Venice: Aldus Manutius and Andrea Torresani, January, 1513.
Octavo: 15.8 x 10 cm. Collation: *8, 1-24 in 8s. 188 leaves, including final blank. Types: 1:80 italic, 90 Greek.
Bound in 18th c. stiff vellum, possibly a deftly executed early 19th c. remboîtage. Attractive spine labels, gilt. Aldine device on title. A very fine copy, the text crisp and bright, with two bifolia uncut, and a few minor faults: title and second leaf lightly soiled and with small repairs, touching a few letters; just the faintest marginal foxing to 3 signatures, the lightest of damp-stains in the gutter of sig. 23, colophon leaf lightly soiled, slight ink mark to leaf 51. Complete with the final blank.
The editio princeps of Pindar’s odes, printed together with the second editions of Callimachus’ hymns and Dionysius Periegetes’ “De Situ Orbis”, and the first edition of Lycophron’s “Alexandra”. The Pindar can be distinguished from Aldus’ other Greek octavos (printed in Aldus’ 4th Greek type) by being printed in Aldus’ larger, more attractive, 3rd Greek type normally used in Aldus’ larger-format books. “The aesthetic distinction of the Aldine Pindar is largely the result of the combination of the portable-library format with the large Greek typeface heretofore reserved for use in folios.”(Fletcher)
The Aldine predates the edition of Kallierges (1515) by two years. While Kallierges’ edition is justly famous for its advances, Aldus’ text of the Olympian odes is considered superior to the 1515 edition.
The text is dedicated to Aldus' friend Andrea Navagero. The dedicatory preface includes “a statement of [Aldus’] objectives and publishing program, together with the nearest thing we have to an autobiography.”(Bauer) Aldus writes of his decision to return to printing after leaving the business between June, 1509, and June, 1512, because of the French invasions. Of his unsuccessful attempt to secure his war-ravaged country estates he notes: "Although I got [to my estates] alive, the [new inhabitants] rudely said to me, ‘This land belongs to me. You former owners, get out!’ So since I was making no progress and my own ill luck and the fires of the war appeared to be starting all over again . . . I returned to Venice, which we might call another Athens.”
“Pindar (ca. 518-438 B.C.) was revered in antiquity as the ‘prince of lyric poets’ based on a wide range of his Greek compositions, of which a solitary category survives intact: his forty-four victory songs (‘epinicia’) composed for formal celebrations at the four panhellenic athletic festivals. Late in the Roman Empire, Alexandrian scholars preserved and divided these into four sets, or books, respectively called in Latin the Olympia, Pythia (from Delphi), Nemea (for the town so named in the Peloponnese), and Isthmia (after the environs of Corinth)--or Olympian, Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian odes. The scale of his surviving corpus is a measure of the value that Pindar, in common with other Greeks, placed on athletics as a proving ground for the highest human qualities. His intricate and at times incomprehensible style challenged the determination of his copyists through the ages, moved by the lofty expression of segments they could understand, to preserve other segments they could not. All the odes were intended for choral performance to music now lost; they were divided into regular stanzas, either strophic or triadic, but no two poems are metrically identical. Pindar’s text is notoriously inscrutable, its transmission through centuries was labyrinthine, and the difficulties it presented to the preparer of a first edition based mostly on corrupt manuscript authorities had to be discouraging….
“As little as we know about how texts were edited in the workshop of Aldus, we know less of how they were proofread. Yet, for the Pindaric text proper, Aldus and his artisans garnered laurels. To the extent that a typographical error can be distinguished from an intentional but incorrect editorial decision, Irigoin identified only seven (or at most nine) errors in the entire edition.” (Bauer, p.14)
In ‘Problems in the Aldine Pindar’ Douglas Bauer draws new attention to Pindar’s ode Olympian 13, where the word αἰδῶ (“prestige” or “self-respect”) is misprinted ἀλδῶ, the Greek form of Aldus’s own name. That serves to turn the meaning of the passage into something like, “Zeus, grant the sweet good fortune of happiness to Aldus.” This is perhaps a simple typographical mistake, but Bauer suggests that it was a private signature on Aldus’s dedication of the book to his friend Andrea Navagero:
“Whether he meant it as a private witticism for discovery by attentive scholars or as a joke to be shared with his inner circle, Aldus surely chose a special place to leave a secret thumbprint: buried deep into the text of his first publication after a four-year hiatus, and at the heart of the most difficult of Greek poets. Had he put his brand elsewhere in the verbal mosaic, it could be dismissed as “just another” typographical error. But the specific context is so absurdly incongruous as to certify that the appearance of the printer’s own name must be intentional. Was it left as a trap for another publisher who might try to pirate Aldus’s text without credit? Or instead, should we interpret this clandestine mark as the personal seal Aldus put upon his gift to its dedicatee, Navagero?”(Bauer, p. 20).
Ahmanson-Murphy 92; Renouard 64.9; Clemons and Fletcher 46; Aldo Manuzio tipografo 110; Adams P-1218