C. Iulii Caesaris Rerum Ab Se Gestarum Commentarii
Lyon: Antonius Vincentius for Symphorianus Barbierus, 1558.
Octavo: 16.7 x 10.4 cm. Collation: aa-hh8, ii2 (leaf 112 blank and present), a-z8, A-O8 (plus two added woodcut maps).
Bound in contemporary blind-stamped pigskin over beveled wooden boards, one clasp defective, corners bumped with minor loss to pigskin, moderates surface wear. A later (17th c.?) gold tooled stamp, “Biblioth. Schol. Altenburg” on the upper board. A tall copy, contents in good condition with some faults: title leaf separating from text block along the gutter, the same leaf lightly soiled and chipped at lower edge, with a couple of light stains and a partly legible early possession note in Greek and Latin “Ktema Iohannis August…”; first leaves a little loose, occ. manuscript chapter numbering in ink, some underscores and pen trials, occ. blemishes or small ink stains, tear to blank lower argin of one map, old paper reapir to one leaf (no loss). Other inscriptions on pastedown “Andreas Georg hunc scholae dedit”, 16th c. inscription on flyleaf (inked out but partly legible), “Martin Rüdiger possessorem huius libri…”, 17th c. inscription on same leaf in a very messy hand, possibly that of the annotator who has added the chapter numbering in the text.
The text is illustrated with 8 woodcuts: two folding maps (Gaul and Spain) map, the bridge constructed over the Rhine by Caesar in 55, the defenses of Bourges (sacked by Caesar in 52), the city and defenses of Alesia (where Vercingetorix capitulated in 52), the fortress of Uxellodunum, and Marseille, (besieged by Caesar in 49 during the civil war with Pompey). The woodcuts are based on those used in the Aldine edition of 1519.
This edition contains Caesar's extant works: the “Commentarii de Bello Gallico”, Caesar’s account of his campaigns in Gaul, covering the period from 58 to 52 B.C.; and the “De Bello Civili”, covering the events of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey in 49 and 48 B.C. Also included are Book VIII of the "Bellum Gallicum" and the "Bellum Alexandrinum", both attributed to Caesar's lieutenant Aulus Hirtius. There are additional comments by the Swiss humanist Heinrich Glarean (d. 1563).
This edition also reprints the commentary of Giovanni Giocondo of Verona (d. 1515) from the 1513 Aldine edition, together with Aldus Manutius’ introductory letter, dated November, 1513. Giocondo’s drawing of Caesar’s bridge over the Rhine, which served as the basis for the woodcut, was the first drawing of that bridge.
Caesar’s “Commentaries” were praised in antiquity. Cicero admired Caesar’s style, which he described as “unadorned, correct, and pleasing, with every rhetorical ornament stripped off like an evening gown.”(Cicero, Brutus 262)
“Caesar’s commentaries are justly famous; they are the only extant account of ancient warfare described by the man who waged the war. From a historiographical perspective, they offer invaluable, first-hand information of one of the most important period of Western history, and a view into the mind of one of its central and most influential figures. Caesar, a brilliant and curious mind, records a wealth of ethnographic information about the now-vanished peoples that he conquered, giving us the best contemporary account of these people.
“Caesar’s exploits won him great fame and the unswerving loyalty of his troops, whom Caesar himself led into battle and with whom he shared the same dangers, hardships and privations. When he could not negotiate a peace on his own terms with the Roman senate, he famously led these same troops across the Rubicon, beginning a series of events that changed the world.
“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).