Venice: Aldus Manutius, February 1495 i.e., 1496.
Folio: 31.3 x 21.5 cm.  lvs. Collation: [Alpha]A-[Delta]D8, [Epsilon]E6, [Zeta]F6, [Theta]G6; ZZ[2zeta]10, AA[2alpha]-DD[2delta]8, EE[2epsilon]6; [alpha]a8-[beta]b8, [gamma]c10, [delta]d-[eta]e8. Complete.
FIRST ALDINE EDITION OF THEOCRITUS’ “IDYLLS”, FEATURING THE EDITIONES PRINCIPES OF IDYLLS 19-30, HESIOD’S “THEOGONY”, AND THEOGNIS’ “ELEGAICS”. This is the first issue, with the verso of leaf [Theta]G blank.
A fine, large, unwashed copy with broad margins. Provenance: William Beckford (Catalogue (1883) 2530) and Prime Minister Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847-1929). Bound in early nineteenth-century green morocco, spine and boards tooled in gold. Adorned with eight intricate woodcut headpieces (2 by the Poliphilo Master), with twenty-nine repeats; twenty-three strapwork woodcut initials (and sixteen repeats). Type: R3:83; Gk1. Number of lines: 30 +1. Among the poems in this volume is the “τεχνοπαíγνιon” or “shape poem” of Moschus called “the flute”.
A very fine copy of one of Aldus’ earliest publications, printed within a year of his first. This important production features the first printed editions (editiones principes) of Theocritus’ Idylls 19-30 (Idylls 1-18, also present here, were first printed at Milan in 1480), Hesiod’s “Theogony” and “Shield of Herakles”, Theognis of Megara’s “Elegiacs”, and other Greek texts including pseudo-Pythagoras’ “Carmina Aurea”, Phocylides’ “Poema Admonitorium”, and Planudes’ Greek rendering of pseudo-Cato’s “Distichs”. Hesiod’s “Works and Days”, originally printed at Milan in 1480, is also included.
The book is dedicated to Aldus’ former tutor at Ferrara, Battista Guarino, who taught Aldus Greek. In turn, by printing his Theocritus and Hesiod, Aldus has answered Battista’s request for Greek texts with which to instruct his pupils.
Aldus set out to rescue ancient Greek literature by setting it in type, while also printing grammatical texts so that scholars might become proficient in reading the texts that he would make available to them.
True to his stated intention, the publication of this collection advanced the availability of Greek books, and Greek literature in particular. “The roughly dozen books printed in Greek before Aldus consisted mostly of grammatical works. The very few literary texts were limited to Homer, Isocrates, Aesop, and the Greek Anthology, as well as parts of Hesiod, Theocritus, Euripides, and Callimachus.”(Fletcher, Aldus and Greek Learning, p 8) Aldus’ own output prior to the Theocritus volume included only two works of ancient Greek literature: Musaeus’ “Hero and Leander” (ca. 1495), and the “Organon” of Aristotle (Nov 1, 1495).
Essling, Les Livres à figures vénetiens II(1): 888; Renouard, Annales de l'imprimerie des Alde 5-7,3 "très rare"; UCLA 7; ISTC it00144000; Goff T-144.