Incunabula 1474 Ovid 1st Venice Edition/fasti Amores Love Cosmetics Roman Poetry For Sale

[Early Printing - Incunabula - Venice] ] [Latin Classics - Elegiac Poetry] [Love Poetry] [Roman Calendar]
[Mythology] [History of Cosmetics - Ancient Rome]

Printed in Venice by Jacobus Rubeus, 1474.

THE THIRD EDITION AND THE FIRST VENETIAN EDITION OF OVID'S WORKS, preceded only by the Rome and Bologna editions of 1471. RARE!

Arguably the earliest realistically obtainable edition of Ovid's Opera, and one of the most splendid specimens of the early Venetian typography!

"Cette edition est fort belle." (Brunet)
"This edition is very scarce and greatly surpasses the preceding in beauty, and is much sought after by the curious." (Moss, A Manual of Classical Bibliography, II, 334.

The volume contains a significant (and complete in itself!) part of the splendid Third Edition of Ovid's complete works. This edition consists of seven "modular" parts, each with separate collation, and is known to have been bound in either two or three volumes, and with varying order of its parts.

The volume offered here probably once formed the 3rd volume (of three) of the entire Opera, and contains the parts (in the numeration of the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke): IV (Fasti and De morte Drusi); III (Amores; De remedio amoris; De medicamine faciei; De nuce) and VII (Ibis), bound in this order. All the parts comprising the volume are complete in themselves and contain the text of all the works mentioned in their entirety! The final part, In addition to Ibis, contains the Life of Ovid, general table of contents, verses by Calphurnius to the reader, and the dated colophon.

The majority of the surviving copies of this edition are partial or incomplete.

Dibdin writes about this 1474 Ovid: "Editio tertia of the works of Ovid, and a book of exceedingly great rarity to obtain in a fine state. Renouard thinks it no small boast for a private collection to possess a copy." (T. F. Dibdin, An Introduction to the Knowledge of Rare and Valuable Editions of the Greek and Latin Classics, vol.II, p.261-2).

He also describes a copy of this fine edition in the celebrated collection of Lord Spencer: "More beautiful, although less scarce, than the two preceding impressions, is this first Venetian edition of the works of Ovid [...]. The impression presents us with a specimen of the early Venetian press, which, when in fine preservation, may vie with the best productions of the Spiras and of John de Colonia. The large price given for the Pinelli copy of this impression, may be supposed to justify De Bure in calling it an edition 'encore fort rare et recherchee des Curieux'..." (Dibdin, Bibliotheca Spenceriana, II, 329)

The editor of this edition was Giovanni Calfurnio of Brescia (1443-1503), whose name is often latinized as Johannes Calphurnius, a prominent Italian humanist who taught the humanities from about 1474 first at Venice, then at the University of Padua. This is the first edition of Ovid edited by Calfurnio.

Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC - 17 AD), a Roman poet known to the English-speaking world as Ovid, is traditionally ranked alongside Virgil and Horace as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature. Ovid's poetry, much imitated during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, has been a decisive influence on European literature and art for many centuries, and remains one of the most important sources of classical mythology. Such Renaissance literary giants as Petrarch, Geoffrey Chaucer, Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare have all been, in one way or another, influenced by Ovid's poetry.

The first (and largest) work contained in this volume is Ovid's Fasti, an ambitious poem in elegiacs on which Ovid was working at the time he was exiled. The poem was probably dedicated to Augustus initially, but perhaps the death of the emperor prompted Ovid to change the dedication to honor Germanicus. The six surviving books of the Fasti cover the first semester of the year, with each book dedicated to a different month of the Roman calendar (January to June). The project seems unprecedented in Roman literature. Ovid likely planned to cover the whole year, but was unable to finish because of his exile, although he did revise sections of the work at Tomis, and he claims (in Trist. 2.549–52) that his work was interrupted after six books. Like the Metamorphoses, the Fasti was to be a long poem and emulated aetiological poetry of writers like Callimachus (and, more recently, Propertius).

The poem goes through the Roman calendar, explaining the origins and customs of important Roman festivals, digressing on mythical stories, and giving astronomical and agricultural information appropriate to the season. Ovid uses direct inquiry of gods and scholarly research to talk about the calendar and regularly calls himself a vates, a priest. He also seems to emphasize unsavory, popular traditions of the festivals, imbuing the poem with a popular, plebeian flavor, which some have interpreted as subversive to the Augustan moral legislation.

The poem is a significant, and in some cases unique, source of information in studies of religion in ancient Rome. It was widely read throughout the Renaissance and the early Modern era, and influenced a number of mythological paintings in the tradition of Western art. While the Fasti has always been invaluable to students of Roman religion and culture for the wealth of antiquarian material it preserves, it recently has been seen as one of Ovid's finest literary works and a unique contribution to Roman elegiac poetry.

