Venice: In aedibus Aldi et Andreae soceri, mense Octobri, 1518.
Octavo: 16 x 10 cm. 233,  lvs. Collation: a-z8, A-F8, G4 (lvs. q8 and G3 blank and present)
SOLE ALDINE EDITION.
A tall, unsophisticated copy, in its original limp vellum binding (vellum stained, lacking ties). The text is in overall fine condition, aside from the title, which is a bit soiled, slightly frayed at the edges, and feels a bit thin (with two tiny holes in the blank portion), otherwise the text is very fresh with only occasional minor blemishes and one small tear, as follows: small tear in upper margin of leaf a4, finger-soiling in margin of leave a3, very light stain to a few lvs. in gathering k and one leaf in gathering m, small marginal stain in gatherings l and m., light stain in gutter of final 4 lvs., early inscription on verso of final leaf. Early stamp on title of the Ufficio del Giornal di Venezia on title, early ownership inscription canceled on title.
A compendium of ancient geographical texts, including descriptions of the known world by Pomponius Mela, Dionysius Periegetes, and Gaius Julius Solinus. This edition was based on an unknown manuscript. Shorter texts include a catalogue of the regions within the city of Rome, “De regionibus urbis Romae" by “Publius Victor”. The work is possibly a literary forgery of the 15th century, presented as the work of a newly-discovered author. The name was coined by Pomponius Leto of the Roman Academy.
Pomponius Mela’s Description of the World:
“A generation earlier than the work of the natural historian Pliny, under the reign of Claudius or Caligula, we find the first Latin author whom, to the best of our knowledge, we can call a pure geographer and whose work has come down to us complete. This is Pomponius Mela, a Spaniard from Tingentera, near Gibraltar, whose Chronographia, “Description of Places” in three books, is preserved… The Chronographia describes the world, taking the Mediterranean as its basic point of reference. It proceeds counterclockwise from the Strait of Gibraltar, whither it returns at the end of the description.”(Conte)
“After a short prooemium, in which he dwells upon the importance and difficulties of his undertaking, he proceeds to define the cardinal points, and to explain the division of the world into two hemispheres and five zones. The northern hemisphere is that portion of the Earth which is known, and is separated by the impassable torrid zone from the southern hemisphere, which is altogether unknown, and is the abode of the Antichthones. The northern, known hemisphere is completely surrounded by the ocean, which communicates with the four great seas: one on the north, the Caspian; two on the south, the Persian and the Arabian; and one in the west, The Mediterranean, with its subdivisions. Next follows a description of the three continents: Asia, Europe, and Africa, and an enumeration of its inhabitants. These preliminaries being discussed, the author enters upon more minute details, and makes a complete circuit of the known world.
“Thus commencing at the straits of Hercules with Mauritania, he passes on in regular order to Numidia, Africa Proper, the Cyrenaica, Egypt, Arabia, Syria, Phoenicia, Cilicia, Pamphylia, Lycia, Caria, Ionia, Aeolis, Bithynia, Paphlagonia, the Asiatic nations on the Euxine and the Palus Maeotis, European Scythia, Thrace, Macedonia, Greece, the Peloponinesus, Epirus, Illyricum, Italy from the head of the Adriatic round by Magna Graecia to the Ligurian Gulf, Gallia Narbonnensis, and the eastern coast of Spain. (Hispaniae ora citerior.) The tour of the Mediterranean being now completed, a chapter is devoted to its islands. Passing beyond the Straits, we stretch along the western coast of Spain (Hispaniae ora exterior), the western coast of Gaul (Galliae ora exterior), the islands of the Northern Ocean, Germany, Sarmatia, the shores of the Caspian, the Eastern Ocean and India, the Mare Rubrum and its two gulfs, the Persian and Arabian, Aethiopia, and those portions of Aethiop a and Mauritania bordering upon the Atlantic, which brings him round to the point from which he started. It will be seen from the above sketch that the existence of the northern countries of Europe and of the northern and eastern countries of Asia were unknown, it being supposed that these regions formed part of the ocean, which, in like manner, was supposed to occupy the whole of Central and Southern Africa.”(Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography)
“Gaius Julius Solinus, who probably lived between the middle and the end of the third century, was concerned with geography, though not in the modern sense of the term. His work is entitled Collectanea Rerum Memorabilium, but in the Middle Ages, when it was widely read, it was also known as Polyhistor, to emphasize the great number of curiosities that were collected there. The work is a careful compilation from many literary sources, chiefly Pliny the Elder but also Pomponius Mela and Suetonius, along with various other geographical treatises that are no longer extant. Solinus noted down all the unusual things he came across when reading these works, about peoples and their customs, animals, and plants…
“The work opens with a full treatment of Rome and Roman history from the kings to the principate of Augustus. The area examined is then extended to Italy, and then to Greece and the Black Sea, Germany, Gaul, Britain, and Spain; this counterclockwise tour ends with Africa, Arabia, Asia Minor, India, and the kingdom of the Parthians, in accordance with a systematic geographical plan that is one of the most characteristic features of the work. It enjoyed considerable success in the Middle Ages, when it was also read and studied as a summary of the excessively vast Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder. It did not, however, altogether replace it, with the result that it enjoyed, so to speak, a success parallel to that of its more illustrious predecessor.”(Conte)
“Referring to the reading of Pliny and Solinus in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Anthony Grafton writes: ‘Generations of readers thrilled, like Desdemona listening to Othello, at these tales of strange creatures, foods, and burial customs – and were no doubt stimulated by them to see the inhabitants of strange lands as literally outlandish, less than civilized or even less than human.’ Charles Raymond Beazley has made note of this remarkable appeal: ‘The compilation of Solinus… became so fashionable in the Middle Ages, and exercised so powerful an influence on the geographical imagination, that it cannot be passed over. It is simply a collection of marvels, chiefly of natural history, brought together apparently on the principle ‘Credo’ or at least, ‘Lego, quia impossibile.’… no one ever influenced Christian geography more profoundly or mischievously.”
“References to and borrowings from Solinus can be found in a wide variety of medieval texts, stretching though the whole of the medieval period. Readers of Solinus ranged from Augustine to Bede to Dante, and Solinus’ influence can be seen in examples as varied as the Hereford Mappa mundi (ca. 1300) and Fazio degli Uberti’s verse epic, ‘Dittamondo’ (14th c.), in which Solinus, in the place of Dante’s Virgil, guides a pilgrim on a tour of the known world. The interest in Solinus had not waned by the fifteenth century… While geography was not a primary area of interest for the humanists, Solinus, Pliny, and authors like them were widely read and commented upon by Renaissance scholars… The strong interest in antiquity that characterized the Renaissance continued the medieval curiosity for the Roman compilers who seemed to have succeeded in encapsulating the entire world and all the knowledge in it.”(Dover and McDonough).
Renouard p. 83; Ahmanson-Murphy 150; Schweiger p. 607