Epigrams / Epigrams

Venice: Aldus Manutius, XII 1501, 8°
Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, D’Elci 1082

Venice: Aldus Manutius, XII 1501, 8°
Verona, Biblioteca Civica, 500.Ald027

The copy of Martial’s Epigrams in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana is printed on paper, has no crest and only the initial letter of the first page is illuminated: above a little letter inscribed in black ink that acted as a guide for the illuminator and which the painting does not altogether hide, a gold capital “B” (Barbara pyramidum) stands out against a dark red ground in the space left free by the printer, bordered by a double gold line with an extra black outer strip turned up at the corners. The decoration foreshadowed by the illumination of this initial letter, attributed by Dillon Bussi (1994, p. 202; 1998, p. 204) to a Venetian milieu close to Bordon, seems never to have been completed. Throughout the rest of the book the spaces left empty by the printing have remained virgin. Nevertheless, the enchiridion is still of some interest when compared with The British Library and Biblioteca Civica of Verona copies of Martial, which also date from 1501. This series of Aldine Press editions provide an example of the same work published at three different levels of sophistication, ranging from the paper version totally free of decoration from Verona to another paper edition with extremely limited decoration from the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana and the vellum specimen designed for an elite readership, illustrated throughout with paintings by Benedetto Bordon, now in The British Library (cat. 91).

Catalogues: edit16, cnce 36108; Renouard 1834, p. 30, no. 7; Scapecchi 2013, p. XXIII, no. 47.

Chiara Ponchia