–66, in format as well as in every other respect calculated to attract buyers. The handy size and concise notes suited many readers and there was no denying the editor’s brilliance or his shrewdness: yet in spite of one handsome reference to [Denys] Lambin in the address to the reader, Giffen’s casual treatment of his predecessor was clearly intended to wound. Lambin... took violent offence, and in a three-thousand-word preface and innumerable notes to his edition of 1570 he gives full vent to the rage that possessed him.” (Gordon)

“Obertus Giphanius is known to modern scholars as the plagiarist-editor of Lucretius. This is misleading. Giphanius was no mere plagiarist, though he was spectacularly vilified as one in a prefatory note by Denys Lambin (1520–72) to his third edition of Lucretius: Giphanius was ‘reckless . . . presumptuous . . . impudent . . . ungrateful . . . insolent . . . a thief . . . treacherous, deceitful, faithless, and to be more explicit, black . . . an impostor,’ and again, Lambin summing up a little superfluously, ‘not only a thief . . . but insolent, shameless, rude, and worthy of any insult you like.’ Even Giphanius’s enemies thought Lambin had overshot the mark, while Justus Lipsius (1547–1606), who was more sympathetic to Giphanius, told a friend he suspected Lambin was getting senile.

“The accusation was that Giphanius had plagiarized Lambin’s 1563 text of Lucretius in his own edition of 1565. Lambin wrote: ‘I was astonished, reader, barely three or four pages in. Practically all that is correct in that Lucretius is mine, and yet this man passes over those points in silence, or praises them maliciously, or else shamelessly claims them as his. If he can anywhere seize the opportunity to find fault with me, there he scoffs at me most insolently, and plagues me for it most excessively.’ What Lambin presents as miscreant philology was not fundamentally divergent from the usual practice in textual criticism of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries: if an emendation was printed in a previous edition, it was often considered unnecessary to record the name of its author. Giphanius was working within accepted conventions, whether he handled them elegantly or not. Contemporaries and many later editors approved of his rejections of some of Lambin’s bold emendations, and Giphanius carried on collating new manuscripts in preparation for a revised edition.”(Demetriou, The Homeric Question in the Sixteenth Century)

Voet 1590; Renouard BP16-112771; Gordon, A Bibliography of Lucretius, 103; Adams L 1664; John Nassichuk, « Entre traduction et commentaire. La paraphrase du livre λ de la Métaphysique d’Aristote par Marcantonio Flaminio », Commenter et philosopher à la Renaissance, éd. L. Boulègue, 2014, pp. 209-224 ; Sybille von Gültlingen, VII, p. 76: 473, USTC 153013