The Fasti is here followed by Amores, a collection in three books of love poetry in elegiac meter, first published in 16 BC. The book follows the popular model of the erotic elegy, as made famous by figures such as Tibullus or Propertius, but is often subversive and humorous with these tropes, exaggerating common motifs and devices to the point of absurdity.

The Amores describe the many aspects of love and focus on the poet's relationship with a mistress called Corinna. Within the various poems are several which describe events in the relationship, thus presenting the reader with some vignettes and a loose narrative. Book I contains 15 poems; the first poem tells of Ovid's intention to write epic poetry which is thwarted when Cupid steals a metrical foot from him, changing his work into love elegy. Poem 4 is didactic and describes principles which Ovid would develop in the Ars Amatoria. The 5th poem, describing a noon tryst, introduces Corinna by name. Poems 8 and 9 deal with Corinna selling her love for gifts, while 11 and 12 describe the poet's failed attempt to arrange a meeting. 14 discusses Corinna's disastrous experiment in dyeing her hair and 15 stresses the immortality of Ovid and love poets. The second book has 19 pieces; the opening poem tells of Ovid's abandonment of a Gigantomachy in favor of elegy. 2 and 3 are entreaties to a guardian to let the poet see Corinna, poem 6 is a lament for Corinna's dead parrot, 7 and 8 deal with Ovid's affair with Corinna's servant and her discovery of it, and 11 and 12 try to prevent Corinna from going on vacation. 13 a prayer to Isis for Corinna's illness, 14 a poem against abortion, and 19 a warning to unwary husbands. Book 3 has 15 poems. The opening piece depicts personified Tragedy and Elegy fighting over Ovid. Poems 3 and 8 focus on Corinna's interest in other men, 10 is a complaint to Ceres because of her festival that requires abstinence, 13 is a poem on a festival of Juno, and 9 a lament for Tibullus. In poem 11 Ovid decides not to love Corinna any longer and regrets the poems he has written about her. The final poem is Ovid's farewell to the erotic muse.

Critics have seen the Amores a highly self-conscious and extremely playful specimens of the elegiac genre. A famous English verse translation of the Amores was made by Christopher Marlowe (1564 - 1593), the brilliant dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era.

Another work of considerable importance found in this volume is Ovid's Remedia Amoris ("Love's Remedy" or "The Cure for Love"). In this poem (written around 5 BC) Ovid offers strategies and advice on how to avoid being hurt by love feelings, and on how to fall out of love, often with a stoic overtone. The aim of the poem is to teach young men how they can avoid idealizing the women they love and to offer assistance to them if love brings them despair and misfortune. Ovid states that suicides committed because of an unfortunate love feeling can be easily avoided by following such simple strategies as these:

  • Try to have sex in an unpleasant way;
  • Focus on the unpleasant body parts/physical flaws of the partner;
  • Try to focus on all unfortunate things that happen because of the relationship, such as material issues, etc.

After leaving your partner:

  • Travel and try to avoid familiar places that remind you of your relationship;
  • Avoid places where you can see couples, etc.;
  • Avoid all contact with her and with her family and relatives;
  • When explaining why you broke up, avoid giving details;
  • Forget about any chances in the future for the relationship to start again;
  • Burn letters/portraits of your partner;
  • Avoid theatre plays or poetry idealizing the concept of love;
  • Avoid stopping in front of the door of your ex partner's house, and picture it as an awful place bringing only misfortune;
  • Avoid certain kinds of food;
  • Avoid drinking alcohol in moderation; instead, either do not drink at all or drink abusively!

The Remedia Amoris is followed by Medicamina Faciei Femineae (i.e. "Cosmetics for the Female Face", also known as "The Art of Beauty"), a didactic poem written in elegiac couplets, in which Ovid defends the use of cosmetics by Roman women and provides five recipes for facial treatments. The title and approximate date of the poem are known from a brief mention in Ovid's Ars Amatoria (Book III) where the poet states that he has already written "a small work, a little book" on cosmetics. The Medicamina must, then, predate the third book of Ars Amatoria, whose composition has been placed between 1 BC and 8 AD, the year of Ovid's exile. Only one hundred of an estimated five to eight hundred original lines survive. These fall neatly into sections, each exactly fifty lines long.

