THE THEBAID, THE ACHILLEID AND THE SILVAE, IN LATIN VERSE, COLOSSAL

Lot Number 27
Author STATIUS,
Title THE THEBAID, THE ACHILLEID AND THE SILVAE, IN LATIN VERSE, COLOSSAL
Year Published 1472
Place Printed ITALY (PROBABLY NAPLES),
Printed By
Description ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM [ITALY (PROBABLY NAPLES), 1472 OR SOON AFTER] 191 leaves, 385mm. by 270mm., wanting 9 leaves and perhaps 8 bifolia, else complete, collation: i7 (i wanting with Thebaid I, lines 1-56), ii8 (stub at end not from this gathering, but is reversed in last binding from last leaf of quire i), iii4 (number of bifolia from centre of gathering wanting with Thebaid II:525-743 and III:1-19), iv-v8, vi7 (iii wanting with IV:708-86), vii8, viii6 (middle bifolium wanting with VI:271-415, ix-xiv8, xv7 (vii wanting with XI:1-54), xvi-xvii8, xviii5 (vi wanting with opening of the Achilleid, I, lines 1-55), xix6 (partly reconstructed with eighteenth-century paper but text is continuous up to I:478, then single leaf with I:479-550 wanting), xx8, xxi1 (ii wanting, with opening of Silvae, lines 1-21), xxii6 (singleton at front wanting, with poem III, lines 63 to end and opening of poem IV to line 21), xxiii6 (wanting the central bifolium, with II, poem II:148-VII:21), xxiv-xxv8, xxvi2 (wanting perhaps 2 bifolia from the centre, with IV, poem IV:96-V, poem I:51), xxvii8 (wanting a few leaves after this gathering with V, poem III:253-V:8), xxviii2 (text continuous), single column, 36 lines in a fine humanistic hand, perhaps that of the scribe Giovanmarco Cinico (1430-1503), who was resident in Naples from 1458 and attendant on the court of Ferdinand I, each line of text opening with one-line initials in alternate gold and blue, the remnants of the guide-initials either present or covered over with tiny spots of white paint, running titles and the title of the argumentum for each section of text with one line in liquid gold display capitals, the opening of each section of text with several lines of same in alternate liquid gold and blue, the closing of each text in same (some set in ever increasingly shorter or longer lines to form geometric shapes on the page), thirty-nine large illuminated initials some 10 65mm.-75mm. high) by Gioacchino di Gigantibus, in liquid gold on grounds of scrolling white-vine design on blue, green and burgundy, extending into the margin within thick panel frames of gold the length of the entire text column, shoots of white vine tendrils emerging from end and midpoint on blue grounds flecked with white, pointing at clusters of gold bezants, some with borders enclosing two green parakeets and two butterflies with coloured wings (fols.27v, 28r, 38v, 39r, 49v, 50r, 61rv, 73rv, 84rv, 97rv, 110v, 120v, 121r, 133r (strip repaired), 137v, 140v, 144v, 149r, 153r, 155v, 156v, 159v, 163v, 164r, 166v, 168v, 171v, 173r, 175rv, 176r, 177r, 179v, 183v, 186v; that on fol.133r partly lost due to repair of leaf with eighteenth-century paper, that on fol.61v with a small section from border panel cut away, presumably once containing coat-of-arms), spaces left in middle of three lines on fol.190r due to faulty exemplar common to large number of witnesses, tiny number of spots and marks, some slight folds to a number of leaves of first few gatherings, some cuts to vellum of a few leaves in inside margin (caused when other leaves taken away), approximately 20- 35mm. trimmed from top of volume, else in outstandingly fresh condition, with wide and clean margins, stains to edges of last two leaves indicating it was once the pastedown in a brown leather covered binding, now in eighteenth-century limp vellum, "G.5 STATII OPERA MS," in ink on spine
Comments A superb Renaissance manuscript of a major classical text of the very finest quality, evidently from the Aragonese royal library text This is a collection of the extant works of the Roman poet, Publius Papinius Statius (c.45-96 AD.), attendant of the Emperor Domitian. Statius was a native of Naples and in the Renaissance became an intellectual focal point for the city, as proof of the antiquity of their literary heritage. His magnum opus, the Thebaid, was written c.80-c.92, and survives in over 160 manuscripts. It appears in the list that Bernhard Bischoff thought was that of Charlemagne's palace library (Berlin, Diez.B.Sant.66: Bischoff, Mittelalterliche Studien, III, 1981, pp.163-7) and Alcuin knew of a copy at York. It is set out in imitation of Virgil's Aeneid and tells the myth of the battles between the seven sons of Oedipus for the throne of Thebes. After their father's decision that only two sons should hold the role alternately for a year at a time, the remainder went to war with each other, committing numerous atrocities. In the heat of his rage, Tydeus ate the head of his dead brother Melanippus, before dying of his own wounds, and the only noble brother, Menoeceus, sacrificed himself to save the city. The Silvae (meaning 'wild forest' or 