Venice: Lazaro De’ Soardi, 3 Oct. 1515.
Folio: 31.2 x 22 cm. 241 lvs. (some pages misnumbered). Collation: A6, B4, C-Z8, AA-HH8 (-blank leaf HH8)
THIRD SOARDI EDITION (1st 1497). Bound in contemporary half calf, blind tooled with geometric designs, over beveled wooden boards (repairs to leather along spine, text block re-sewn, some wear to wooden boards) with two of four metal clasps and leather straps preserved, the other two (at the head and foot of the boards) with catch-plates and remnants of straps. With fragments of an early liturgical manuscript used to reinforce the spine (visible inside the boards), two blanks inserted at the beginning and end of volume. An early owner has made a drawing of a coat of arms with a rampant lion on one of the inserted leaves, with a geometric figure at verso, the same design repeated on the leaf at the end; in the same hand are written some verses from Petrarch’s Canzoniere. Contents in very good condition, re-sewn a bit tightly, with some marginal foxing and soiling, a few lvs. browned, head of first leaf discreetly mended.
The title has a woodcut decorative frame, with trophies, scrolling vine-work, grotesques, and a procession of water deities (used earlier in a Bible printed on 23 April 1493); the text is illustrated with two full-page woodcuts on the verso of the title-page and folio IX. Throughout the text are 153 smaller woodcuts showing actors, dressed in 15th c. costume, enacting scenes from the plays on a Renaissance stage. The two full-page woodcuts were originally used in the 1497 Soardi edition. The smaller woodcuts are different from those in the 1497 and 1511 Soardi editions.
This illustrated edition is celebrated, in particular, for two iconic, full-page scenes: the first a perspective view of Terence teaching in a Renaissance classroom with classical columns and a vaulted ceiling. His students are the great commentators: Donatus, Ascensius, Servius, Ioannes Calphurnius, and Guido Juvenalis. In the second full-page cut, a view of a semi-circular theater, spectators are shown on raised benches with the actor facing them (and away from us). The prince of Essling said about it “parmi les plus belles illustrations de cette époque, sans excepter même celles du Songe de Poliphile”. In the woodcuts illustrating the plays, many of the characters are identified in the woodcut; the inspiration for these can be found in Gruninger’s Terence, printed in Strasbourg in 1496.
Soardi's white-on-black device on verso of leaf CCXLI, featuring his initials "L.S.O." within a circle surmounted by a double cross; in the margins of the text, the commentators are identified by small woodcut symbols: a sun for Donatus; a pointing hand for Juvenalis; a crescent moon for Calphurnius; a Maltese cross for Ascensius, and small figure of Sagitarius the Archer for Servius.
Terence enjoyed great popularity in the Middle Ages, and when the Italian humanists began to write comedies in the late trecento, Terence, along with Plautus, was their model. In fact, it has been observed not only that the earliest humanist comedy, Pier Paolo Vergerio's 'Paulus' (ca. 1390) has a Terentian prologue, but also that the stage setting "largely follows the Terentian design"(Fantazzi).
»Les deux grands bois de cette édition comptent parmi les plus belles illustrations de cette époque, sans excepter même celles du Songe de Poliphile; le style en est d’une habilité et d’une ampleur qui n’ont été surpassées par aucun artiste contemporain. Quant à la taille, elle est à la hauteur du dessin, pleine de vigueur et de fermeté, atte- stant chez le graveur une rare sureté de main et une parfaite possession de son outil.» (Essling).
Sander 7213. Essling 874