The first section is an elaborate introduction in which Ovid presents and defends his subject matter; the second comprises five recipes for cosmetic treatments which include common ingredients and precise measurements. Here Ovid displays his command of the poet's art in taking a practical manual replete with technical details and transforming it into effective verse. Despite the facetious nature of the introduction, the five recipes included in the final 50 lines seem to be genuine, or at least plausible, cosmetic treatments. A representative example is a mixture of barley, vetch, egg, hartshorn, narcissus bulb, gum, Tuscan spelt, and honey. Ovid promises that any woman who uses this concoction on her face "will shine smoother than her own mirror." (The majority of the ingredients Ovid prescribes are in fact effective skin treatments, and several, such as oatmeal, wheat germ and egg white, are still used in the manufacture of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals today.)

The final work in the book, Ibis, is a very curious and bizarre curse poem, written during his years in exile across the Black Sea. It is "a stream of violent but extremely learned abuse," modeled on a poem of the same title by the Alexandrian poet Callimachus. The object of this verbal assault is left unnamed except for the pseudonym Ibis. The 644-line poem is an unusual (though not unique) example of ancient invective poetry written in elegiac form rather than the more common iambics or hendecasyllabics. The incantatory nature of the curses in the Ibis has sometimes led to comparisons with curse tablets (defixiones), though Ovid's are elaborately literary in expression. Drawing on the encyclopedic store of knowledge (from memory, as he had few books with him in exile) Ovid threatens his enemy with a veritable catalogue of "gruesome and mutually incompatible fates" that befell various figures from myth and history, including a Thyestean banquet of human flesh. He declares that even if he dies in exile, his ghost will rise and rend Ibis's flesh. The Ibis attracted a large number of scholia, and was widely disseminated and referenced in Renaissance literature. In his annotated translation (1577), Thomas Underdowne found in Ibis a reference guide to "all manner of vices punished, all offences corrected, and all misdeedes reuenged."

"Ovid's Ibis is a highly artificial and history-bound product and does not make pleasant reading. But it is interesting, among other things, because it illustrates the writer's propensity for moving on more than one plane of reality. The poem contains elements from three distinct modes of reacting to the same outrage; of these, the first may be called realistic, the second romantic, and the third grotesque." (Hermann Frankel, Ovid: A Poet between Two Worlds, p.152)

Bibliographic references:

Goff O-128; Hain 12138; BMC V, 214 (IB. 20069); IGI 7043; CIBN O-80; Polain(B) 2943; Bod-inc O-039; Sheppard 3411, 3412, 3413; Proctor 4237; GW M28590; Dibdin, Bibl. Spenceriana II, 329.

Physical description:

Median Folio (textblock measures 318 mm x 196 mm). Late 17th-century mottled calf, rebacked in modern leather, spine with raised bands, paper title label (lettered in Gothic script) to spine.

116 leaves, unnumbered and unsigned (forming 232 pages), comprising one volume of three (?), and containing three parts (of seven), all complete in themselves.

Collation: [a-e10 f8 g6] (Fasti, Epistola consolatoria ad Liviam de morte Drusi); [aa-cc10 dd12] (Amores, Remedia amoris, Medicamino faciei femineae, Nux); [aaa10] (Ibis, life of Ovid). All the three parts included in this volume are complete.

The final part includes the colophon on [aaa9]v), table of contents and Calphurnius' address to the reader (in verse) on [aaa10]r ([aaa10]v blank).

Printed in single column, 43 lines per page, in Roman letter; Type 1:113R.
Capital spaces (2- to 7-lines) without guide initials, painted initials supplied throughout in contemporary hand (but now mostly faded and/or partly washed out). The first page of Fasti [a1]r originally with an illuminated 'white vine' border, incorporating a coat of arms in bas-de-page (also almost entirely washed off, but with the liquid gold opening initial still quite visible).


Eighteenth-century armorial bookplate of Thomas Page to front pastedown.


Good antiquarian condition. Binding rubbed, wear to edges and corners. Modern reback, retaining old endpapers and flyleaves (front free endpaper torn). Interior with occasional moderate soiling and/or spotting (mostly marginal); final quire slightly browned. Several leaves with very minor marginal worming (not affecting text). Leaf [a1] with a (blank) piece torn off from its outer margin; leaf [a4] with a crease causing a closed tear through text, but no loss; a few other leaves with some harmless marginal tears, without any loss. Colophon leaf [aaa9] creased. Most of the contemporary painted initials and the illuminated border to the opening page largely faded and/or washed off. Some leaves with traces of copious early manuscript marginalia (apparently, washed off at an early date). Generally, a mostly clean and solid volume from this great edition, with pleasingly wide margins and good impression of its beautiful Roman type.

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Incunabula 1474 Ovid 1st Venice Edition/fasti Amores Love Cosmetics Roman Poetry

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