Juvenal and Persius

Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1501 [c. 1515], 8°
Cambridge, The Syndics of Cambridge University Library, Rel.d.51.17

This beautiful binding of brown morocco with gold-tooled decoration, similar to those painted in the portraits of Aldus Manutius’ readers, testifies the immediate success of Aldine enchiridia in the most sophisticated cultural circles of Italian high society. only the more affluent of Aldus’ readers could in fact add the expense of a binding embellished with gold leaf to the already considerable cost of purchasing the book itself. Despite the absence of decoration in the text and any other indication regarding the provenance of the book itself, the choice of a pocket-size edition of the Satire by Juvenal and Persius without commentaries suggests that it was purchased for pleasure by a person of high rank. In the early Renaissance, Latin was still the official language of the Catholic Church, academia and international political relations. Classical Latin poets, Juvenal and Persius included, were therefore part of the normal curriculum of studies – hence every erudite gentleman or lady was able to read the Latin classics and compose verse both in Latin and in the vernacular for pleasure (Jensen 1996). A student or a teacher would have rather chosen to buy one of the many large-format editions, complete with commentary, available on the market (thirty-four incunabula and six Italian cinquecentine published comments to Juvenal by 1515; istc and edit16).

This binding, of brown morocco over pasteboards, with blindand gilt-tooled decoration, gilt and gauffered book-block edges, and silk fastening ties, is possibly not Venetian but Roman or Neapolitan, and can be dated to the second decade of the sixteenth century. Despite the fact that the second colophon bears the date of August 1501 as the first Aldine edition of Juvenal (cat. 41), the anchor device on the title-page in the variant only used between 1512 and 1515, its printed foliation, the quire signatures in Arabic numerals (only employed in the 1515–1516 biennium), the capital letters of and the addition of Torresano’s name to the two colophons identify the book as being a reprint published by Aldus (or perhaps by his heirs) together with Andrea Torresano around the year 1515. Therefore the binding of the book is almost contemporary to or only slightly later than the edition.

Catalogues: edit16, cnce 37426 (dated after 1508); Renouard 1834, p. 29, no. 6 (dated after 1508); Fletcher 1988a (dated c. 1515); Scapecchi 2013, p. XXIII, no. 46 (dated 1515 ?).

Laura Nuvoloni