The Best 16th Century Edition - PMM 102 – Christoph Besold’s Copy

Thucydides (ca. 455-ca. 400 B.C.)

Thoukudidou tou olorou peri tou Peloponnesiakou polemou biblia okto. THVCYDIDIS De Bello Peloponesiaco Libri VIII. Iidem Latinè, ex interpretatione Laurentii Vallæ, ab Henrico Stephano recognita. Secunda Editio.

[Geneva:] Excudebat Henricus Stephanus, 1588


Folio: 35 x 22.5 cm. ¶6, ¶4, a-z6, aa-zz6, aaa-nnn6, ooo4


Printed in two sizes of the ‘grecs du roi’ types of Claude Garamond. There are numerous historiated initials and decorative head- and tail-pieces. The Estienne "Noli altum sapere" device appears on the title-page.

A fine, tall copy in contemporary blind-ruled vellum, edges of the text block sprinkled red and blue. The text is in very nice condition, with minor blemishes: lvs. l6, m3, and mm4 with small ink stains, m2-3 sm. burn hole in margin, ss2 small rust spot, g3-5 v. light dampstain at corner, light damp to lower outer margin of final few signatures, title and verso of final leaf lightly soiled.

Provenance: 1. Ownership inscription, dated 1595, of the German jurist, political philosopher, and seven-time rector of the University of Tübingen, Christoph Besold (1577-1638). Besold was a close friend of Johannes Kepler, whom he met while studying at Tübingen (at which time he purchased this book.). Besold championed Kepler's theories while at Tübingen and, in 1626, he participated in the trial of Kepler's mother, who was accused of witchcraft (and ultimately acquitted.) As a political philosopher Besold proposed a form of mixed constitution, in which the ‘rights of majesty’ are divided between the prince and the assembly of estates. For his evolving views, see his “De consilio politico axiomata”(1622), “De statu reipublicae mixtu”(revised ed. 1625), and “Principium et finis politicae”(1626). For his views on Democracy in particular, see his 1623 “Discursus politici”, esp. Chapter III (“De Democratia”). 2. Small stamp of the Donaueschingen Hofbibliothek (library sold 1999-2001) on verso of the title.

"Second Estienne edition, generally considered the best sixteenth century edition of the greatest historian of Athens. For this new edition Estienne has corrected the Greek text and scholia, as well as further revised Lorenzo Valla's Latin translation, which is now printed on the same page with the Greek text, in parallel columns, while the Greek scholia are printed at the foot of the page. Estienne has also added marginal concordances to his first edition. Among the other important additions are Estienne's ‘Proparasceue’ (Preparation) to the reading of the Greek scholia, which is, to this day, a most valuable exposition of the special vocabulary and technical terminology used by the Greek scholiasts; his annotations on the text and scholia of the first two books (Renouard, as well as Carter and Muir in PMM, wrongly attribute these annotations to Isaac Casaubon); the Thucydidean Chronology of David Chytraeus, and the Greek Life of Thucydides by Marcellinus, with a Latin translation by Casaubon." (Quoted from Schreiber's "The Estiennes")

"The standards and methods of Thucydides as a contemporary historian have never been bettered. Thucydides has been valued as he hoped; statesmen as well as historians, men of affairs as well as scholars, have read and profited by him"(PMM 102)

Schreiber 216-217; Renouard 152-53, 4; Moeckli 124; Hoffmann III, 749; Printing and The Mind of Man, 102