Description

    Ermolao Barbaro's Authoritative Discussion of Pliny's Historia Naturalis, Bound with an Early Sixteenth-Century Edition of Pliny

    [Pliny, the Elder]. Ermolao Barbaro. Castigationes Plinii [et Pomponii Melae]. [Venice: Printer of Hermolaus Barbarus, Castigationes Plinianae, for Daniel Barbarus, about 1493-1494].

    Second edition (first published in Rome by Eucharius Silber, 1492-1493). Folio (11.125 x 8.25 inches; 283 x 210 mm.). [156 (of 160)] leaves, lacking leaves i2 and i7 (collation: a-k8 l-r6 s4 aa-cc8 dd6 ee4). The title and second are mounted on a stub and extended at the outer margin, both supplied (in facsimile?). Leaves i2 and i7 have been supplied in facsimile (retaining the blank leaves originally bound in their place), bound together after leaf i6. Roman letter, with some Greek. Single column, 60 lines plus headline. Capital spaces with guide letters. BMC V, page 587 ("Reprinted from the 1492/3 Roman edition of Silber with the errata corrected. Daniel Barbarus, brother of Hermolaus, who died on 2 May 1493, took out a privilege for this work on 11 December, 1493"). Bodleian B-047. Goff B-101. GW 3341. Hain Copinger 2420*. Harvard/Walsh 2604A and 2604B. ISTC ib00101000. Klebs 143.2. Osler 315. Proctor 7422.

    [Bound together with:]

    Pliny, the Elder. Naturalis Hystoriae Libri. xxxvii. diligenti admodum labore...[Paris: Qui in edibus Francisci Regnault eiusdem academiae bibliopolae in via Jacobi sub intersignto Beati Claudii commorantis Venales prostant, [13 June 1514].

    Reprint of the 1511 Paris edition, edited by Nicolas Maillard. Publication date from colophon on fol. 262r, which reads: "Quae omnia Parrhisiis ab optimo calcographo Nicolao de Pratis emunctim sui lucem rursus eduntur. Anno nostre salutis. M.D. XIIII. Idibus Iunii". Folio. [20], CCLXII (262) leaves (collation: aa6 bb8 cc6 c-z8 &8 A-I8 K6 L8). With thirteen leaves of manuscript index (including the recto of the rear free endpaper?). Roman and greek letter. Single column, 55 lines plus headline. Title within an architectural woodcut border incorporating the initials of Nicolas du Pré on a shield and enclosing the printer's device of François Renault. Capital spaces with guide letters in the Preface; two-line Lombard initials and two- to eight-line white-on-black criblé woodcut initials in the text. See Adams P1553 and P1554.

    Contemporary half blindstamped pigskin over bevelled wooden boards. Spine in four compartments with three raised bands (sewn on double cords), and with title label in the top compartment and shelf label in the bottom compartment. The front board has been expertly renewed to style, with two metal catch plates and a large metal center plate set with six faux rubies. Remains of two straps on rear board. Chain attached at top of rear board with a metal plate. Fore-edge lettered in manuscript. Front endpaper renewed. Some worming to both boards and pigskin, heaviest to the edges of the rear board, the pigskin is rubbed and darkened, the head of the spine is chipped. Some foxing and browning to the text, quite heavy in places, occasional marginal dampstaining.

    In the Barbaro, the upper corner of leaves a4, a5, a6, a7, b1, and b3 have been renewed, the lower corner of the first several leaves is worn away. Leaf a3 has been remargined at the outer edge, with loss of some marginalia on the verso. The untrimmed upper margin of leaf dd6 was folded over onto the verso in binding, concealing part of the first two lines of text and the ink marginalia. There is some mostly marginal worming, and a rust hole in leaf a3, causing loss of a few letters. In the Pliny, there is a short tear to the upper blank corner of leaf e4 (fol. XX), a short tear to the lower margin of leaf h3 (fol. XLIII), just entering the text, a paper flaw (tiny tear) to the lower blank corner of leaf m4 (fol. LXXVI), and a few additional minor marginal tears or paper flaws. Both works have extensive early ink marginalia and the ink annotations on the verso of the title-page in the Pliny appear to be signed.

    Pliny's Natural History "continued to be used as a practical source of medical and scientific knowledge right into the sixteenth century. Despite its usefulness, or perhaps because of it, Pliny's text posed particular problems for readers: generations of copyists misunderstood and amended Pliny's technical and often obscure Latin. Others made additions or altered the text to suit their particular purposes. In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, the task of producing an accurate text of Pliny's Natural History engaged the cream of humanist scholarship in competition and disputation, as figures such as Angelo Poliziano, Ermolao Barbaro, Beatus Rhenanus, and Desiderius Erasmus commented on the text. Before 1500, in the first fifty years of printing alone, there were fifteen editions of six separate recensions of the text published, as well as two Italian translations. One particular scholarly controversy has been singled out for its importance in signaling the gradual decline of Pliny's importance as a practical source of scientific information: a debate over the accuracy of Pliny's medicine, initiated by the professor of medicine at Ferrara, Niccolò Leoniceno [1428-1524] in 1492 with the publication of his De Plinii et plurium aliorum in medicina erroribus (On the mistakes in medicine made by Pliny and several others)...Leoniceno uncovered mistakes that Pliny made in his understanding of his Greek sources-mistakes that, he pointed out, could have disastrous consequences for those who followed his prescriptions" (New Dictionary of Scientific Biography VI, pages 119-120).

    In the present work, Ermolao Barbaro, or Hermolaus Barbarus (1454-1493) responded indirectly. "He claimed to have freed the text from some five thousand errors of copyists and printers, but did not wish anyone to think that Pliny himself had erred and affirmed that his reputation could in no way be overthrown. Without mentioning Leonicenus by name, Barbarus expressly refuted-and that rather sharply-some of his criticisms of Pliny" (Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, IV, page 601).


    More Information:

    "In 1490 [Niccolò] Leoniceno [1428-1524] inaugurated a famous controversy on the errors of Pliny the elder. In this year he sent to Politian a critique of Ibn Sina, in which he noted in passing that Pliny seems to have confused the two herbs ivy and cistus because of the similarity of their Greek names; Politian commended Leoniceno's castigation of Ibn Sina but politely challenged his criticism of Pliny. Leoniceno responded with a tract, On the errors of Pliny and others in medicine (1492), in which he not only defended his original point but charged Pliny with many other errors stemming from verbal confusion" (D.S.B., VIII, page 249).

    In the present work, Ermolao Barbaro, or Hermolaus Barbarus (1454-1493) responded indirectly. "He claimed to have freed the text from some five thousand errors of copyists and printers, but did not wish anyone to think that Pliny himself had erred and affirmed that his reputation could in no way be overthrown. Without mentioning Leonicenus by name, Barbarus expressly refuted-and that rather sharply-some of his criticisms of Pliny" (Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, IV, page 601).

    "Reprinted from the 1492/3 Roman edition of Silber with the errata corrected. Daniel Barbarus, brother of Hermolaus, who died on 2 May 1493, took out a privilege for this work on 11 December, 1493" (BMC V, page 587).



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