Paris: ex officina Rob. Stephani, 1544.
Octavo: 17 x 11 cm. (32), 523, (1, blank), (108) pp. Collation: I. *8, **8 (**4 and 5 are conjugates that form the folded map of Spain), a-z8, A-Q8, R4. II. 134, (16) pp. Collation: A-I8, K4
FIRST ESTIENNE EDITION OF CAESAR, bound with the FIRST ESTIENNE EUTROPIUS, printed "As a companion to the Caesar, with which it is often bound".
Bound in 16th c. paneled calfskin with gilt fleurs-de-lis. Some wear to the spine and extremities. Rear upper joint starting. The text is in excellent condition throughout. With 2 different versions of Robert Estienne’s woodcut device on the title-pages. The Caesar is illustrated with 2 double-paged woodcut maps (of France and Spain) and 5 full-paged woodcut illustrations of Caesar's bridge over the Rhine, and views of Bourges, Alesia, Marseille, and Uxellodunum. These woodcuts were adapted from the Aldine edition. The text follows the 1513 Aldine edition, and reproduces Aldus's preface to the reader. Robert Estienne's preface claims to have improved the text from ancient manuscripts.
This edition of Caesar includes the texts of the “Gallic Wars” and “Civil War”, together with the "De bello Alexandrino", "De bello Africano", and "De bello Hispaniense", ascribed to Aulus Hirtius. This edition also includes Raimundo Marliano’s useful index of the topography of Gaul in Roman times.
Admired for their style (most famously by Cicero) and read by both his supporters and detractors alike in antiquity, Caesar’s Commentarii fell into obscurity in the Middle Ages. A mere thirty manuscripts produced before 1400 have survived. Of these, eighteen contain the ‘Bellum Gallicum’ only; the other twelve contain the texts of all five ‘Bella’. The oldest of the first type, preserved in Paris, dates to the first quarter of the ninth century. Of the latter type, the oldest was written in the mid-tenth century and is now in the Laurenziana in Florence.
It was in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that Caesar once again became the focus of intensive study, particularly in Italy, where the question of whether dictatorship or republic was the best model for government was hotly debated. In this debate, Caesar stood as the prime exemplum of the tyrant and Scipio Africanus was promoted as the emblem of the virtus romana of Republican Rome. Caesar’s military genius and skills as a politician were also much studied in this period and into the sixteenth-century.
“The unadorned style of Caesar’s ‘Commentarii’, the rejection of rhetorical embellishments characteristic of true historia, the notable reduction of evaluative language- all contribute to the apparent objective, impassive tone of Caesar’s narration. Beneath this impassivity, however, modern criticism has discovered, so it believes, tendentious interpretations and distortions of the events for the purpose of political propaganda.” (Conte, "Latin Literature, A History").
Schreiber, The Estiennes, no. 72 and 73; Renouard 61.15; Adams C-38 and E 1133