Incunabula 1477 Terence Comedies Terentius Roman Theater Drama Latin Donatus For Sale

[Early Printing - Incunabula] [Greek and Roman Classical Literature] [History of Western Theatre - Comedy]

Printed in Treviso by Hermann Liechtenstein, 18 Sept. 1477.
Second Calphurnius edition.

Text in Latin, with some words and phrases in Greek.
The Terence text is printed within the commentary (by Donatus for all plays except Heauton Timorumenos which is acompanied by Calphurnius' commentary).

"DESIRABLE AND ELEGANTLY PRINTED EDITION" (Dibdin, Bibliotheca Spenceriana, Vol. II, 478)

Includes all the six plays by Terence: Andria ("The Girl from Andros"), Hecyra ("The Mother-in-Law") (165 BC); Heauton Timorumenos ("The Self-Tormentor"), Phormio, Eunuchu ("The Eunuch"), Adelphi ("The Brothers").

Very rare early incunable edition of this extremely influential classical playwright of 2nd sentury BC. Only 4 copies of this edition are located in the US and only 3 in Italy (according to British Library ISTC).

This edition of Terentius is one of only four books known to have been printed by Liechtenstein's press in Treviso. "Hermann Liechtenstein of Cologne began to print at Vicenza in 1475, but he joint Manzolo in Treviso in 1477 to print Johannes Tortellius' Orthographia (Hain 15565), Horace (Hain 8872), and a Terence (Hain 15408). He returned to Vicenza in 1480 and was in Venice from 1482 until his death in 1494 when his nephew, Peter. (Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Vol. 23, p.338)

Dibdin, describing a copy of this edition in the distinguished collection of Earl Spencer, remarks about its fine typography: "...the entire text of Terence is printed in a large and elegant Roman type; but [...] the Commentaries are uniformly in a small, but neat and extremely legible, Roman type. Indeed, if the lines of this latter type were printed with a little more attention to evenness, I hardly known where the reader could be referred to a more pleasant and legible character. At the first glance this small type may be supposed to be similar to that used by Pannartz. [...] The Greek words introduced in the commentary are somewhat barbarous; although they partake of the character of those used at the Venetian presses." (Dibdin, Bibliotheca Spenceriana, Vol. II, 478)

This is the Second Edition to be edited by Calphurnius and to include his commentary on Heauton Timorumenos (following the 1476 edition printed by Rubeus in Venice), in addition to the standard glosses of Aelius Donatus (4th century AD), St. Jerome's teacher and the earliest surviving commentator on Terence's plays.

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

The earliest known commentator of Terence, Aelius Donatus (fl. mid-4th century AD) was a Roman grammarian and teacher of rhetoric. The only fact known regarding his life is that he was the tutor of St. Jerome. Apart from his popular commentary on Terence, Donatus wrote a Life of Virgil, and the Ars grammatica, which attained such popularity as a schoolbook that, in the Middle Ages, he became the eponym for a rudimentary treatise of any sort, called a donet. Donatus' Latin Grammar also became famous as the only purely textual work to be printed as a blockbook (Ars Minor. Ulm: Conrad Dinckmut, ca 1476-80).

"Beginning with Calphurnius's edition in 1476, most of the [editions] included the commentary of the fourth-century grammarian Donatus on five of Terence's six plays [...]. Apparently no commentary by Donatus on Heautontimorumenos survived, and Calphurnius, emulating Donatus's format, supplied his own." (Howard B. Norland, Drama in Early Tudor Britain, p.65)

Publius Terentius Afer (195-159 BC), better known in English as Terence, was a great playwright of the Roman Republic, whose plays strongly influenced Remaissance literature and drama, including Boccaccio, Chaucer and Shakespeare. Terence was, most likely, of North African descent. Terentius Lucanus, a Roman senator, brought him to Rome as a slave, educated him and later on, impressed by his abilities, freed him. Terence apparently died young, probably in Greece or on his way back to Rome. All of the six plays Terence wrote have survived.

Terence's comedies have provided plots and characters for comic drama from classical times to the present; scheming slaves, parasites, prostitutes, pimps, and boastful soldiers populate his plays, which show love triumphing over obstacles of various kinds, and the problems that arise from ignorance, misunderstanding, and prejudice. Although they reflect contemporary tensions in Roman society, their insights into human nature and experience make them timeless in their appeal.

To Terence we owe the popular saying "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto", i.e. "I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me," which originates in his play Heauton Timorumenos (on leaf K2r of our 1477 edition).

