Famous incunabulum, one of the first books that appeared with woodcut ornaments: the borders for both the Historia Romana
and De Bellis Civilibus
are an intricate pattern of vines and acanthus leaves, here printed in red, a rare process seen only in a very few copies. Usually, these ornaments are simply printed in black. Also, this is the first book with ornaments on a black background, including the large initial on the first page. Contents-wise, this is the first complete edition of the surviving portions of Appian’s Roman History
, written in Greek and translated into Latin by Petrus Candidas Decembrius. “Appian of Alexandria (ca. 95-ca. 165) was a Greek historian with Roman citizenship who flourished during the reigns of Emperors of Rome Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius. He was born in Alexandria. After holding the chief offices in the province of Aegyptus (Egypt), he went to Rome c. 120, where he practised as an advocate, pleading cases before the emperors (probably as advocatus fisci). It was in 147 at the earliest that he was appointed to the office of procurator, probably in Egypt, on the recommendation of his friend Marcus Cornelius Fronto, a well-known litterateur. Because the position of procurator was open only to members of the equestrian order (the ‘knightly’ class), his possession of this office tells us about Appian’s family background. His principal surviving work ( Ρωμαϊκά Romaiká
, known in Latin as Historia Romana
and in English as Roman History
) was written in Greek in 24 books, before 165. This work more closely resembles a series of monographs than a connected history. It gives an account of various peoples and countries from the earliest times down to their incorporation into the Roman Empire, and survives in complete books and considerable fragments. The work is very valuable, especially for the period of the civil wars. T he Civil Wars
, books 13-17 of the Roman History
, concern mainly the end of the Roman Republic and take a conflict-based view and approach to history. Despite the lack of cited sources for his works, these books of the Roman History are the only extant comprehensive description of these momentous decades of Roman history.” (Wikipedia). The translator’s division of the extant books into two parts differs slightly in its order from the Greek originals. Leaf numbering is [a-c 10 (a1 blank discarded, as usual) d12, e10-x10; a-i 10 (a1 blank) k-m 8, o10]. a2r is the translator’s dedication to Pope Nicholas V. The blank 11-line space on c1v and all of c2r in part 1 was left by the printers to indicate a gap in the extant manuscripts. The partnership of the printers Erhard Ratdolt and Bernhard Maler and the corrector and editor Peter Loslein lasted from 1476 to 1478. The exceptional beauty of the books printed at their press is characterized by the use of a series of very fine woodcut borders and initials along with a strikingly clear and pleasing roman type.
Although traditionally credited to Ratdolt, the design of the woodblocks and possibly of the type is more likely to have been the work of Bernhard Maler who was in charge of the press. When Ratdolt set up his own press in 1480, he apparently brought only one of the border blocks with him, the one that appears in part II of the present work, which he used again for the 1482 Euclid
. The border used in part I appears in this edition only. Provenance: inscribed on the last text page blank verso by the Venetian senator Angelo Gabrieli (1470-1532), writer of a little-known 16 pp. treatise, Libellus hospitalis munificentiae Venetorum in excipienda Anna regina Hungariae
(1502). "Anna of Foix-Candale (1484-1506) was Queen of Hungary and Bohemia as the third wife of King Vladislaus II. She incurred debts in Venice and was said to favour this city all her life" (Wikipedia). A few marginalia in a neat old hand. Slight wear to spine ends; first ornament border ever so slightly shaved at the top, a few leaves with minimal marginal spotting but generally remarkably clean: a wonderfully preserved copy. BMC V, 244; Essling, 221; IGI, 763; Redgrave, Ratdolt
p. 28 n° 3; Sander, 482.