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[in Greek, with the scholia of Lucillus, Sophocles, and Theon. Edited by Joannes Laskaris.]

Florence: [Laurentius (Francisci) de Alopa, Venetus,] 1496 Stock Code: 136329
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First printing in Greek

Editio princeps of the most important Greek epic of the 3rd century BCE, the definitive telling of the story of Jason and the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece. The Argonautica is the only epic before Virgil's Aeneid that can be compared with Homer in subject and extent and it is the first epic to give a prominent place to love. With the effect this had on subsequent writing it holds a significant place in the history of European literature. Apollonius was sometime Alexandrian librarian before retiring to Rhodes. The manuscript source of this first printing was a tenth-century version discovered by Giovanni Aurispa during his book-buying trip in the Orient in 1421-3 (now Codex Laurentius XXXXII 9, also containing plays by Sophocles and Aeschylus).

The editor Laskaris "was not only the moving spirit in the second Florentine Greek press, that of Lorenzo di Alopa, but himself designed the majuscule fount which distinguishes the books issued from that press from any others. Born in 1445, he began his career in Italy as a protégé of Bessarion, who sent him to study under Chalkondulas at Padova. Left without resources, like so many of his countrymen, by the death of his patron in 1472, he followed Chalkondulas to Florence; gained there a great reputation by his lectures, and the favour of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who appointed him his librarian, and sent him on two journeys in the East to buy manuscripts While he was absent on his second voyage Lorenzo died, and on his return to Florence Laskaris undertook the editing of the Anthology and other Greek classics for Lorenzo di Alopa He died in 1535, at the age of ninety" (Robert Proctor, The Printing of Greek in the Fifteenth Century, pp. 78-82).

Provenance: George Dunn (1865-1912), of Woolley Hall near Maidenhead, Berkshire, was an English bibliophile and keen student of palaeography and early printing. Throughout his life he built up an impressive library at Woolley Hall, collecting early English law books, medieval manuscripts (chiefly from the Phillipps and Ashburnham sales), early printed books, and early stamped bindings, which he was one of the first British collectors to notice and preserve. An early blank has his brief pencilled notes, dated April 1900. After his death in 1912 his library was broken up and sold off at Sotheby's between 1913 and 1917, realising over 30,000. This copy was later sold at Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 19 May 1964, lot 2, 700.

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Median quarto (228 x 160 mm). Late 18th-century English green straight-grain morocco, spine divided in six compartments by raised bands, gilt-lettered in second and third compartments, the others filled with massed tools, circlets, and dots, sides with outer single fillet enclosing a frame of intersecting semicircles and rules, with dots at intersections, decorative roll to turn-ins, pink endpapers, gilt edges. Housed in a dark green quarter morocco solander box by the Chelsea Bindery.


171 leaves (of 172, omitting the final blank). Greek types 114 (two sets of capitals designed by Laskaris, one large for headings and initials letters, one small for the text). Commentary (10-33 lines) in miniscule surrounding text (3-31 lines) in majuscu


William Morris-style bookplate of George Dunn, of Woolley Hall, near Maidenhead. Contents generally lightly toned, occasional faint spotting, closed wormholes to first leaf, affecting two letters, and to last leaf, just missing letters; a scatter of worm at the end continuing through the preceding 16 leaves back to [upsilon]3, affecting a few letters; a very good copy overall.


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