Like Plautus, Terence adapted Greek plays from the late phases of Attic comedy. He was, however, more than a mere translator, as modern discoveries of ancient Greek plays have confirmed. By borrowing from earlier Greek works, Terence provided in his plays what is considered to be an authentic view of Greek society in the 3rd century BC.

Terence wrote in a simple conversational Latin, and most students find his style particularly pleasant and direct.

Terence's popularity throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is attested to by the numerous manuscripts containing his plays. The medieval playwright Hroswitha of Gandersheim claimed to have written her plays so that learned men had a Christian alternative to reading the pagan plays of Terence, while the reformer Martin Luther not only quoted Terence frequently to tap into his insights into all things human but also recommended his comedies for the instruction of children in school.

"The comedies of Terence provided the first and probably most extensive study of drama for the Renaissance schoolboy. Introduced as early as the second form at Eton, Terence was generally studied in the lower forms in England [...] A standard school author on the continent, Terence was studied as well in universities throughout Europe [...] and a professorship in Terence was established by Frederick the Wise, Duke of Saxony, at the University of Wittenberg [...].

"For more than a century [...] the premiere playwright of the Renaissance, as measured by formal study and printed editions, was Terence. [...] Terence held the position as a dramatist in sixteenth-century Europe that Shakespeare holds in the English-speaking world today.

"Paul Theiner finds that Terence, whose popularity as a school text in the Middle Ages was attested by a large number of illustrated copies of his works, was perceived in the medieval period as "an authority to be cited on the subject of human nature and the mores of men," as well as a source of "rhetorical and personal ornament". But Renaissance writers extend Terence's significance by emphasizing his literary craftsmanship and by recognizing his special appeal to youth. Erasmus, who, it is claimed, "memorized all of Terence" while still a child, expresses a common Renaissance view of Terence in a letter to a friend: "the style of his comedies is wonderfully pure, choice, and elegant [...] There is also a polished and witty charm; [...] you will be able to learn from him, if from anyone, how those ancient writers of Latin actually spoke." (Erasmus, Collected Works, 1:58)" (Howard B. Norland, Op. cit., pp.66-7)

Terence's popularity and high esteem continued well into the modern era. US President John Adams once wrote to his son, "Terence is remarkable, for good morals, good taste, and good Latin [...]. His language has simplicity and an elegance that make him proper to be accurately studied as a model."

Bibliographic references:

Goff T75; Hain 15408; Proctor 6481; BMC XII 64; IGI 9428; Walsh 3308; Bod-inc T-031; Sheppard 5514; BSB-Ink T-86; GW M45495; Dibdin, Bibliotheca Spenceriana, Vol. II, 478.

Physical description:

Chancery Folio, textblock measures 284 mm x 192 mm. Bound in blind-stamped half-pigskin over wooden boards in late-medieval style, with paper title-label lettered in gothic letter affixed on front cover.

174 (of 180) leaves, forming 348 pages.
Signature collation: A10 [-A1-6] B–K8 L10 a–l8. 
Wanting the front blank A1 and the five preliminary leaves containing Donatus' Vita Terentii (A2r-A6v, A6v blank). Otherwise complete, with the entire text of Terence's plays and the commentaries present, as well as Calfurnio's postface and the colophon; also prsent are two original blanks L10 and l8.

Terence text printed in Roman type, surrounded with commentary printed in smaller roman type, with occasional use of Greek type.
50 lines of commentary per page.

Capital spaces of various sizes, some with guide initials. Some initials supplied in brown ink by an early (late 15th - early 16th-century) owner.

Giovanni Calfurnio's postface on l7r,v.

Colophon on l7v, preceded by the six-line epitaph on Terence (here titled "Praefatio quredam"). Beneath the colophon are the commendatory verses by Girolamo Bologni: "Bononii Carmen./ Vestri summite fabulas Terenti [...]"

Condition:

Good antiquarian condition. Lacking front blank and five preliminary leaves with the Life of Terence, but with text of all Terence's plays complete. A closed tear to bottom margin of K2 and top margin of g4 both without loss. A piece torn off the top outer corner of leaf g7 with loss of a few words of commentary only; Terence text intact. Occasional soiling, mainly marginal, some leaves with light marginal dampstaining, several ink-spots or small smudges, not affecting legibility. Very early faded manuscript annotations (both marginal and interlinear) in light-brown ink in a humanist cursive hand of 15th or early 16th-century, almost throughout, but rather unobtrusive. Two early (probably contemporary) ownership signatures (undeciphered) on colophon page. Otherwise a nice, solid, genuine and well-margined example of this rare and handsomely printed early incunable edition.


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Incunabula 1477 Terence Comedies Terentius Roman Theater Drama Latin Donatus

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