'rough or extemporised drafts') were probably composed in 89-96, and are a series of thirty-two short poems dedicated to patrons or objects (including the emperor and his favorites, a description of Domitian's equestrian statue in the Forum, the imperial eunuch Earinus, and a shrine of Aesculapius), lamentations for deaths (including deeply personal poems on the death of Statius' father and his foster-son), consolations on the deaths of various men's wives and a friend's pet parrot, descriptions of the villas, gardens, and artworks of imperial Naples, and poems on individual events such as weddings and the poet Lucan's birthday. They are invaluable as a portrait of the lives of Roman aristocrats in the first century AD. Their survival hung by the slenderest of threads and all extant witnesses go back to a single manuscript discovered by Poggio Bracciolini in 1418, within living memory of the present manuscript. The Achilleid survives only as a fragment (and probably its completion was halted by the poet's early demise). It is an epic poem on the life of the hero Achilles, his discovery on the island of Scyros by Ulysses, and his tutelage by the Centaur Chiron. The Thebaid was popular throughout the Middle Ages, inspiring a twelfth-century French verse romance, Le roman de Thèbes, probably composed at the court of Henry II of England, as well as Boccaccio's Teseida and Chaucer's Knight's Tale. The Achilleid was used as a standard school-text from the thirteenth century onwards. On its rediscovery the Silvae became one of the foremost models for Renaissance Latin verse. Dante places Statius alongside Ovid, Virgil and Lucan as the four regulati poetae. The Schoenberg database lists no copy of the Silvae as ever coming to the market. literature The present manuscript was used by G. Colom and M. Dolç in their Catalan edition of the Silvae in 1957-60; P. Bohigas in Biblioteconomia I, 1944, p.86, no.3; M. Reeve, 'Statius' Silvae in the Fifteenth Century', The Classical Quarterly, NS.27 (1977), p.215, n.49; L. Rubio Fernández, Catálogo de los manuscritos clásicos latinos existentes en España, 1984, p.517 Provenance (1) Almost certainly written and illuminated for Ferdinand I (1423-94), king of Naples, supreme Renaissance patron, collector and bibliophile, as well as political despot and opponent of the Turks and Pope Innocent VIII. As Michael Reeve has shown, the form of the Silvae here dates to 1472 or after, and the scribe and illuminator Gioacchino de Gigantibus is recorded as working for the Neapolitan court from March 1471 to November 1480 (T. de Marinis, La Biblioteca Napoletana de re d'Aragona, 1947-52, I, pp.61-2). He is named in Cardinal Bessarion's will of 1472 as "Ferdinandi regis librarius et miniator". The arrangement of the vellum here and its ruling is consistent with an origin in Naples (and inconsistent with Rome, whither Gioacchino moved in 1480 and remained for the last five years of his life). This is a sumptuous book in a royal format. It is larger in size than any humanist volume produced by the great scribe Bartolomeo Sanvito (cf. de la Mare and Nuvoloni, Bartolomeo Sanvito, 2009) or owned by Major J.R. Abbey (cf. Alexander and de la Mare, The Italian Manuscripts, 1969). A copy of the works of John Scotus Erigena produced by Gioacchino de Gigantibus for Ferdinand I in 1476 (now British Library, Add. MSS 15270-73), is of similarly large format (420mm. by 270mm.), and the two were most probably sister volumes. Only partial lists of the vast royal Aragonese library survive, the fullest being an inventory made for Lorenzo de' Medici of the collection in the time of King Alfonso II (king of Naples, 1494-95), Ferdinand's son and heir (de Marinis, II, pp.192-200). Item 98, tersely listed as "Statius Thebaidos", is presumably the present volume. (2) The library passed in 1496 to Ferdinand's younger son, Federico of Aragon (1452-1504), and was removed from Naples when he was forced to yield the kingdom to Louis XII of France in 1502. Parts of it were purchased from Federico by Louis XII and Cardinal Georges d'Amboise (1460-1510), archbishop of Rouen, but a substantial remnant remained in the hands of Isabella del Balzo, Federico's wife, who herself sold a number of water-damaged volumes to the humanist Celio Calcagnini in 1523. A final portion of over 300 books was shipped to Valencia in 1527 where she and her son had taken up residence. (3) The property of a Spanish noble family, probably acquired by direct descent since the sixteenth century.
References
Provenance
Estimated Price GBP 300,000.00 - 500,000.00
( USD 504,000.00 - 840,000.00 )
Actual Price GBP 361,250.00 ( USD 556,325.00 )

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AUCTION DETAILS

Auction House Sothebys
Website http://www.sothebys.com/
Auction Name Western Manuscripts and miniatures
Sale Number #L12240
Auction Date July 10, 2012 - July 10, 2012
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